Hi everyone! I am happy to share another short story is available now for you to read. Sonja Uncaged is an 8,000 word story I wrote this fall about a woman who swaps bodies with her bird. Side note: I had someone close to me, who is a great graphic designer, make the cover, but it turns out I’m an incredibly stubborn perfectionist (lol) who wanted something I couldn’t vocalize, so I played with his design and tweaked it a little until it was as close to my imagination as possible. What I learned: It’s NOT easy making a cover, or even changing an existing design (and I’m clearly an amateur!). But, it was still fun! Hopefully it looks okay 🙂 But, back to the story. It’s a fantasy Women’s Fiction, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it! Here’s more about it:
A short story about a lonely young woman riddled with panic attacks and agoraphobia. Sonja’s only friends are her fat cat Louie, and her new bird Phinny. Despite her crush on her mailman Ben, she is unable to form relationships because of her crippling anxiety. And then one day, everything changes. Sonja wakes up inside her canary’s cage. She and her bird have switched bodies. Sonja is now a human in a bird’s body, unable to speak, barely able to fly. Phinny is mute as a human, even more terrified to leave the apartment than Sonja was, and fascinated and yet still terrified of fat Louie the cat. But before long, the story shifts even odder, and Ben the mailman and Louie find themselves in their own conundrum. Can a cat and a bird fall in love? Can a woman stuck inside a bird’s body learn to love her life in a cage of her own making, or will she force herself to leave it and truly fly beyond what she thought ever possible? Sonja Uncaged is a story of longing, of fear, and the kind of love that makes us spread our wings, and fly.
Read an excerpt:
The bird was a gift. Kind of.
I’d had dogs as pets before, and six years ago acquired a large, gray cat from the animal shelter, but birds were new territory for me.
“You’ll love having a bird,” my neighbor Constance told me. She was a singer—a beautiful singer with tawny skin and lips she painted merlot, which made her teeth flash whiter than white when she smiled. She wore printed dresses and tall heels, and had gotten a gig in a Broadway show. It was her big break, and she was moving closer to the city. She couldn’t bring the little bird with her. When she’d asked if I’d like her, for free, all supplies included, I’d said yes without hesitating. It was very unlike me. Hesitation was my middle name. And if Hesitation was my middle name, FEAR was my first. Capital letters. FEAR Hesitation Morris.
“I’m sad to be leaving her,” Constance said with a sincere frown. “But I know you’ll give her a good home. You’ll love her, Sonja. Sing with her. That’s what I do.”
“Mm.” Nodding in a non-committal way, I tried not to look as though I were second-guessing this all.
I was no singer, and as far as loving a bird went, I had my doubts, though I suspected I’d like her well enough. However, I couldn’t find fault with more company. Besides, I’d always liked birds in nature, and this was a sweet-faced little canary who trilled in her cage. It wasn’t a bad gift…or, um, donation. Scooting a stack of books and squat, green plant to the side, I set the bird’s cage in the middle of the antique pedestal table in my living room. It looked perfectly at home there, amidst the vintage, old-lady chic décor I’d mostly inherited with the apartment.
“Wait,” I said, as Constance left quickly, possibly afraid I’d change my mind and the spontaneous decision to accept the bird. “What’s her name? Does she…have one?”
“Of course.” She laughed. “Her name is Phinny.”
When the door closed, the bird stopped singing, slanted her head to one side, and assessed me.
“Well, hello, Phinny,” I said, awkwardly. And then I laughed. Why was I nervous about a bird? “Nice to meet you. I’m Sonja.”
And she opened her beak and sang again.
* * * *
Sometimes, I called her Phin, and she cocked her head and hopped as if she approved of the plucky nickname. When I opened the door of the cage and let her fly free, she stayed high, near the moldings of my old apartment’s ceiling, afraid to get too close to Louie. He, I watched with caution, lest he somehow manage to catch her, despite being a rather hefty cat with a sagging belly, and, I suspected, less-than-stellar hunting skills.
In time, we fell into a rhythm.
For a long time, it was just the three of us. The girl, the cat, the bird.
* * * *
I quickly grew accustomed to having a bird, and Louie loved to watch Phinny from his perch on the back of my armchair, or from the windowsill. She eyed him warily, and flapped away in fright if he got too close. If he heaved his sturdy self up onto the table where I’d placed her cage, I’d give him a healthy squirt of water from a spray bottle I kept nearby. Not only did I become protective of my little bird, but I looked to her for comfort. When I was sad, or bored, I liked to fold myself up in the armchair next to her table and peer into her cage, watching how she moved and how she watched me in return. Sometimes, she would sing and I’d mimic the tune, although it was just to show her I was listening, not so much to prove my skills at birdsong. Occasionally, when I took my place in the chair with a book or sketchpad, Louie sat on my lap, and I stroked his short, thick fur while he kneaded my chest. But whenever Phinny sang, even Louie stopped to listen, and the whole apartment became quiet. The outside, bustling city stilled, and everything seemed to make sense. The fear in my heart subsided, and I was able to breathe deeply.
I did so love to hear her sing.
* * * *
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Thanks everyone for your support. I couldn’t keep writing these stories without having someone to write them for. As an aside, Sonja Uncaged will not be including in my upcoming short story collection (Beach Glass & Other Broken Things) but it will be part of a future magical realism/fantasy/fabulism collection. But, shhhhh. Not quite talking about that yet…now, go read.
Have a fabulous New Year!