Chapter 5 – January 2B

She knew Double-J had meant that name as a joke, that he was mocking her, but when he’d called her The Bird at that first fencing practice she had felt profoundly satisfied, more so than at any other time since she had been a student at Bark Bay High School. Unlike other names she had been called at school (which stabbed at her like hot needles), there wasn’t anything necessarily bad about being a bird. Unusual, perhaps — people didn’t have feathers and fly, or jerk their heads in swift sudden movements like she did — but she was comfortable with being unusual. Intended as a joke maybe, but she had chosen to take this name as a gift, a sign that she had finally met a group of students at Bark Bay who would not be put off by her eccentricity.

But she was only The Bird at fencing practice. She had thought of asking her mother and grandmother to call her The Bird, at dinner the night before, when her mother said “Cassandra, please pass the vegetables.” No mother, please call me The Bird she’d almost said, but as the words were forming at the back of her mouth and her right arm was lifting the bowl of vegetables from the table, she remembered that they didn’t know she was called The Bird, in fact nobody outside the fencing team called her The Bird, and the other day Butch (the fat one, blonde, the son of the preacher) had passed her in the hall between classes and said Hey Sandy even though he’d called her The Bird at practice. So the time didn’t seem right for her to announce her new name at home.

Kaw. The crow returned, or perhaps this was a different crow, landing on the dandruffed dirt and pecking with its black beak, this time ignoring the girl sitting at the kitchen table. A thought came to her — Do I call myself The Bird? When her mother would take her to rehearsal this week, would she tell the director Hi my name is The Bird? Or perhaps Hi my name is Cassandra — no, her mother would likely have already introduced her by that name, This is Cassandra — was that the time to say Just call me The Bird? Not if her mother didn’t already call her by that name — tonight, at dinner, that was the time to make the announcement.

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