birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Shape Shifters


I poke a finger in my eye. I poke a finger in my other eye. And now, all is right in the world. I’m ready for the day to begin, my vision now as clear as it’ll ever be. 

I don’t do anything until I’ve slid a contact onto each eyeball, as the world is all mush and blob without them. My daily routine relies on kickstarting my eyesight, or else I’d never get anywhere. My vision is bad. Like, really bad. Wave around and grasp at the nightstand bad, not knowing what dark blob is which, pulling the clock close to my nose to make out the numbers. 
I always wonder how in the world I’d manage without contacts. Surprised in the night perhaps, or in a churning-water emergency where swimming and seeing were a necessary thing. If the proverbial poo hit the fan, where would I be with no time for my little Baush & Lomb routine? And how in the world did fuzzy-eyed people centuries before me manage, with worries of breaking wagon wheels and surprise Indian attacks. Surely they couldn’t grope around in the crossfire pleading, “oh, hold on a minute while I put on my glasses.” And were there eyes as bad as mine? Those little round spectacles with frames thin as spider legs wouldn’t have held up the thick lenses I need. Maybe they weren’t afflicted with such bad vision back then. Perhaps constantly squinting at the horizon to make out the men approaching on horseback was some sort of bicep curl for retinas and rods and cones that kept everything in tip top shape. I used to think as a kid that I “ruined my eyes,” reading for hours and hours, even in the dusk of sundown, too enthralled in my adventure to turn on the light. But then, that theory doesn’t work. It was no better ages ago, as people read those palm-sized books with ant-sized print by candlelight. Wouldn’t that also make one’s eyes as reliable as mine—like a vole’s—if we’re believing my mother’s constant warning?

However it happened, the thing I prize mightily is being able to see, to read, to take in the rich colors and wonder-making detail of nature’s creations. The day can’t start until I can see, so there am I at the sink, jabbing little miraculous inventions atop each eye, ready to face how the day shapes up.

Master Squirrel's Advice

Tea for Two