I wasn't there, so I can't be sure

I don’t know, because I wasn’t there, but apparently there was an old man who had birds for hands.

He stood on the east corner of the Old Town Square and showed people for money. I hope he made enough to live on, because it sounds like tiring work.

He stood there with his hands under his coat and told people, Look, look, I have birds for hands. Come gather and I will show you. And they did, because not many people have birds for hands, not even in the Old Town Square; not even at that time of year, although it might be different in autumn.

I don’t know, because I wasn’t there.

When enough people had gathered and thrown coins into the wrinkled hat at his feet, he drew out his hands from his tattered coat sleeves. It was dusk, just when the lamps were lit on the corners and long shadows threw themselves onto the cobblestones. People leant forward, women held lace handkerchiefs at their throats and prepared to gasp. A dog poked his head into the circle and waited, head cocked to one side.

When the man drew his hands out and people saw only his fingers, the hisses began.

I think the dog ran away, but I can’t be sure.

But before they could reach for their coins and spit on his shoes, he made the birds appear.

A wing came first, rising slowly. And the people stopped with their hands outstretched towards their coins. They stopped, and they watched the wings rise, heads turning as the feathers formed.

The man drew his hands together.

He clasped thumb around thumb.

He hooked them and held them high.

The lamp light fell and the shadow of his birds rose, dark against the bricks. The feathers grew and grew as the shadow loomed large above them, until his birds took up the entire wall of the Town Hall and even the dog looked back over his shoulder, and whimpered.

The crowd was so focused on the enormous shadow wings above them that they didn’t notice the talons opening. And in one fluid moment, each and every bystander was snatched between the claws and lifted, their feet dangling above the cobblestones.

The man with birds for hands stood in the Old Town Square, and watched them soar into the dusk of the evening sky.

Two shoes fell, and one person kicked a brick loose from a smoke streaked chimney.

The dog got away, which is nice, when you think about it.

The man with birds for hands kept sight until their shadows dipped behind the spire of the Mikuláše church.

And then he slowly dropped his hands to his sides.

He bent, picked up the hat, and folded the brim over to the keep the coins warm. He turned his face from the spire, and slipped the hat inside his coat.

And the man with birds for hands walked slowly out of the Old Town Square.

I don’t think he looked back, but I wasn’t there, so I can’t be sure.

I wasn't there, so I can't be sure by 

I think I’ve been reading too much Kafka.

If there is such a thing.

I love the words that fall between the cracks; where I have to roll my sleeve up, jam my arm down into the darkness, and yank the stories up by their hair.

I write with black coffee, and bare feet.

Both seem to help.

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  • LindaR
    LindaRalmost 3 years ago

    Wonderful story telling Bell ~ the moment waited for and fulfilled with a twist ~ so well told, I felt I was there …love the dropping shoes & a brick, and dog spared, a sense of justice…had me curling a smile, loved this over my morning coffee xxx

  • juddarwin
    juddarwinalmost 3 years ago

    i followed yr icon vowing as if sacredly that i would anywhere it led me always thinking otherwise as i always do not because it distracted but because such always seemed to be there before as the something there thing i just pleased it still it is so instead of something else not so pulling… i enjoyed yr story. did want it to be different as the previous one of yrs i commented on was different. helps keep alive that everything other than also can happen and sometimes reading a story shows its kind happen. simply means that that what you truely want to happen you can make happen in some medium: absolutely everything simulating it including the response. stories like you write shows us how free we really are no matter how we are taught to/do contain. now i know one interesting person lisa keeps mentioning. thank you!

  • Leith
    Leithalmost 3 years ago

    Such a visual this man makes, and the story has the feel of a wonderful old tale.. passed down through the ages and read aloud on cold nights to gathered folk around camp fires, flickering shadows and boiled tea.


  • Lisa  Jewell
    Lisa Jewellalmost 3 years ago

    Oh babe your ink played out as silent movie with captions…charming with just the right amount of surreal, I so enjoyed.


  • Cosimo Piro
    Cosimo Piroalmost 3 years ago

    of fables and myths and fairy tales grim… this is storytelling at it’s best. xoxo

  • Emraldae
    Emraldaealmost 3 years ago

    I think it’s almost sweet of him, covering the coins to keep them warm. But then again, I couldn’t be sure because I wasnt there either.

  • berndt2
    berndt2almost 3 years ago

    WOW. That’s visually awesome – really effective and dark. I was going to say I’m going to avoid that town square, but it’s in Prague and I’ve been to Prague. I was inside after dark, though..

  • anya
    anyaalmost 3 years ago

    And the darkness falls on the cobblestones as the scent of the cardamon rises. I know those hands and the scent of wings. They flutter with the sounds of a thousand tongue-less men.

  • Matthew Dalton
    Matthew Daltonalmost 3 years ago

    The narrator’s voice gets quieter and more conspiratorial as the story progresses and day’s light fades through the shades of grey.

    It’s wonderful storytelling, Bell. Perhaps some of your finest?

  • msdebbie
    msdebbiealmost 3 years ago

    I think I’ve been reading too much Kafka. hahaha! Might explain the complexity and compelling ink you have spilled here :)

    I think the detail of adding the spire of the Mikuláše church. might well be my favourite touch in this one bell. So so good :)

    You move my smile all the way down my body – such gorgeous imagery! And as if you can ever have too much Kafka eh!!!

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