Nightingale by Andrew Stancek

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cuckooYou didn’t show.

Three months past the expiry date of our marriage and I still believed you. For weeks your little jumping-bean practiced songs, elated that her daddy was coming for her birthday on an arrow-plane. I put up the glittery balloons in the kitchen and waited. When Talia ran in for birthday breakfast and cake, she sobbed, “Daddy isn’t here. You promised.”

I didn’t sell you out, though God knows I wanted to say, “No, Talia, he’s the one who promised. He gave me his word of honor.”

I wiped her face and nose and we lit the candles together, I’m a big girl now, right Mommy, five candles, and she tore the paper off the presents and what she loved best was the teddy I said was from you.

The vital engagement that made you break her little heart again, do you even remember what it was?  One of the three hundred clutch moments that you could not miss, right?

I took her to the zoo and we watched the elephants spray each other, and the screeching monkey scratch its hairless bum and rattle the bars.  I still thought that you’d show up later, full of laughter, carry her on your back and make her squeal.

Dammit, what’s the bird that lays its eggs into another’s nest and has another species raise its young? Mockingbird? Cuckoo? When you flew into my life, Mother warned me but does any girl in love ever listen? I was certain you were my nightingale.

As you’re roasting in hell, I hope to be there to turn the spit.


AUTHOR BIO: Andrew Stancek’s recent work has appeared in Every Day Fiction, Tin House, Gemini Fiction Magazine, LA Review, Necessary Fiction and other fine publications. His short story collection and novel are both nearing completion.