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

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

A Bumblebee, a Rose, and Two Dolphins

There is a figurine-sculpture thing that’s been sitting on my coffee table for two months. It’s of two dolphins springing out of a burst of water. They have a sideward glance, I guess to make eye contact with me, the viewer. They look a little menacing this way. I think the designer should have kept their eyes looking forward.

I also have a glass-blown rose, probably purchased at Disneyland, still in its cardboard box. It’s a reference to the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ movie. I used to have a decorative sculpture that said something nice about friendships. I have a vague memory of it being garden-themed, possibly with a bumblebee near the quote for emphasis. All of these tchotchkes were given to me by my friend L who used to be called “special needs.” I heard there is a new term now, but I don’t know what it is. Anyway, I visit her once a month and take her out to dinner, usually to one of the many chain restaurants in her neighborhood. I had never been to an Applebee’s or Outback Steakhouse before meeting L.

L enjoys giving me gifts, preferring to shop at places like Disneyland or the Hallmark store. I have no need or desire for the gifts that L gives me. If I’m being totally honest, my lack of interest in her offerings are so strong that I can’t even feign gratitude for the thought behind them. I have to make myself lilt my “thank you” and drown the groan that creeps up my throat. I dislike these unnecessary gifts because they are kitschy (not in any way that I can appreciate them ironically), I hate clutter, and the thought of these things piling up in a landfill and me being the one to put them there. I donated the garden sculpture to Good Will but I’m still hanging on to the ‘Beauty and the Beast’ rose and the twin dolphins

I hung on to the rose because I had an inkling that my four-year-old niece would appreciate it. I’m waiting until she gets a little older before I give her something so delicate. I don’t know if I’ll get around to giving my niece the rose because I keep forgetting that I have it. Now, the dolphins … These tacky gifts have always annoyed me for the ten years that I’ve known her but this summer, when the dolphins appeared, somehow the annoyance was replaced by amusement. L finally won me over with her persistence. I suddenly saw this pair of sideward-glancing dolphins as a marker of time, a sign of our persistent friendship. There isn’t much that L and I have in common. She is the cousin of a friend, she lives really far, and she isn’t much of a conversationalist. And still our friendship persists. And that’s something to commemorate.

Jem and Mark in Manchester

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