‘The Perfect Gift’ by Val Muller

Welcome to the Spot Writes. This month’s prompt is to write a story or poem using the following words: hawk, fire, coal, biscuit, king. This week’s story comes to us from Val Muller, author of the kidlit Corgi Capers mystery series. Learn more at www.corgicapers.com.

The Perfect Gift

By Val Muller


Unprecedented Virginia snow. In December. Before Christmas. The sun-loving mother watched the kids playing in the driveway, sliding on the icy layer of freezing sleet that started to fall on top of the fluff.

She looked back down at the wooden box in front of her. Not even a base coat. So close to Christmas, and she had no idea what to paint. She had insisted: it was 2020, probably the weirdest year of her life. She would make everyone a hand-painted gift to commemorate it. Something to be remembered, passed down.

This gift was for her parents, but it was also for her children. They would inherit it one day. What legacy could she leave for them? What could truly capture the spirit of the year that disappointed everyone?

The brush felt right in her hand: muscle memory opened a pit of emotion from college days. Her mind returned to late nights in paint-covered flannel shirts, sitting in a darkened room with a cheap desk light pointed at the easel.

But in college she’d had so many ideas. The art always flowed. Now, watching her kids, the creative well seemed dry. So much anxiety. Could they slide on the ice and break a bone? If so, the roads were barely passable. Virginia was crap at clearing and treating winter weather. And even if they did make it to the hospital, was it safe there? Or wasn’t that ground zero for the pandemic?

And the kids’ noses. Red from the cold. Or was it a cold? Or something worse?

Anxiety swirled in the pit of her stomach as she stared at the untouched acrylics. The pandemic had masked her creative flow, muzzled it like a cur dog.

She contemplated, briefly, a nervous mixture of every color, highly textured, an unplanned swirl of modern art to visualize the uncertainty swirling inside her.

But no one would want to look at that.

Maybe the lighting was wrong. She walked to the window to pull the blind all the way up. There, at the top of the tallest tree, was the hawk. It had been around the yard from time to time, probably for years, but she only noticed it once the first stay-at-home order started.

She had photographed it several times, come to recognize its call, watched it attacked by many smaller birds who resented its presence.

It was looking down at something: a stale biscuit she had tossed out on the snow. Food for the birds—the small birds. The poor hawk would be disappointed to swoop down and find only carbs instead of a meaty kill.

But there it sat anyway. Like a king. She knew that stance. It would swoop at any moment. If she ran for her camera, she would miss it.

And then, majestically, it swooped. It did not attack the biscuit, as she had thought. Some poor creature, looked like a mouse, must have been poking around the biscuit. The hawk saw it. The hawk saw everything. And it sat on the fence post, as it always did, to tear into its prey.

Perhaps 2020 was like a biscuit for the hawk. On hasty glance, it seemed a terrible meal, but with higher perspective, it was setting better things in motion.

And then she felt it. That creative well. She hurried to the table and opened her paints. She would paint a hawk, a true symbol of 2020. Patient, strong, perceptive, determined. The qualities of all whose lives spanned across this year.

The image came naturally to her–its wings expanding like fire, and its eyes determined and black as coal as it swooped down toward its destination.

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

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