“Happiness” by Jennifer Blair

At the Odds and Ends down 441 my daughter’s
eyes will not let go of the small ceramic owl she
spied perched among old dishes and mystery
novels soured by cigarettes and age.  When I
see the tag on its back only asks for twenty
five cents, I quickly place it in her hands and
she carries the brown bird carefully as we
browse up and down aisles of stitched linen
and hurricane lamps. When we finally bring
our things to the counter, however, it suddenly
flies off—almost of its own accord—under a
table of postcards carefully assorted by states.
I apologize, stooped on my knees looking for it,
face flushed hot because mothers do that but the
old man sitting behind the lone register only
stands, slowly takes off his cap, and scratches his
head. “Now did she mean for it to happen?
Cause I can’t think she did.” He scoffs back my
quarter, talking about the healing powers of
glue as he puts the owl in a small paper sack
along with some scooped up peppermints for
my daughter whose facial disc had dropped
down in alarm but has now turned up again,
ear tufts open and alert. I buckle her in her
car seat and hand her the sack. On the drive
home, lit leaves on water oaks overhanging
the roads, all intact, are rustling— a subtle
reprieve in afternoon’s harshest hour.

Jennifer Blair teaches at the University of Georgia. Her work has been published in Copper Nickel, New South, Barely South Review, Kestrel, James Dickey Review, and Segue, among others. She is also the author of a chapbook, All Things are Ordered, from Finishing Line Press.