Lake Effect, Spring 2012, Volume 16: Winter's Wooden Sparrows

Erin Pringle-Toungate


Winter's Wooden Sparrows

     The first time he felt a need to walk, he was a boy of six or seven. He had awoken one winter morning with the urge to outside, alone. And so decided to go, and felt the good feeling that decisions often have. He zipped on his snowsuit, wrapped his face in his scarf, and left the house while his parents slept.
     The early sun was somewhere behind the bright gray sky, and the snow was so bright he couldn’t look at it without forcing himself, but he forced himself and felt the strange, pleasing feeling of snow-dazzled eyes. The snow in front of the house was not new, mussed with boot-tracks filled with gray water; but the snow in the back still followed its own created planes, on and on, untouched—and it was this that guided him to take his walk in the back. He walked and listened to the crunch of his boots and felt the cold air. A few black birds crossed the sky like a meaningless thought. Beside him trotted the ghost of the old dog that had died recently enough to still follow him.
     How glad he felt to be out here, and that he wasn’t being watched made him feel so much better, like a new self, like a man but not a man. How good to do as he fully wished! He walked past the neighbors’ back yard and felt pleasure at his decision to stop and look at it, knowing that usually he would have run right by it. He thought of the large garden the old couple grew every summer. The old woman, May, would let him help her dig up the potatoes when they were ready, and she taught him how to shell beans into a large silver pot that she set between her ankles as they sat side-by-side on the backyard swing her husband had made years ago. He felt good when he thought of them, and liked it. He even bothered to look back at the old man’s shed, at the black iron bird that turned on its roof when there was wind. The bird used to scare him, but today he felt a kinship with it. The bird seemed to want to turn but stayed staring into the distance. Where does the wind come from? he thought to the bird, knowing that if he spoke, he might break the spell spilled out from this lovely morning.