Evan J Massey
Cecil was an ex-con. He disclosed this outside during lunch. I asked Cecil–though I shouldn’t have–what he’d done. But Cecil just tossed crumbs of crust from his sandwich to some birds. At his feet, the birds waited for whatever landed at their feet then fluttered back into their lives. Cecil wondered how long I’d be working in the warehouse. I wondered too. I drove a forklift for 10 hours a day, $15/hour—a summer gig to pay bills between graduate school semesters. He said folks usually see that first check then bounce. Cecil never answered my question about how he ended up in prison. I knew I shouldn’t have asked. He continued to feed the birds. Once, I watched one of those birds zip into our warehouse. That bird must have built a plastic nest somewhere, perched high up in the racks. From time to time, I’d hear its songs reach the floating clouds of burning plastic from the extruder, which seemed eerily locked onto the ceiling. I asked Cecil if he’d seen the new girl, the one with three butterflies tattooed beneath her right eye. “Naw, I ain’t seen her,” he said. “She cute?” I thought about asking her out, but I didn’t disclose that to Cecil. Besides, the next week she was gone. Butterflies, I’d read on my break, in some cultures represent the soul and rebirth. If a butterfly lands on you, it’s a sign of good luck. Consider the butterfly. Consider being locked up for any amount of time. Incarcerated in a kind of chrysalis. Metamorphosing, then flying away—if you’re lucky. Don’t most of us dream of having wings? To lift up and vanish in an instant? Where would you go? I once slowly lifted Cecil on my forks to scan a box. I imagined wings sprouting from his solid shoulder blades. He motioned for me to lift him higher. Then he signaled for me to stop. Cecil didn’t scan the box. Instead, he reached in between some pallets, then showed me a bird’s nest gently cradled in his hands.
Evan J. Massey is an African American, US Army veteran who served his country in Afghanistan. His work can be found or forthcoming in Hunger Mountain, Bat City Review, The Pinch, Indiana Review, Gulf Coast, and various others. He holds an MFA from Virginia Tech and teaches Upper School English at The Rivers School. He can be found at evanjmassey.com.