Four months after her mother set fire to a yellowing wedding dress and drove top-down to Florida, Liz Johnson began studying the mating patterns of hummingbirds, to the surprise of her husband who was expected to build a floral topiary on which the birds could mate. “I’m not getting rid of our furniture to move into an avian sex house,” he told Liz, but within the month their home smelled like lilac. Within the month, a flock of male hummingbirds were puffing their chests and inflating their throats and flapping their wings at such immeasurable speeds that the sound saturated their family room. According to Liz’s measurements, it took only four seconds for the birds to reach climax, but by the time they were finished it appeared that they had gone to some sort of war: microscopic feathers exploded across the room, hollow bones were bent against the floor, nectar and blood and bird semen lined the walls and stained the doors and it wasn’t long before her mother’s wedding album stood in the firing zone too. The next morning, the photos looked tarred and feathered. The apartment was still. Liz examined the hummingbirds and how they hovered in space. She listened to the frantic scream of their hearts beating thousands of times a minute. She waited a moment, put a finger to her wrist, and felt the echo of her own four chambers. The veins they spilled into.
Garrett Biggs's work is published in CutBank, Necessary Fiction, and Big Lucks, among other journals. He is managing editor of The Adroit Journal and lives in Denver, Colorado.
Illustration by Alex Fukui.