“Stork” by Travis Morgan
He hated this part of the job; the worst part of the job. Impended flight, strained wings, long beak that was numbed and twisted by the weight of many burdens during many flights. The familiar anxiety when he took off, the cloth clamped tightly in his beak, worried that it’d be too heavy this time, that he was growing too old, too weak, that he wouldn’t be able to clear the red-shingled peaked rooftops or the snarling fingers of the tall trees. It was uncomfortable, flying through the damp shrouds of clouds and squinting his eyes beneath the glare of the moon—for they were allowed to fly only by moonlight, it was too dangerous to be spotted in the daytime; they could be shot or, far worse, their secrets would be revealed.
By the time his wings were numb with the incessant beating, by the time his beak felt as if it had been twisted like putty in the grappling hands of a curious infant, by the time he had almost lost sense of time—but not of place, never of place—by that time, he had often arrived at his destination. His heart always flooded with warmth when he spotted an open window—generous, those humans, in all their ignorance—and he’d slip through the curtains with an unexpected grace and fluidity. Otherwise, it was down the chimney, if the household was lucky enough to have a chimney. He hated chimneys, they made a frightful mess, and more than once he’d emerged bruised and blackened—the wee tyke had to remain spotless and soothed, of course. In the event of none of these options existing, he was forced to drop off his bundle at the doorstep, and huddle nearby to protect it until dawn peeked out and the door cracked open. More than once he’d had to fight off a curious dog or cat, and once he’d even gutted a wolf that had tried to worry the blanket and wake the baby.
In the end, though, all of his parcels arrived safe and sound. In the end, the humans would open the door or come to the window and give great cries of delight and awe and gratitude.
The stork would then fly away, wing-sore and happy. Because that right there was the best part of the job.
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