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Cover image courtesy of the family of Gerald Davis

The Weight of Feathers

A man fell out of the sky and into my garden. I found the slump of his body by the pomegranate tree when I went out to water the terraces. The evening burned itself into the mountain. There were feathers all around him, some stuck to his arms, some to his legs, a golden syrup of wax melted on his face. I thought he was dead until I touched some part of his shoulder and a low groan came from his cracked lips. It took all my strength to half-drag, half-carry him into the kitchen. The room was cooler now and dark too, because I had the shutters pulled against the sun all day. I helped him as best I could into the chair by the door and he toppled there, his clothes torn, the wax making his arms look all smooth and hairless. I brought him a glass of water and lifted up his chin to drink. The dark closed in around us and I could read grief in the heat that radiated from his body as his head flopped onto his chest. He drank nothing.

I helped him into the spare room closest to the garden. This was where Mother spent her end days. Little signs of her still clung to it, a faint scent of her talcum powder; beads hanging from the wardrobe handle, a book of unfinished word-searches. Somehow I got him into her bed. His legs were so long they came over the edge of it, his feet all dirty, red sand under his toenails. He put his hand to his nose and scratched it. A piece of wax cracked on its bridge and his face was at once both contorted and immobile. I left him and went back to the kitchen to search for the little pink sponges that I had used to moisten Mother's lips. As I up-ended jugs and pulled out drawers I could still hear her chiding me for taking so long to find what was in front of my face all the time. Eventually I discovered them, sitting in the blue mug by the preserving pan. I soaked one of them in cold water and took it to his blistered mouth. Something must have switched on in his brain because his sucking reflex kicked in and little baby feeding sounds came from his lips.
'You're ok,' I said.
He opened his eyes. 'Am I? he whispered.
'You landed in my garden.'
'Yes, my wings melted.'
'Do I need to contact anyone?' I asked him.
'No. There was just my son. He fell into the sea.'