Killing two birds with one kite

I welcomed the early March air with a sharp inhale and easy grin. The cool air tingled in just the right way—not like allergies or a building sneeze, but with the newness of the soft spring grass slowly coming back to life. This feeling resembling the birth of a hatched chick, the same hatched chick from the Incubator and Eggs DIY pack Mom bought for me as a wonderful-amazing-totally cool Christmas gift when I had never so much glanced in the direction of a  freakin’ chicken. Of course, Mom forced me to follow through with every dumb thing she bought, grumbling about a lack of responsibility and focus, but I zoned out, ignoring the end of her rant. I had more important things to focus on: The Greater Indianapolis Area 10th Annual Kite Flying Competition.

When I was younger and overcome with a desire to claim something of my own, something to be mine, something that wouldn’t be mine-and-Mom’s-together, I found a faded, scratched green kite behind a pile of broken pastel sidewalk chalk. He was promptly named Kitey, as my eight years old brain so creatively named things. “Come on, Kitey, you can do this!” I encouraged as he whirled and twirled with the gusts of air, a fight against nature. We fought fiercely against the powers of the wind, my heart growing bigger, thump-a-thump-a-thumping through my chest as I solidified my part on a team that wasn’t the me-and-Mom team. Me and Kitey. Kitey and me. Nothing compared to the first perfect gust of wind we experienced together, the quickening of heart thumping as Kitey’s superpower was revealed: conquering gravity and wooshing higher and higher into the mixed-up blueberry pudding sky. Well, maybe one feeling can compare.

I crave the rush when I go to competitions, the competitions that turned from a neighborhood-childhood-meet the stuck-up kids block party to the greatest legitimate competition I’ve ever qualified for, The Greater Indianapolis Area 10th Annual Kite Flying Competition.  Of course, kite flying wasn’t my day job, and despite how much I whined, Mom always responded with the character building-it’s good for you-I never got this opportunity rant about the importance of school. My sophomore classes required so much busywork and cumulative tests to succeed, but success in school paled in comparison to entering in the biggest and best kite competition, so that’s why on this early March afternoon I snuck out of school after lunch, running-walking-skipping straight to the park, legs happy to be outdoors, kite in backpack. Kitey lived in my room now, promoted from his former place in the garage, but for my competitions, I flew the smooth, custom-built glass string kite I bought with my very own money.

At the park, I carefully removed the kite, its tendrils fluttering as I unzipped the case. As I stood barefoot with my flip flops kicked off, my feet melding with the slightly damp grass, I felt at home, my hands doing the dance they learned so long ago. Going to school was no match for flying practice.

From there, we formed a routine, my new kite and me. Every Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday we left after lunch, skipping the pointless classes in favor of flying. Mrs. Tyler and Mr. Reed both pulled me in for the skipping class is bad-you have to go to school-I want what’s best for you discussion, to which I opened my mouth in a dramatic smile and in a saccharine-sweet voice responded with the of course I’ll be better-I’m so sorry-Thank you for helping me answer. At the same time, the true answer pounded through my mind, my I love the park-happy place-kites are better than school mantra that calmed me down.

But it wasn’t just my teachers all up in my face. My mom said the same thing when she found out I was skipping class, boosting her argument with insults of selfish and stupid and threats of grounding me and preventing me from flying, wait no not just threats, now she actually followed through this time!? How could she do this, just one week before the greatest competition? “Remember, you can only go outside to let the chicks roam for half an hour and make sure they come back!” she added with her I’m your mother-respect me voice. I rolled my eyes with a “duh.”

Still, not even the grounding could keep me away from flying, especially since Mom had just left for her four-to-twelve waitressing shift. I turned the doorknob, kite in my shirt, ready with the excuse of the chicks if the trailer park neighbors next door saw me outside. I unlatched the door to the coop to let the chicks free on the hill a for a little, while I unraveled my kite’s string and breathed a smile ready to fly. Little did I know that my custom glass string kite had formed a hole by being carried next to sharpened pencils in my backpack.

When I threw it up with the wind, anticipating the rush, I was met with a downward spiral straight to the ground just like Kitey did that first day. Only this time, the kite didn’t just land in the grass. This time, I couldn’t try again and ignore the fall. I had completely forgotten about the baby chicks I let out to explore the earthiness of the soft new grass. The kite tumbled down, its top point spiraling with the forceful inertia before a sudden stop right on top of two chicks, tiny enough that the blow from the kite stole their last breath.

I breathed a sob as tears spilled down my face. And I lay on the bed of grass, which somehow lost some of its softness, eyes shut but still leaking tears, clutching the other four chicks, the broken kite next to me. The beginning of the green grass felt like an end. The newness was gone.

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