Migration Patterns

Standard

Seven mallard ducks flew in the familiar v-shaped formation they take when coming from or going to far-off places.

The land they cast shadows on grew more and more sparse the further they traversed.

“What a spring this has been,” the Second Lieutenant said with pride, he was sick that day.

The group was well-fed and riding high.

“I know,” piped the First Lieutenant enthusiastically, “I even got some french fries!”

At the apex of the V,  the Colonel glanced at the Lieutenant Colonel incredulously.

“Love those things,” said the Captain.

“Guys, watch yourself out here,” sounded the Lieutenant Colonel.

“Yeah, humans were handing out bread like it was going out of fashion,” said the omega male, no one acknowledged him.

The leader stayed silent.

“We had the park all to ourselves! It was a great spring,” said the Major

There was a whooshing sound, then a smack.

The captain looked behind him, shed contour feathers twirled in the vortex of displaced air.

“Well,” the Colonel said, “seems like our idle chit-chat got our Second Lieutenant eaten by a peregrine falcon,” he said in monotone, “let’s try to keep our mouths shut for a little while, huh?”

Shortwave

Standard

The cellar smelled somewhat of sawdust.

The walls had racks of old radio-sets, my father collected them, modified them and occasionally listened to them.

Sometimes he’d scold me for being down there, sometimes he’d teach me about ham radio.

He was protective of them but, since I was the only one in the family who took an interest in his hobby, he would let me look at them from time to time.

I went down to snoop at three in the morning once. A small, gunmetal grey set on a shelf with a piece of painter’s tape labelled “shortwave” in faded chicken scratch caught my eye that time.

I picked it off the shelf, placed it on the work bench in the corner, turned the light on, and stuck two AA batteries in it.

Immediately it sputtered to life.

A fast-paced folk tune blared out of the speakers accompanied by some interference. I could make out the guitar clearly, but the lyrics sounded like garbled, gargled gobbledygook and it was much too loud to allow it to continue.

I fumbled around looking for the volume controls.

There were two knobs on its side, three sliding switches below them, and a toggle at the top for power; I hastily picked up the radio and played with all of these but the last.

It squeaked and screamed at varying volumes and intensities, when I finally settled on the most innocuous channel I could find.

If it weren’t for some graininess, I’d have assumed nothing was playing and continued my search.

Then a sound like a marble being dropped onto a concrete floor came from the speaker.

I pivoted to scan the ambience, just to be sure nothing fell but all was still.

Another marble fell.

I placed the set back on the workbench, adjusted my seat, and decreased the volume.

“Hm,” I said, putting my ear close to the speaker.

“…9…7…9…3…2…3…8…4…6,” said a warbling male voice with an indescribable accent and cadence quite loudly.

Then grainy silence until another marble dropped.

“The hell was that?” I whispered.

I rested my elbow on the edge of the workbench.

Tak-tak-tak-tak.

I increased the volume.

“…2…6…4…3…3…8…3…2…7…”

Lumbering footsteps rang out from above me.

I wasn’t sure whether I should clean up, keep listening or try to explain what I heard to my father.

For a big guy, he was light on his feet, and already descended to the first story.

Tak-tak-tak-tak-tak.

I turned and looked at the radio, a slight crackling sound emanated from the speakers.

His feet made a “clunk, clunk, clunk,” as they hurriedly descended the stairs.

“Hey are you checking out my radios?” he asked in a sleepy voice.

“I’m- uh-”

“Careful with that one, it’s old,” he said.

Tak-tak-tak-tak.

I looked down at the set; he pivoted to check his surroundings then said “it’s getting a little late.”

“I’ll see myself out,” I said, hastily setting down the device to retreat for the stairs.

He approached the bench.

“…9…5…0…2…8…8…4…”

I heard a muffled “what the hell,” through the cellar door.

Before I went to bed, I heard another plug click into place.

“Not right now.”

I’m not allowed down there to this day.