‘Birds In The Mouth’ by Samanta Schweblin

Birds In The Mouth by Samanta Schweblin, 2009

The magic trick:

Distorting reality in just the right amount

As a new father, I am especially appreciative now of short stories about being a dad. There aren’t as many out there as you might guess. Not sure why that is. Maybe I just haven’t looked in the right places. No matter. The point here is to say that “Birds In The Mouth” is an excellent story and more than a little disturbing whether you’re a father or not.

Certainly fatherhood can be a kind of corny topic for a story. Or at least it’s a topic highly susceptible to corniness. So how to avoid that pitfall? In the case of “Birds,” the solution is a big of very, very odd magic realism.

The story distorts reality just the right amount. Eighty percent of the story remains realistic enough for the themes to make sense and resonate with the reader. But the conflict is weird enough to eliminate any possibility of sentimentality.

The selection:

“You’re going to say I’m exaggerating, I’m nuts, all that stuff. But there’s no time today. You’re coming home right now. This you have to see with your own eyes.”

“What’s going on?”

“Besides, I told Sara you were going to come, so she’s waiting for you.”

We remained silent for a moment. She frowned, got up, and went to the door. I grabbed my coat and went after her.

The house looked as it always did, with the lawn recently cut and Silvia’s azaleas hanging from the balconies on the second floor. We got out of our cars and went inside without speaking.

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