Some people believe in dogma, some believe in karma. John Lennon said he believed in faeries, but I believe in fiction. In its hypocrisy – its epic tug of war between truth and tale – fiction gives us all the comfort and anxiety that comes with faith in something. “The Aviary Adventures of a Part-Time Bastard” may as well be a memoir. After all, it is the truth: my husband’s grandfather is a bluebird on the fence. Sure, it may be difficult to present hard evidence to support such a theory, but like all intuitions –love, loneliness, and familial relations to bluebirds – they exist whether they present themselves in a sealed plastic baggy or not.
I began “The Aviary Adventures of a Part-Time Bastard” by simply laying down the facts: my grandfather-in-law is a bluebird, my husband is certain of it, and my deceased grandmother has yet to come squawking on my windowsill. When I shared a draft of the work with Dr. Katharine Haake of California State University Northridge, she pointed at the white space between two paragraphs and told me to “write what happens there.” I did and found myself subsequently shocked at the darker layer I discovered. Wasn’t it Robert Frost who said: “No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader?” Right he was.
Under a hawk’s nest in my rented California canyon home, I completed the story, still uncertain if it was about death or life, sanity or insanity, solitude or companionship. Perhaps, it will present itself differently for each reader. I showed the piece to my husband, but he can’t read, because he is a bluebird. Just kidding. He can read. He thought it was sad. My mother-in-law cried, because she believed it. My best friend scoffed and told me I was weird. All I know is this: when I read it back to myself, the story felt eerily honest.
However, my writing is not all birds and bastards. In addition to my affection for the aviary things in life, I also enjoy writing about beards, psychics with false teeth, and the uncanny relationship between Jesus and the jelly doughnut. When it comes to subject matter, binary oppositions are my muses and the psychedelically grotesque is my lover – for now, anyway. Also, I never plot out my stories. They usually begin with a sentence and from there, grow into their own beast. Most times, I have no clue what my stories are about until they end; and the success of my pieces almost always hinges on how little I try (a friendly philosophy I picked up from Mr. Charles Bukowski). By simply believing in fiction, rather than in my own anxiety-ridden mind, I can usually swallow my pride and allow the stories to write themselves. And let’s face it: just like that bluebird on my fence has done a better job at being a father than any human man to my husband, that intangible literary force in the wind always writes better fiction than I ever could.