“Florida Birds” By Brandon Best

Past the glass doors and arched coral colonnade, my uncle’s wedding party looks down from the ballroom on the Gulf of Mexico rippling up to the hotel beach. We watch the vacationers in pastel polos loosen the ropes on the docks, releasing their vessels into the water. The wedding minister relied exclusively on Shakespeare for the ceremony, “Love is like a child, that longs for everything it can come by.” Every social lubricant helps because we’re a long distance family, spread across six states with never enough time for each other. My cousins don’t talk much at their dad’s wedding. I don’t know how they’re feeling, but I think I’m supposed to entertain them since we’re at the same table. Just as uncomfortable, my parents, who don’t like dancing, stand up to walk around the ballroom. Then, no one can make fun of them for sitting through a wedding reception. They tell me dancing makes them self-conscious, but walking around won’t help them.

“I think your uncle was meant to be a dancer,” Mimi says. She buzzes around the ballroom pointing each of us toward my uncle dancing with his sister, celebrating their brother’s new marriage. My grandma is a proud mother of all her children, but especially our uncle shaking his hips, swinging his hands to the Bee Gees. Dancing usually comes off as desperate to me; our quick steps and calculated spontaneity attempt to make us seem young and invulnerable. But, for most people, dancing only blurts out all our mediocrities. My uncle is too far gone, lurching, jerking, and laughing, to reveal any of his.

Beyond the ballroom, boats head out of the small port, consecrating the new year to their music and revelry. I spot my dad watching us all through his phone, trying to capture all the dancing Bests at once. He’s given up his dance and is content to just record us. My sister sees my dad’s smile illuminated by his iPhone. She squawks, “Dad! What are you doing?” He keeps his eyes fixed on the screen, shamelessly. “Kailey, don’t start overreacting.” My dad refocuses on his own dad, my grandpa, jolting like a robot, in the center of it all.

The dock and portico look more inviting to me. I can wait around with the brackish water. I don’t want to begin another New Year’s sweaty, scrambling to extract what I can from a single night. Here, birds gather on the arches and screech at docked boats. They’re loud because they enjoy hearing themselves. Like everything else in Florida, the birds seem inappropriate. The birds are partial, fragments of life, too loud for their size and too colorful for their bodies. We should be wary of the whims of birds. Like so many people in Florida, they’re just here for the winter.

Brandon Best is pursuing a B.A. in English at Cedarville University. He enjoys reading Wallace Stegner, Elizabeth Bishop, and Simone Weil. His work has appeared in Noble Gas Quarterly, Foliate Oak, and The Ibis Head Review. 


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