Our Father Made Wings

by Joshua Young

When my father woke us, his shirt was drenched in sweat, his brow damp, his hair slicked back. He said that an angel had appeared to him in the front room. He said that the angel wanted his sons to fly. He let us go back to sleep, but went outside and started building in the shed. He spent weeks crafting giant wings out of old bed sheets, tree branches, and duck feathers, and at the end of the month, he came back into our room and sewed the wings into our backs.

He commanded us to fly, but none of us could—we could barely walk with the weight of those things.

“It’s because you’re disbelievers,” he preached as he dragged each of us to the roof, and one by one, pushed us off, shouting “Fly! If you believe you will fly!” We always hit the ground before he could finish yelling. None of us flew, but on the sixth day of attempts, my older brother’s wings flapped when a gust of wind snaked through our property, and he became the focus of my father’s obsession. That night at diner, my father filled my older brother’s plate with food and told us that—if we could believe—we could eat like kings.

We watched our brother eat, as we ate.

My father stood behind my brother, leaning in to take bites, pointing his knife at us when he wasn’t using it. He said “Believe like your brother and you will fly,” his mouth stuffed full of chicken and potatoes, “but you brats just don’t want to believe or you’re incapable of it. Your brother though,” patting my brother’s shoulders, “he believed and that allowed his wings to flap.”

“It was the wind,” I said. I wanted what my brother was eating.

“It was belief in God.”

“It was the wind,” I said again. I didn’t care what my father would do. I wanted my brother’s lump of potatoes and gravy. Then I saw my brother’s eyes. He didn’t want the food or the attention. He wished that gust of wind never came.

My father rose with his fork held like a knife, but calmly said, “It was your brother who believed.”

My brother said, “I believed.”

Still looking at my brother, I didn’t notice that my father had come for me. He grabbed me by the shirt and said, “Your lack of belief disgusts me. Heathen. How did you come from my seed? I bet that Devil’s bouncing around in your gut, because you let him in. I don’t care where the Devil resides in you, you will obey and respect your father.” My father put the fork on the table and slowly rose his hand to hit me.

My brother screamed.

I wrenched myself from my father’s grip and we toppled to the floor. When I looked up, my brother was above us. It looked as though he was hovering above the table, wings flapping.

“It was the wind,” my brother yelled. “Leave him alone.”

I didn’t see my brother fly again, but my father kept taking him to the roof. On Saturday, he told us that belief had gone dormant and the only way to wake it up was a test. He led my brother out the pickup.

I ran out to the truck. “He wants to see if I can fly over the quarry,” my broth said.

I didn’t argue. Fear didn’t swell up in me. as they drove off. I could see my brother actually doing it. I believed he could.

As the sun set we saw the pickup moving back up the hill with only one person inside, and I imagined my brother flying over the quarry, then falling into the dark.  But when the truck stopped in front of our house, our brother got out. He wasn’t wearing his wings. They had been stuffed into back of the pickup. His shirt was stretched and there were long smears of blood on the front and big streaks on the back. He had feathers plastered to different parts of him and his hands were stained red.

“Where’s Dad?” my younger brother asked.

My oldest brother didn’t answer, only turned us around and gently started to unstitch the wings from our backs.

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Joshua Young lives near Seattle, Washington with his wife, Emily, their son, Elliot, and their dog, Indie. He actually likes the rain, except when he has to take the trash out.
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