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

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.


One of the scariest nights of my life was my first time hanging out alone with my father. I was 16, and he had sent me a ticket to Puerto Rico for a week in November. I was skipping days of school to go, and I had never visited my family in Puerto Rico, so I was really excited. A few of his other children had also joined the trip, but there were occasions that they weren't interested in, such as meeting my great grandmother or accompanying our shared father to yet another baseball game. Since they lived with him, all of his events had lost their novelty.

So it was that I was alone with my father for an entire day, first to meet his grandmother, and then to a special baseball event in the mountains of some small town. The road to the party was a narrow one, winding around the mountain higher and higher until my ears popped, and then still after that. The sight was glorious, though, and I savored the view of what seemed to be the entire island. What was alarming enough to prevent my falling entirely into a quiet meditation, though, was the speed with which my father drove. Warning signs abounded, and the speed limit was usually around 45. He propelled us forward consistently near 70 mph, almost as if his perennial, never-ending energy were somehow fueling the engine of the tiny rental car. To make matters more alarming were several notable sections of missing parapet--parapet that once existed but now in all likelihood could be found in the valley thousands of feet below. The only sign it was ever there at all was the little blurs of rubble and the scars of its neighbors. I did not want to make another gash in that wall. My stomach was already turning imagining how many flips the car would manage before our skulls were squished into themselves. We managed to make it to the party in one piece, thank goodness. Now would we make it back home? It was a party, after all, and while we were there my father drank, flirted, and only seemed to multiply his exuberance. My father is the opposite of me. Large crowds and social situations only recharge him.

I dreaded the ride back down that mountainside. I didn't remember seeing any street lamps. On the way down the mountain his driving was a bit more subdued. He'd danced with a woman at the party who "really really wanted to sleep with him," but he thought of his wife who we'd left on the other side of the mountain to be with her own family. And he didn't want to do that again to her.

I thought of my own mom and how I was almost born blind because of the chlamydia he had given her. He was still the same. And yet he was confiding in me as if I were in my twenties, as if we were friends who'd known one another for ages. I nodded sagely and looked out the window, counting reflectors.

Solidaridad Sandranista O'Brindle

Of Course You Can't