The baby bird lay in the road perfectly centered in the lane. It struggled. It opened and closed its mouth. I decided to save it. I was eight.
I knew what my dad would say if I handled the bird with my bare hands. I went to the carport and found stained gardening gloves, the shovel, a ratty towel, and a cardboard box. Cars rarely came down our road and even if one did, I figured the bird would be okay. It was, after all, not where wheels should go.
The bird was still there. I looked down the road and coming around the far away curve I saw a van. I considered scooping up the bird, but worried I might drop the little thing and not be able to get out of the way in time. The bird would be okay in the center of the lane.
Shovel in hand, I stayed on the side of the road. Drivers veered when they saw children near the road, so I moved further back. Any sensible grown up would know that a girl that far from the shoulder couldn’t possibly jump into the road without warning. I tried to look in the other direction just to prove that I had no interest in the road at all. But I wanted to keep an eye on the bird, fluttering and gasping in the morning heat.
The van veered anyway. Its right wheels just in the center of the lane. Blood and insides burst out and smeared the pavement with down and feather stuck in.
If I hadn’t been standing there, the van wouldn’t’ve moved toward the yellow line. If I’d stood even further back…if I’d sat down… I got what I could of the bird in the shovel and carried it over to a patch of dirt between a palm tree and an oak.
Characters in fiction are supposed to have consequences for their actions. Unintended consequences are the most fun for the reader, I think. Have you ever read a story where you thought the bad guy suffered no consequences? What about where the hero got no reward? Do such endings disappoint you? How important are the consequences in fiction? Without them does a story feel incomplete?