Family Mystery 7: Giving Up

“It’s been two years since I made that phone call,” Kari murmured as she changed the calendar page to the month of October. She moved to the window and pulled back the curtain to stare out at the overcast sky.

“All I wanted was a brother,” she whispered tearfully. She shook her head impatiently and dropped the curtain. She was an adult. She needed to grow up. After all, she had her sister and her dad.

But ever since her mother had died and they’d found the old photos, she had wondered about the child her mother had borne in her late teens. And wanted to meet him.

Kari pulled back the curtain again. She took a deep breath. It was what it was. She expelled the air in her lungs and leaned her forehead against the glass. “Divine Spirit, you know,” she whispered. “I leave it with You.”

Copyright © 2014 Loretta Miles Tollefson

The Birdman, 3 of 4: Hitting the Streets

Early in the morning, the birdman hit the streets. That is to say, he trod the dusty paths of the American housing areas outside Clark Air Force Base. He walked all morning in the rising heat and made only a few sales. One lady wanted a pair of Java Rice Birds. He knew his birds. He sold her a young, healthy pair. Another lady, a neighbor of the first, wanted one of the small green parrots.

“I bought one before from another man, and it died of parrot fever,” she complained.

“I cannot guarantee their health,” he said honestly. “They are good when I buy them in Manila. After that…” He turned his hands up. “I do not know.”

She bought the one bird.

In the noonday heat, the birdman stopped to eat his lunch. He fretted over the issue of sick birds.
But what can I do? he thought.

Copyright 2014 George Lowell Tollefson

Family Mystery 6: A Change in Narrative

Stanley wandered restlessly toward the pond at the back of the park. Five ducks and two geese came to investigate, but waddled off when they found he didn’t have any bread. He gathered a handful of pebbles and tossed them one by one into the water.

He had been fine by himself. As an only child with little emotional support, he’d learned to be self-sufficient. Now these two women had shown up, claiming to be his sisters. They didn’t seem to want anything but acknowledgement. Their mother—his birth mother—was dead.

He’d told himself long ago that he didn’t care, that it didn’t matter that he’d been abandoned. But now these women were changing the story he’d told himself about his birth and adoption. He crouched down to gather more pebbles, but these he simply held. What would it be like to have siblings? Did he want to know?

Copyright © 2014 Loretta Miles Tollefson

The Birdman, 2 of 4: Arriving at the Place of Business

Having arrived in the town of Angeles, the birdman took lodgings. These were inexpensive, for he was only a peddler. Angeles was a town located near Clark Air Force Base. Outside the base were several housing areas occupied by Americans. The largest was Balabago, located just beyond the main gate.

The birdman always spent a week in this area, walking the dusty streets in his flip flops made from old tire rubber. He would carry half a dozen cages full of the birds he had brought from Manila. They would be suspended three on a side, balanced on a split bamboo pole that would cut into his shoulder. But he was used to it. It was his trade.

“I am very good with the birds,” he would tell himself. “The Americans will buy them.” But he was not sure. Some weeks he returned to Manila with almost his full cargo.

Copyright 2014 George Lowell Tollefson

Family Mystery 5: Sibling Regrets

“I always wanted an older brother,” Kari said.

“An older sister wasn’t enough?” Dani asked with a grin.

“I liked having you as my older sister. But I wanted a brother.”

“I’m sorry you didn’t have one.”

Kari nodded and looked away. She lifted her hands helplessly. “It is what it is.”

“I didn’t really like being the oldest,” Dani said.

“Why not?”

She shrugged. “The responsibility, I guess. Knowing I was going to get in trouble if you got hurt.”

Kari laughed. “So that’s why you were always so worried about my getting hurt! It wasn’t because you actually cared!”

“I cared,” Dani said defensively. She grinned. “It’s just that the responsibility made me care even more.”

Kari reached to hug her. “I’m just teasing you.”

Dani chuckled. “Just think, if we’d had an older brother, you would’ve had two siblings to tease!”

Copyright © 2014 Loretta Miles Tollefson

The Birdman, 1 of 4: Gathering Stock

The birdman got his birds at the wild bird market, where there were all kinds of Philippine birds, but he usually only took two. These were small green parrots, the size of a budgerigar, and Java rice birds. He packed them crowdedly into small communal cages and brought them by bus the sixty miles south from Manila to Angeles. Though people knew he was a peddler, they would sometimes tease him.

“Where are you going with so many small birds? You cannot eat them.” Or, “Did you catch them yourself? You are a very good bird fisherman.”

He ignored them and ate his rice and fish carefully wrapped in banana leaf. Whenever the bus stopped, venders sold baloots at the windows. These were duck eggs boiled shortly before hatching. But some were cooked only when they became large yolks. He bought yolks because they were cheaper. He had a family.

Copyright 2014 George Lowell Tollefson

Family Mystery 4: Encounter

“I told your sister when she called that I didn’t want to talk to you,” said the man behind the screen door.

“I thought you might change your mind.” Dani’s eyes rested on his thin red-gold hair. “You know, you look a lot like our mother.”

“I look like me,” he said sharply. “And I’ve built a life being just me. My adoptive parents were all right, but they had their issues. I’ve learned to be self-sufficient. It’s easier that way.”

“I’m sorry,” she said.

He lifted a hand impatiently. “Don’t be.” He moved back into the house’s interior. “And don’t be calling or coming by, either,” he said as he shut the door.

Dani stood for a minute, staring at the windowless wooden door. Then she turned and headed down the sidewalk toward her car.

Behind her, a curtain moved slightly as the man watched her go.

Copyright © 2014 Loretta Miles Tollefson