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When the Birds Come Home in Spring - The Overture

In a way, Chapter Zero

By Steven Christopher McKnightPublished about a month ago 3 min read
When the Birds Come Home in Spring - The Overture
Photo by Nikola Bikar on Unsplash

Having recently finished my Master's Thesis, I decided to take a deep dive into my Google Docs and dredge from its murky depths some of my old prose. This novel has been in progress for the greater part of six years. At first it was a short story, submitted to a fiction workshop in my sophomore year of my undergrad. Then a fellow student who I was trying to impress narrowed her eyes at me from across the room and said to me, "This feels like it should be more of a novel." So here we are. Every attempt I've made to start and restart When the Birds Come Home in Spring has fizzled out. So maybe we can start afresh and anew. This is, more or less, my masterpiece in the making. I hope you enjoy it, chapter by chapter.

When the Birds Come Home in Spring

-A Loosely-Knit Five-Act Tragicomedy in Prose-

-In Which Sometimes, Things Happen-


Dear Reader,

The world comes in waves, I think. Things recede: the water, the treeline, the flirtatious summer heat and the rigid winter cold. The stock market. Birds in November. Even the stage curtain rises with the audience’s perpetual understanding that soon it will come crashing down again. Sadness emerges when the things we expect to come back again do not. Valeri Kingsley’s father, a man by the name of Jonathan Kingsley, for example, lived his twilight years expecting many things to come back that had receded. His hairline was one of them, the natural affection his daughter had once had for him was another.

Jonathan Kingsley spent his final years alone in the house he’d owned since his father died. It was a modest house, originally a two-bedroom, one-bathroom, with a tumorous third bedroom his dad had built so Jonathan and his two sisters didn’t have to share a room growing up. Now the house sat still. In the living room, in his canvas armchair, Jonathan Kingsley would spend his last days pretending to read for the benefit of nobody. Valeri and her fiance would visit from time to time out of obligation, eat a scant meal of baked beans and rye bread—it was all Jonathan could stomach these days—engage in some pleasant conversation, and then part ways with nothing having been accomplished.

In the living room, Jonathan Kingsley chuckled at the irony of dying. His eyes traced the place: the three notches on the doorframe where his wife had marked the progress of a sprouting Valeri, each notch a little more shallow; the dusty maplewood piano, keys covered and untickled for decades; the mud-crusted rug, the toddler-teethed coffee table, the framed ink prints of boats on the walls, the teal textured wallpaper peeling where Jonathan had picked at it half a century ago. Jonathan Kingsley mused to himself, Why don’t I have any pictures of Val in here?

The last songbirds of November strained out a tune outside the drafty living room window before flying south forever. Jonathan Kingsley receded.

Dear reader, the receding is a natural part of natural life. Some things are gone forever, other things come back the same way they were, and some things come back irreversibly changed, like your beloved daughter coming back from her freshman year of college out of town with her new boyfriend Alistair. Dear reader, as any person living on a coastal faultline will attest, the trouble emerges when the thing that has only departed for a moment decides to come back bigger than when it left.

Yours Temporarily,

When the Birds Come Home in Spring

I hope you enjoyed that first part. In a week, I will grace you with a second. In the meantime, please don't hesitate to check out my most recent Top Story.


About the Creator

Steven Christopher McKnight

Disillusioned twenty-something, future ghost of a drowned hobo, cryptid prowling abandoned operahouses, theatre scholar, prosewright, playwright, aiming to never work again.

Venmo me @MickTheKnight

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

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