4:1: “Bright Wings and Wax”, by Chelsea Polk

4:1: “Bright Wings and Wax”, by Chelsea Polk

This is where Daedala likes to play: her stickman legs thrust out before her as she sits in a patch of cloudy light, tired of her uncle Russ coaxing her — one more step, another, stronger every day, my dear, stronger in every way, my dear.

They live in the rectory, but Daedala likes it here among the grey whispering stones of the nave, near the tumbled-in wall and the bright gemshards of glass still in their leaden webs. There peeks the red graceful fold of a robe, here a fragment of a bare humble foot, and there almost entire, the Madonna, like the bombs couldn’t bear to hurt a lady.

Daedala loves the angel window best. She sits on the floor by tumbledown pews where she can see its golden halo, its staring eye, and one bright wing. She had studied it when she planned her machine, until Uncle Russ brought her a dead starling and spread its speckle-spotted wings for her. She chants the names under her breath — scapula, humerus, radius, ulna, car-po-meta-car-pus, phalange.

Daedala sits with her broomstick legs in front of her and plays. Clever fingers shape and bend, make and thread waxed parchment feathers to the skeleton of her wings. Uncle Russ had worked out the dimensions, and when she pulls the strings and spreads them wide, each wing spans half again her height.

The frame will hold the wind, but the motor is too heavy. It pulls down on her shoulders, drives the skeleton’s scapula into hers. It runs hot, and cooling will add more weight. She’d have to remake the wings, make them bigger, but even with salvage there’s not enough left. Daedala looks at the grey morning sky, and down at her bird thin legs.

Stronger every day, my dear. Stronger in every way, my dear.

Daedala looks at the sky once more. She will trade.


Leave a Reply