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

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

At the Nissan Dealership

“Did you hear about the shooting today? In Huntsville?” the woman in blue asked the woman beside her.

“No, no,” replied the woman beside her, a black woman with a sing-song voice and a smile I could hear without seeing.

“First day of school. Someone brought a gun to school and started shooting. First day of school. What’s the world coming to?” The woman in blue had a blond ponytail and bangs, she was about 70 years old. Her husband sat beside her, not saying a word, wearing a flannel shirt and a baseball cap. She had a sharp voice, a thin lipped, crooked teeth voice. Accent so southern it hurt. She paused a second. The black woman mumbled something.

“We know what it’s coming to, don’t we?” the woman in blue asked. They both mumbled in agreement. “The Lord’s coming back!” she said, emphasizing Lord. They laughed together again, quietly.

After a few minutes the woman in blue and her husband got up to get a cup of coffee. “How do you use this thing?” the husband asked the stranger sitting nearby. She did not look up from her book. “Say,” he said moving closer to her and touching her shoulder, “Do you know how to use this thing?”

“The directions are written there,” the reading woman answered in a thick French accent. “Or you can ask the people behind the counter. I don’t know.”

I fought my impulse to go help them, and listened as the couple read the directions, slowly, methodically, and made their cups of coffee. “I learned something new today,” he said, and they walked back to their chairs. Both of their torsos moved from side to side as they walked, as if they were being rocked that way instead of ambling forward.

I can tell you all about those strangers. They are hard workers, live outside the city limits. She bakes cakes. They belong to the Baptist Church, they tithe, and they think welfare is for freeloaders. They voted for Trump because he’s against abortion and he’s a godly man. Neither of them care much for fine arts or even reading. They think reading is for people who don’t work hard.

Same ole strangers, same ole day.

What’s with the woman reading the book, though, the one with the French accent? What’s her story?

“Miss Dansak? We’ve got your car ready,” says the serviceman at the Nissan place. I almost hate to hear it.

The Devil in the Mountain

upon overhearing a griping girlfriend . . .