Character Guest Post
Sometimes a woman comes along and just lights up your heart and life like a Christmas tree. That’s sure how I felt the moment I laid eyes on Bertrice “Birdie” Harper. It was 1985, June. We were nineteen and cruising around Taylor’s Lake on the outskirts of Miltonville. I was in my black Mustang with red interior, riding with a friend. Birdie was in a bright yellow Gremlin with her sister, Oda Dean.
My friend and I had short hair, not at all in style with the times, and blasted Ozzy Osbourne. Birdie and Oda Dean had long brown, frizzed out hair with flourescent off-the-shoulder shirts, one big earring in one ear and a little earring in the other. They smiled with frosted pink lips and smacked their gum and giggled. The Go-Gos blasted from their car stereo.
Back in those days if you liked someone you offered to meet them at the summit, a large hill overlooking the lake. That’s where cars would park and their occupants would get out and size up their person of interest.
Birdie sat on the hood of her car, Oda Dean leaned on the hood from the passenger side. My friend stayed in the car, fiddling with the stereo while I came around and leaned against the passenger door of my car so I could talk to the prettiest girls I’d seen in ages. I’d just left work at the farm. My boots were caked with mud, though I’d managed to put on a clean pair of acid-wash jeans and a Van Halen T shirt and spray myself with Stetson cologne. I tried to act casual, but she was so pretty and lively, I thought my heart might pop out of my chest and take off across the field like a wild buck deer.
Her hazel eyes blinked in this cute, rapid way, and her nose and mouth twitched so that she reminded me of a little parakeet hopping and fluttering and chirping. She giggled at almost everything I said and her laugh was sweet and lilting like wind chimes. The best part though was the way she looked at me with a blend of admiration and desire. I loved that look. It made me feel like I could finally be somebody’s hero.
I got her phone number that night and called her the next day. And the day after and every day after that. Each day I wanted her more than the last. I’d never wanted anything so bad. Before long, I knew I wanted her to be my wife and the mother of my children. I wanted to make a home and family and life with her. Only her. She was all I thought about. The thought of making a future with her gave me a new purpose, a new reason to work hard and earn money to take care of someone special. I took on a second job so I could afford to buy her an engagement ring. We were engaged by Christmas, married the next June--a year after we met.
And after a couple years we grew anxious about our inability to start our family. We tried and tried to have children, but couldn’t. We tried so hard to make our dreams come true but we were served disappointment after disappointment. Then we finally had Lydia. Little precious Lydia, our tiny little angel, but she was too fragile to stay with us in this world and we had to let her go.
Something in Birdie broke the day we let Lydia go. And that light in her eyes, that light of admiration and desire, the light that lifted me up like a hero, vanished. Gone. The Birdie I knew and loved vanished, too. She withdrew into herself, balled her heart and spirit into a tight little fist inside, and grew quiet and distant. It broke my heart, a death by a thousand cuts, but I never stopped loving her.
After a few years, we came
to realize it would only be us. We couldn’t afford adoption or treatments. We
stopped dreaming and gave ourselves over to life as it’d been dealt to us.
Birdie began to open that tight little fist inside. She started bringing home
angels at first. Then Wizard of Oz things.
Then Care Bears and Precious Moments and Beanie Babies. Little by little her
collections grew and our space dwindled. At first I didn’t say anything because
it seemed to make her happy. She seemed pretty close to the Birdie I’d married,
even though there was a tightness to her shoulders, a flatness to her eyes, a
distance in her gaze. Then when the space grew tighter around me such that I
felt like I could hardly draw breath I began to complain and that happiness
swung on a blade of sharp anger. We fought for awhile, but I eventually gave
up. If she was happy, or at least a semblance of it, that was good enough for
Then came a time when I had to leave her, too. My heart gave out, but my spirit wouldn’t; it stayed behind to keep an eye on that sweet woman that lit up my life from the moment we met. She says I pester her and get on her nerves sometimes, and I feel that I do annoy her from time to time. I think she gets lonely. I think she’s mad at me for leaving her behind. But I keep showing up to remind her that there’s not a woman in Miltonville loved more than her and there never will be. I know that our marriage was until death us do part, but I couldn’t bear to leave her.
About Dumpster Dying
Birdie Harper is a widowed hoarder who lives with her husband's ghost. The only thing she enjoys more than a good yard sale is a good dumpster dive. When she finds her latest treasure—a ceramic angel— she knows just who to bring it to.
Jenna Lawson is a cashier at the Blue Market convenience store where Birdie often shops. The two women have formed a strong bond to assuage the losses in their lives, and Birdie thinks of Jenna like the daughter she lost long ago. So, when Jenna goes missing, Birdie is determined to find out what happened to her.As she works to unravel the mystery, a man at church, Neville Miller, shows interest in Birdie, leading her to wonder if the lonely days are finally coming to an end. But her ghostly husband, Walter, sure isn’t going to like it.
Birdie is on a hunt that may claim the ultimate price—her own life.
About Michelle Bennington