The Unusual Case of Ephemera Higgins
Ephermera lives from charcoal black burnt toast to charcoal black burnt toast,
that, and her friend who occasionally has intercourse with the little bell that
hangs in his cage. They keep her going from long year to long year.
She wakes by sound. The little bell tinkling in the cage as the budgie humps the metal thing: tinkle, tinkle it goes.
“You dirty little birdie,” she says.
“Tweet, chirp to you to,” says the bird.
“Don’t be cheeky.”
The budgie turns, flips up his tail feathers, and a little round, white drop of
poop comes out.
“Oh,” Ephemera exclaims, “there’ll be no black toast for you, dirty bird,
She cracks the kitchen curtain and peeks outside.
“Boy’s coming today, Dirty Bird,” she says.
“Chirp,” says Dirty Bird.
She cranks up the setting on the toaster and waits.
“No milk toast for you,” she says to the toaster.
The kitchen smokes. The toaster protests, wishes for nice, white milk toast.
The ceiling clouds and swirls, she inhales and Dirty Bird flaps in his cage.
A knock at the door!
She hurries, shuffles across the linoleum, and opens the door with a grand
swirl of black smoke. It’s Frankie.
“You wanted your windows done today,” he says.
“Oh, yes, expecting you,” she says, “step ladders in the shed, start
here, in the kitchen.”
Frankie on the ladder cleans the window, on the outside, then remains and waits.
Ephemera’s there, glasses on the end of her old nose, tap, tap, taps with
her index finger.
“Here, here,” she says.
Tap, tap, there, tap, tap, here, and he sprays and washes till she’s happy.
“Fifty cents an hour,” she says, “three hours that’s a buck fifty.”
She tinkles the change in Frankie’s hand.
“Cheap, rich old bag,” he thinks.
“Thanks, see you next week.”
She walks to town, gets the post, a letter! She goes to her bench and opens
it right there, an invitation, my name? What? Come to Texas, it says. A
convention, people with my name? A contest, a poem? How exciting. She thinks,
waits on the bench, then thinks of a doughnut but decides not, too excited, so
“Dirty Bird, Dirty Bird,” she exclaims shaking the invitation, “a contest, I
need to write a poem about you,” she says.
Dirty Bird flaps in the cage.
“We need to think, out you come.”
Dirty Bird flies around the house and settles on Ephermera’s shoulder. She
is sitting at the kitchen table, pen and paper in hand.
“Now what do you think?”
“The poem silly, what should I write, after all it’s about you.”
Dirty Bird flutters on her shoulder.
“Don’t you dare poop,” she says.
Dirty Bird squats and scoots his neck in acquiescence, and peers at the
“Good, now let’s see:
Into my morning head I hear
a tinkling bell it sounds quite near
Dirty Bird chirps, and is soft as he tits her neck.
“I know, I do have a knack for it,” she says.
I get up, my house coat on
To see the ruckus cage within
“Chirp, too-witt, too-woo.”
A little bird chirps his song
I feed burnt toast to aid along
“Chirp, chirp, tweeter-too.”
“Yes, I see, how’s this, I hum with yellow bird with glee,
For it is my best company.”
She twists and looks at Dirty Bird from the corner of her eye.
“You are my best.”
“Sometimes he likes to fly quite free, yet always comes home to abide with me.”
“Chirp, tweet,” says Dirty Bird flapping his wings.
“I like it too.”
“Tomorrow I’ll post it off, and if I win, I’m off to Texas! You too!”
Dirty Bird flaps excitedly.
The long days are longer because Dirty Bird and Ephemera are
waiting patiently for the post, and one day, it arrives.
She sits on her bench. Her hands shake as she opens the letter, it says:
THE EPHEMERA HIGGINS CONVENTION
“How officious,” she thinks.
Dear Ms. Higgins,
Please be advised that your poem, ‘Yellow Bird Swagger’ is one of the finalists in the contest. Kindly return this letter with your endorsement and we will complete your registration as finalist. We look forward to seeing you there!
Yours in Service,
Ephemera B. Higgins,
Head of Selection Committee,
I’ve won, I’ve won, I’ve won! Then halts herself aware that she’s only a
finalist. The winner won’t be announced until the convention. She rushes home to
tell Dirty Bird.
It’s quiet in the house, Dirty Bird must be napping, so she is soft with her
footsteps, going in the side door and places her purse on the bed, and clasps her
“Yoohoo, Dirty Bird, look what I have,” gaily and musical.
But there is no chirping or tweeting or too-witt-too-wooing, instead, at the
bottom of the cage lies Dirty Bird, there, on the cage floor surrounded by little
white poops, like a little angel.
“Time for a strong cup of tea,” she says to the kettle.
A dainty cuppa, then cleans her kitchen again, lays on the couch, and
sleeps, warm and comfy.
She wakes to a knock, knock, knocking on the door. It’s Frankie.
“Hi Ms. Higgins, you told me to keep knocking if no answer, today’s the day
for the edges.”
“Yes, right, not today, but come tomorrow, I have something special for you
Ephemera puts dead Dirty Bird in a shoe box, but it’s too big, so finds
one smaller. She places the bird soft in the bottom on crepe paper, and thinks she
hears a small chirp as she puts the lid on. A tear pierces her eye.
Written by Frank Wayne Mottl, Mythoulder Publishing