Colors of Flamingo
For your first Occurrence, you’re told you must undress. The Human exits for a moment and will come back soon. One by one, you pull a feather through your mouth. Each feather loosens and falls from your flamingo body. Soon, the tile floor holds a heap of your old self. It almost looks like you: a pile of white shapes, yet false form. A gown the texture of thin tissue goes over your figure.
When the Human returns, it gives the door a knock first—a polite warning. It makes its presence known: a hunter shooting first through empty air. In this moment, an animal hears the sound and knows what to expect or what to run from. Except the white-walled room shows no sign of sky, and air conditioning circulates artificial weather. You see no signs of weapons, only scientific instruments. Adult flamingos should be checked yearly, they say. Human hands, like cold wind, unravel the paper robe. Revealed: a nude chest. Yours. The first search occurs here. To make sense of it, you imagine the Human pressing and packing mounds of landscape snow. You hope it finds zero shapes beneath the surface. Winter migrates from your body when the hands pull away.
The second search occurs and you remind yourself all flamingos have to do this too. You lie on the table. Upon instruction, your legs separate. For science, you tell yourself. The Human props your webbed feet in holders. Your feet rest uneasy there like fish caught in small pails. An air conditioner’s breeze shifts the feathers you willingly shed to the floor.
You see the Human reach for the tray of scientific instruments. Sterilized metal. The Human gives another warning before actions. For science, it’ll make an insertion with a clamp, then scrape the linings of your flamingo insides with a cotton swab. You must sit there and do nothing. As if fishing, metal enters a mouth opening. Another unwanted winter. It travels where blood rivers in twelve seasons. When the Human is done, you exist on the papered table like a slab of meat wrapped in a shop wrapper. You can go home now.
You must live with this pink meat requiring science. The Human provides you a napkin and exits. You hear the shuffling of other Humans beyond the door frame. Even with “privacy,” you switch the metal, securing the lock. You wipe your pinkness with the napkin. Any trace of you will linger in a plastic bin until the Humans perform their disposals. Around you, your feathers rest on the floor like the illusion of an animal. One by one, you pick a feather up and realign it to your pinkness, femur, knees, and the area just before your phalanges . . . becoming whole again. When you leave the office, your feathers flash under the fluorescent lights: stiff as shields, sharp as daggers.
Kathleen Roland is a native of Jacksonville, Florida. She's graduating from the University of North Florida with an English degree and minor in creative writing in the spring of 2019. She is the managing editor of Talon Review literary magazine. Her work won the 2019 Amy Wainwright Creative Nonfiction Award; and her stories appear or are forthcoming in Paper Darts, Gingerbread House, The Gateway Review, and Flock. Check out katroland.com if you'd like to read more of her writing.