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It was C-boy who first started calling me Goldfinch. God damn, did I want to smack his fat pink mouth every time he said it. What you looking at me like that Goldfinch? Huh—just like a little bird on a wire. But it stuck, and after a time, maybe two or three weeks it didn’t bother me so bad. Maybe that was because of all the pills they had me taking, they made me slow and stupid, but not so white hot mad all the time, and besides, everyone had some stupid nickname that didn’t mean much anyway.

Later, in the dark, it didn’t bother me at all. The opposite, in fact.

C-boy was C-boy for country boy. He couldn’t remember who started it, someone who was gone now. What do you know about the country, anyway? He said to me when I told him he didn’t look like he came from there. You think it’s only for those white boys doing meth and dying in a ditch? His teeth flashed quick in his face. My parents got out of that city as fast as they could. They both grew up walking barefoot in the mud, they wanted to get their hands back in the dirt. Even that dry fucking dirt that wasn’t meant to grow anything anyway. Not like you fucking Americans ask of it. My mother, every time she planted something she poured a little rice wine into that crappy dirt first. To bribe the gods. I asked her once if they came across the ocean with her and she gave me a smack in the mouth and said of course they did, and I better respect them.

That was my first 2520. My grandmother had called the cops and asked them to take me, and she cried when they did. I didn’t blame her. I had smashed the wedding picture of my mom and dad that she had on the table in the front hall and wiped down with Windex every day. I had thrown a dining room chair through the bay window and the neighbors had come out on the street and watched them take me away. Mr. Richmond from two doors down had put his arm around her and taken her back into the house while we pulled away. I knew they were glad I was gone, even the ones who remembered me when I was ten and mowed their lawns, they were all tired of me. But not as tired as I was.

What do they look like? I asked him once. This was later.

You don’t even know. You from the suburbs, he sang the last word but then his voice got low. Seriously though, you have all this beauty, you don’t even see it, you people. That’s your problem. He picked up my hand and curled my fingers into a fist. About this big. Gold, green.

And I could see him then, a skinny boy in a washed-thin cotton t-shirt, walking through a field of tall golden grasses, dropping low to watch a little bird sing on a stand of barbed wire.

He hated himself for being there. Was so ashamed, so guilty. You don’t understand, he said, his tears salty on my lips, We don’t go crazy. Or not like this. Not like you do.

The insides of his arms were a tore-up city street from the screwdrivers and broken glass he had taken to them.

His parents did not come to visit him. They had, he said, the first time, but not anymore.

Garbage he said. I’m garbage.

My grandmother still came, once a week, with my little sister, and it only made me feel worse. She was so clean, so neatly dressed, so pressed together, trying so hard. She thought it was her fault, that she hadn’t raised me right, and I could see how her heart had broken. First her daughter, my mother, and now me.

My little sister just looked at me, and I knew she had it right. She knew it wasn’t my grandmother’s fault. It was mine.

In the mornings he told me all you can hear is their singing, like this… and he had filled the dim dirty sick air with a small series of airy sounds.

You’ll show me sometime I told him. You’ll take me there.

And I wondered if he could see it too, as clearly as I could: the two of us, under the early white, blue sky, walking side by side through the grasses. He would take my arm and we would pause together and listen. As one.

Yes, he said. I’ll take you, and then we’ll go back to my house and my mother will make us sticky rice with sweet milk.

October 12th, 2021 2:56pm smallsalon flash fiction goldfinch


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Welcome to smallSalon, a room with a fire, a black cat, and a dog named Ringo, looking out the window for phantom coyotes. A room where the many facets of family intersect: marriage, children, books, exhaustion, joy, and two unique adults fighting to find time to dig deep into their creativity. SmallSalon is several hours every week when this room is given over to their process. It is inspired by a thought, image, or event that has floated into consciousness. It is not so much about the finished work, but about the time it takes to make it–the place gone to. Kathryn Lipari is a writer. Giuseppe Lipari is an artist. Kathryn and Giuseppe Lipari have three children and live under the shadow of a towering fir tree in Portland, OR.

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