“I binge read a book the other week,” he shared.

          She laughed, “You?  I would have never thought that possible.  I thought you just called that reading!”

          He smiled back, “This one was excessive, even for my rate.”

          “What was it?” she asked.

          “Where the Crawdad’s Sing.  I’d heard about it and wanted to read it, found a copy at the library when we were rained out of the fields and didn’t want to keep servicing what’d already been prepped for the fields. 

          It’s about a girl who lives alone in a swamp as her family abandons her, how a town judges and perceives her—some positively, most less-than-so.  There are two men that pursue her: one for what he sees in her and wants to help her to become; the other for what he wants from her.

          The first discovers his life’s happiness in protecting and helping her.  When a little girl and alone, he helps guide her through the marsh back to her home in the channels when she becomes lost venturing out. 

          Later, he begins to leave her gifts—gifts that would be frivolous to most, but are special to her.  He leaves her feathers on a stump in view from her home window.  They are rare and special feathers, something the two of them know but most think, and care, little for. 

          When he would leave a feather, she would look into her own collections and return a gift at the same stump to be discovered and received by him in kind.  They did this for a time, never seeing each other, only leaving their small gifts and signs, and one day, he left a note as well.

          She couldn’t read, and when he finally saw her again, and learned this, he taught her.  He taught her to read, brought books of science that sparked her mind because she stayed away from school and the town that judged her; and he helped her grow into who she would become.

          While he said little of their time together to others, he always stood up for her whenever someone else would speak of her.  He protected, defended, and championed her whenever he was with, or apart from, her. 

          …The other man was different.  He was a town favorite and used to getting everything he wanted.  He wanted something from her—her beauty, her sexuality.  She came to know this man after the first moved away.  He lied and spoke of a future he didn’t really mean in order to live a false pretension in the present—a hope she wanted to believe.  He took advantage of her in her isolation, never wanting to show her off, speak of her.  He did not support or defend her to others and went along with the judgments, and spread his own stories, when not before her presence.

          He did not care about her passions.  He did not care who she wanted to become.

          Eventually, she learned and saw what she did her best to deny and ignore; but it took some time.”

          He paused after sharing the summation.  “It made me think,” he continued.  “Who am I, and what am I doing?  Why am I writing and sharing as I do?  What do I want?  What am I after?  What is the purpose to all of this coming from me? 

          It made me reexamine, and make my own vow.  I don’t want to take.  I want to be the first man, one that supports and encourages you to be anything and everything you want to be.  I want to leave you feathers—or stories, songs, and poems—because to give you simple things gives me a happiness of my own, and I want you to have them; and I want you to know that you are special. 

          I know you’re not isolated.  I know you’re not forgotten or ignored.  I know you have someone that cares for you—whole families—but what does it hurt to have one more just to show and share how special you are in their world?

          I don’t want to fake or paint a false future, but I don’t want to hide or lie about my own dreams.  A private thought left alone as nothing remains nothing.  If I mean and want what’s in me, it has to be spoken.  It has to be shared.  I accept and own the absurdity and unlikeliness of all of it, but I’m still going to speak it. 

          I don’t want to hide it, or what you help me feel.  I want you to know that they are yours, but I want your feathers to be seen by more than just your eyes so that others, too, might see and feel as you help me to do.  I don’t want to say one thing in private and deny in open, so I decided I will put it out there. 

          I will tell my story, say what I feel, mean, and dream, and leave it at that.  I won’t hide it, and people can either choose to see it for what it is, or dismiss all I make as creative endeavors without causative truth.  I don’t care how they are perceived. 

          I just want you to have them.  I don’t want to hide them away.  I believe you’re meant to change worlds, and I want to be a voice that helps you do that, even if others don’t yet fully see how or why. 

          You are special.  You make me feel, and I believe—for anyone to think and feel as I do—a world and life can’t help but become better. 

          I want you to have them first, and then I want to share them with the world because I believe they just may awaken and inspire others as you do me.”

          “What happens to the girl?” she asked.

          “A lot…but long story short: she becomes who she was meant to be and comes to live a life that gifts her peace without the isolation.”

          “With the one who brought her feathers?”

          “I’ll let you find out if you ever want to read it…I want to help you be whoever it is you’re meant to be.”

          They sat together on the back of the flatbed truck parked on two-tracked lane dividing pasture and field.  A blackbird sang from a top-barbed wire before taking flight and lighting again on a long stem of turning wheat.  A soft wind blew catching a small feather from beneath the barbed wire fence and flashed it in dancing iridescence as it tumbled, spinning and whirling, into the lane where it stopped in rest beneath their feet.

          He dropped to take the feather from the earth—the wingtip of an eastern bluebird—and gave to her in open gift. 

          “For you…” he spoke; another sign from conspiring Universe neither could deny. 

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