The little brown sparrow

The little brown sparrow, jumped across the curb going under our table.  Quietly, secretly, it hopped forward to a crumb morsel, fallen from my blueberry muffin.  It darted the last few steps, picked up a crumb and bounced away to safety from the human giants.  It was too much.  Quietly I broke another price of muffin and dropped it beside my chair.  The sparrow returned, flicking its little head from side to side, checking out how safe I am.  Then at last minute grabs and off it darts again.


“What are you up too?” my wife quizzes.   I look up at the sun dancing off her bouncy, wavy red hair.  We’ve been married twenty six years and my heart still misses a beat when I look at her.  How lucky am I to have such a wonderful woman as my life partner.


She lifts her soya flat white to those beautiful lips and sips a bit more of her morning coffee.  Our local café only recently put tables and chairs on the footpath.  Paris, this is not, but relaxing and beautiful, our local community café is a catch up place for us all.  Through the gaps in the shops we see the Waitemata Harbour less than a kilometre away.


She realises what I am doing and teases me about getting in trouble with the café management for feeding the birds.  


The street is getting busier with shoppers moving up and down the footpath; no one complains about the narrowing of the footpath as they traverse past the café.  Too many of us remember the days before we had such modern luxuries and how it was a long trip into the city for a decent coffee. 


I smile at Wendy, the magic as strong as ever in our relationship.  We feel part of this community and over the last twenty years have grown to feel we are locals.  There is a black screen between the parked cars and us.  I notice the screen is starting to move.  It is a reasonably solid structure.  In the distance, the sound of a train locomotive is coming towards us.  We are nowhere near a train track.   The locomotive is bearing down on us, the ground convulses under the pressure. I become aware of people starting to scream, the road looks like the ocean waves, bearing down on us.


Panic sets in everywhere as everyone realises’ it is a major earthquake.  We never get them in Auckland – it must be one of the “extinct” volcanoes.  My wife, Wendy is pasty white.   There does not appear to be anywhere safe to go, and, without warning, it is still.


People of the street stand, staring at each other – we are not used to this.  It seems like eternity before the first person is courageous enough to rekindle life and movement in the community.  It is all over.


I am back drinking my cup of tea when the sirens sound – a long continuous siren.  Tsunami warning!


This should be a serial starter. Factual and real mixed with fiction always makes for interesting reading. I loved this, Bruce. This is different and moves forward with good pace. It also holds the interest and I wish there was more. 

Hi Raymond - I haven't made up my mind as to whether to contribute it as a serial starter or develop into a short story.

Yes, it could be a starter. It'd be excellent....a lovely mix of serenity and upheaval. It could go anywhere and its fun to see how the writers shape the story.

Hi  Bruce,

I will play devil's advocate here. The introductory sentence is hard to figure out:

"The little brown sparrow, jumped across the curb going under our table." The first clause of it is all right enough, but as soon as I read "across the curb going under our table," I was yanked right out of the story. Because you see, that clause as written could mean either the sparrow going under our table or the curb going under our table. I think you meant the sparrow jumped across the curb. You need an "and" in there to clarify.  Perhaps you might try this:

"The little brown sparrow jumped across the curb and dashed under our table." I know that adds a word to your count, but it's our job as writers to make sure the reader gets the picture. Sacrificing clarity for economy is a losing proposition. And the first words the reader is going to see are the opening; yes, the whole piece must be ironed flat as the front of a shirt, with no wrinkles. Not paying attention to little details like this one could mean the difference between a letter of acceptance and one of rejection. 

You also could improve this piece drastically by trying not to use the verb "to be" in its myriad forms. That verb is one of the weakest in the English language. (Yeah, I know, I used "is.) In the paragraph that begins "I smile at Wendy," count how many times that verb (mostly "is") appears. "There is a black screen coming," "the locomotive is bearing down on us," etc.  The real verb in the first sentence is the word "coming." But instead of getting right into the action of the sentence by saying, "The locomotive bears down on us," we get to the meat of the sentence only through the "is." That dilutes the power of the sentence. 

I know it's a first draft. By definition, first drafts are crummy. Nobody ever gets by without editing. But I hope you'll consider what I've said in the spirit I intended. This story deserves to see the light of day somewhere; I hope this helps you find the path. Keep writing!