“There were dispensations, of course, if the dream seemed impossible. The body might rebel, or the mind. A dream might be unimaginable. The only time I sought a dispensation was when my son’s bird told him to kill himself.”
-Rhonda Eikamp, “Report on the Wren Queen’s Dementia”, Lackingtons’ Issue 20: Birds
Oooooof. This story hits hard, and it hits well. It’s another story that dances along the line of magical realism, but the maternal anguish is front and center, as Malley tries to recover from the loss of her son and does everything she can to avert it. It reminds me a little, thematically, of [story from horror collection?] in how it uses a central bird metaphor to talk about mothers and children, but I think this one pulls it off better by far.
Particularly harrowing is the method of her son’s suicide – I won’t go into it here, but both that and a birth scene near the end almost nudge this story over to horror. It’s well balanced, though, with enough shock to be satisfying and enough emotion to linger.
TW for suicide, burning, abortion/pregnancy/birth, grief and character death.