The Bird House, a short short story

Photo of a colorful picket fence with bird houses

Welcome to Brighton Bits, short short stories about the people, places and things in and around the fictional village of Brighton, New Hampshire. Certain places in a small town crop up as landmarks. This is how one home became the Bird House.

Eleanor Finch and the Bird House

Eleanor Finch was a bright, breezy woman with a permanent smile that brightened the day of anyone who encountered it. She was content with her life. She loved her family and community, and had a sense of purpose that made her look forward to each day.

That brightness took a hit to the heart when her husband Roger died last February from complications of the flu. Although her smile hadn’t turned into a frown, it lacked warmth and luster. Lost in her grief, she didn’t leave the house, except to run the few errands she needed to stay alive. No one seemed able to get through to Nora, not her children, not her friends, not even the kindergartners she adored.

That spring, none of her snowdrops, daffodils or tulips bloomed. The stalks came up but failed to flower. Her garden, usually full and rich with color and bounty, lay abandoned, lifeless and brown.

Then one morning, she woke up to a flock of goldfinches twittering and pecking at her decrepit lawn. Their sweet chatter and sun-bright feathers stirred something in her. And her mother’s voice came back to her, “Nora, sweetness, you have to look for joy every day. It’s not going to come to you unless you notice it’s around.”

She hiked down the stairs to the dark basement and found the old bird feeders Roger had made her put away because of the bears. He feared the bears, looking for easy food, would harm the children playing in the yard. Nora had rolled her eyes at the notion, knowing the squealing children would terrify any bear and make it return when the children were gone.

But Nora didn’t like confrontation, so she’d deferred to her husband. She’d also deferred to him when it came to decorating the house. She’d wanted bright colors. He’d insisted on shades of beige that he maintained were restful after a day at work in a noisy shop. He’d said, “Nora, my love, your smile is dazzling enough to brighten any room. I wouldn’t want the décor to overshadow your natural beauty.”

He’d kissed her, and she’d let it go. He was a good man—faithful, loyal, loving. His one fault was that his favorite color was brown.

In the kitchen, she dusted off the birdfeeders that had remained unused for decades and lined them up on the counter. Then she headed to the Country Store for birdseed.

While she made her way to the outdoor section, a pyramid display of mis-mixed quarts of paint caught her eye. She stopped and studied the dry dots of paint on each quart can cover. Her heart pitter-pattered. Red and blue. Purple and green. Pink and orange. And a yellow that reminded her of the goldfinches in her yard.

She all but ran for a cart and piled every can into it until the pyramid on the floor was gone. After a detour to get paintbrushes, and another for birdseed, she paid for her treasure and headed home.

There, she changed into her oldest jeans and used one of Roger’s old shirts as a smock. The first thing she did was paint the front door a color listed on the can as Purple Heart. The lovely mid-range purple softened the rock-gray of the siding. The house seemed to sigh, content.

The change brought an instant awakening of her heart. Color, she decided, would make her heart sing again. She cleaned her brush, lined up the quart cans and got to work. Somewhere around midnight, she stopped, suddenly worried that Roger would consider her project a betrayal.

She plopped to the ground, turned off her headlamp, and looked up at the star-studded sky. “Give me a sign,” she said. “And I’ll stop.”

Just then, a series of shooting stars streaked across the night sky.

And Eleanor smiled.

The next morning, when Brighton woke up, the Finch household lay transformed. The white picket fence seemed to smile in a myriad of color like a box of brand-new crayons. And a flock of birdhouses, just as bright and as colorful as the fence, hung from trees and fence posts, inviting songbirds to stay and sing.

Nora restored her joy and her smile. All the color of her yard had not dimmed her personal light; it had only made it more vibrant.

And the Finch house was now a popular direction reference point. “Turn right at the bird house…”


Want more?

If you want to read more about Brighton, pick up a copy of Christmas by Candlelight, Christmas in Brighton and Summer’s Sweet Spot, or the cozy mystery, Of Books and Bones. Or sign up for my newsletter.

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