Sat by the skirting Kenny peeled away wallpaper, shaping the pieces into wings. Feathering the torn edges with cold fingers. Behind the rips the plaster was damp. The colour of panstick. With long fingernails he scraped it free into small piles by his feet. Picking up the powder, he pressed it between his palms and shaped the compaction to a small body and a tiny head.
Into the powdered back he pressed floral paper wings, watching them twitch to life in the draught. Dragging his hand down ceiling mould he dotted eyes of spores onto the face, then touched the exposed brick beneath the window sill and rouged the tiny bird’s skin.
Placed in the iron fireplace the lapwing began to cough, but did not sing. The bird looked over at Kenny, and he started to give the creature his voice. First he gave the lapwing his whispers, then his secrets, then all the stories from his childhood. Each word the lapwing took it grew, a shudder of pale dust falling into the carpet. Each phrase it swallowed whole, swelling with the pressure. As the bird swelled pupils of mould turned to sapphire edged in gold, wallpaper wings fluttered to fine cluny lace. Rouged skin turned to delicate ruby feathers.
Then the lapwing sang, and it sang of eloquences and springs. It sang of the genteel and the waters. It sang of crocuses and tea blends, and when Kenny went to speak the lapwing had taken all his words, leaving him no voice for his own story.
By Steve Toase