Back to Issue Thirty-Two

Eagle Swallowing Girl


I went out to my carport. A man stood in the gravel beside his white pick-up truck. He told me he was there to fix the crack on my windshield. I hadn’t called him to do this, so I was surprised. He said he wanted to do it between the hours of X and Y, which was a one-hour time slot, something to do with it being Friday and tomorrow was Saturday and thus-and-therefore. He repeated, “Tomorrow’s Saturday, man,” like somehow, not repairing my windshield on Friday between the hours of X and Y had something to do with tomorrow being Saturday. I consented, though I was confused. Still, I remained cheerful in the face of it. “Oh yes, yes, tomorrow’s going to be Saturday, that’s for sure!”

I noticed something in the sky. An enormous eagle – way bigger than eagles are in real life. I told the mechanic, “That’s an eagle.” I began a conversation with him about how the eagle was a national symbol. Soon I became insecure that the eagle was a national symbol. I pointed to where the gigantic eagle was perched, on top of the pine tree in my backyard. “There’s usually an owl on the tree, where the eagle now is.” This was and was not untrue. Sometimes, an owl was there. But not usually. The eagle was bigger than a truck, yet the pine tree did not show any sign of distress. The pine tree was very upright. It held at least three nests of which I was aware: hummingbird, mourning dove, goldfinch.

The eagle took off in a beautiful angle of flight. It quickly swooped down – in fact it was on the hunt for a hawk who had begun to fly above my house at that time. The hawk headed from west to east. The eagle was swooping down toward it. I said, “I didn’t know eagles ate hawks.” The repairman showed no sign of curiosity. I saw that the way the eagle would eat the hawk was that it would swallow it whole, as a snake swallows a mouse. There is a snake living under my yard shed and I have never seen it eat anything. In fact, even the small rabbits sit and stare at the snake, who sometimes comes out to sun herself on the pool concrete. She shows no interest in them. The rabbits have a puzzled expression as they sit and look at the snake. Sometimes they seem to exchange glances with one another. It is possible the snake isn’t normal in some way, but who wants to be normal?

I stood on the hot gravel and wrung my hands. The eagle headed up into the sky and then dove for the hawk, over and over again. The hawk seems entirely unaware of the eagle. I very much wanted to know whether eagles were hawks, and I thought to pose this question to the hawk herself, because the repairman clearly would be of no assistance, but the hawk disappeared. In her place, but not having transformed from the hawk, there was now a girl in the sky. A long and narrow girl. I had the thought, “She looks like a pencil though she is life-size.” I chose not to tell the repairman about this thought, for while so far he had only revealed zero interest in my commentary, I suspected his disinterest could quickly turn into something more difficult for me, if I gave him reason to take notice of me.

The girl in the sky had fine, long, straight, brown hair. She flew, or rather floated, with her arms by her sides and her legs held together, so she made a tidy line through the air, angled with her head tilted slightly to the west and up toward the sky. And the eagle was now hunting her, I realized – he swooped down toward her again and again. At this point he was enormous. Yes, he had been the size of a truck. Yet now he was maybe the size of something larger than a pick-up truck. The eagle was the size of a garbage truck now, but more elegant. He was going to swallow the girl whole, I realized. Girls and eagles, were both protected, I wondered? Surely both were. This would not be a good question to pose to the repairman, who had made no motions toward repairing my windshield, but was just leaning on my white stucco wall in white overalls, smoking a white cigarette. Puffs of smoke rose past the brim of a tan baseball cap. There was a patch on the baseball cap. The patch read:


Up in the fine blue sky, the eagle continued to dive toward the girl with his beak open, but he continued to miss the girl every time. This was unlikely, for she was making herself as easy to swallow as could be imagined, up there in a straight, angled line, fresh for the taking.

It should be no surprise that I realized the eagle was going to hunt for me next. Though this was no surprise, I was terrified. Finally, I turned to the man next to me. I said, “He’s going to get me next.” I meant the eagle, yet I also meant him. The man in the ominous hat. I tried to hide under the car, but I couldn’t get all the way under it. The eagle was going to swallow me whole. The repairman stood there, watching the sky. I was to be hunted, I knew.



Kate Bernheimer is the author of How a Mother Weaned Her Girl from Fairy Tales and Horse, Flower, Bird (both with Coffee House Press) and three novels. She edited the World Fantasy Award winning collection My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me: Forty New Fairy Tales and the World Fantasy nominee xo Orpheus: 50 New Myths (both with Penguin Books). With Laird Hunt, she was a finalist for the Shirley Jackson Award for the co-authored novella Office at Night, a joint commission of Coffee House Press and The Walker Art Center. Her books have been translated into Chinese, Italian, Russian, Turkish, and other languages. She is an Associated Professor of English at the University of Arizona.

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