Fiction | June 19, 2020

My mother’s birdwatching mania began with my fourteenth birthday, when she gave me a pair of exorbitantly priced binoculars she’d bought from an enthusiast in Lexington, Kentucky. They weighed as much as a Bible and hurt my neck if I wore them for more than fifteen minutes. Almost immediately she reclaimed them, bought me a cheaper (and lighter) pair, and under the Kentuckian’s continued long-distance influence, we staked out eastern butterbills, Mexican snake-eaters, and greater pillowlarks in our old Subaru station wagon. One weekend she rented a cabin in Michigan so we could glimpse a rainbow mooncock (we didn’t see it, but we did spot a beautiful black-crowned night heron). Our avian résumé grew quickly, as did the Kentuckian’s influence and my number of unexcused absences from school, until at last we lugged our binoculars (we owned several pair now) down to Catspaw, Florida, to join our guru and his apostles in an attempt to glimpse one of the most elusive creatures yet: Drimble’s purple knot.

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