The hardest part is catching them. They scatter and dodge about the garden. They crouch beneath the blueberry bushes, the table, the compost bin. Just as you get one cornered she will half-fly, half-stumble just beyond your reach. Finally, when she is not looking, you scoop her up, cradle her in the crook of your arm like an infant. She is small and warm. You stroke her head and her breathing settles. She is soft; somewhere between the feel of the cat’s fur and an old fleece blanket. She clicks gently, as her eyes begin to close.
You carry her to the old wooden garden chair; the one with the stain nearly worn off and a crack along the side. You settle her into your lap, petting her slowly as she dozes. You stretch out her wing, taking a moment to examine the underside. It looks as you would expect an angel’s wing to look: layer upon layer of perfectly rounded white feathers dipped in black and shadow. The sewing shears are sharpest. With them you quickly clip the first nine, right at the edge of the next curved row of feathers. You are reminded of shapes drawn in thick black marker which you cut out with rounded scissors in kindergarten. Mustn’t go outside the lines. She blinks a few times, then settles back onto your legs and begins cooing as you pet her. You hold her a moment, scratch her back, then set her down next to a handful of oats and cracked corn. She resumes her happy clucking. There are four left, plus the snow-white gander, who has been protesting loudly to the neighborhood for the last ten minutes that he wants no part of this.
Within an hour, you will be done, and at your feet their feathers will be scattered like jewels: white, chocolate, ombre, grey, gold, and iridescent black. They will resume their scratching in the garden, only slightly puzzled by their lack of balance when they try to fly. The gander will honk and crane his neck, flapping about the back patio to let you know that he is still strong; a pubescent avian show of bravado. You wonder if they will remember being so close to flight. If they will think of a time when they were younger and almost attained a feat greater than their imagining.
You wash the sewing scissors in the garden hose, the water warm from the sun. You scatter a few more oats on the ground, scratch the gander’s neck, and listen to their clucks mix with the song of the wren nesting near the eaves of the house.