Songbird, fiction by Tiffany Buck


June 1st. My favorite time of the year. The flow­ers are in bloom and it seems that all is right with the world. I’m walk­ing to church with a song in my heart only it’s not Sun­day, that’s tomor­row. Sat­ur­day is when I go see Mama. Mama will love these lilies, she’ll love my dress too; it once belonged to her.

“Morn­ing Mama. It’s so beau­ti­ful today up on this hill. I brought you some lilies I picked from the gar­den. You know the one you and me plant­ed togeth­er two years ago. You made me promise to bring a batch to you every time they bloom good. So far these have been the pret­ti­est ever. I sus­pect you’re won­der­ing about beaus. I don’t have any, but I keep pray­ing for one. There is this one man, Jesse, I am kin­da sweet on. He’s got the voice of an angel. He sings…”

Down below in the church, I hear music and it was not my imag­i­na­tion. I kiss the cross guard­ing Mama. Preach­er didn’t say there would be a con­cert today. Nor­mal­ly on a day like today, I would take the long way home pass the old div­ing bell and dip my toes in the riv­er, but the music stirred me up, like God was call­ing me. I left my shoes on the hill and walked bare­foot to the church. I opened the door and there was nobody except…

“You star­tled me.”

“I’m so sor­ry, I heard the music and it was like Jesus was call­ing me to come and lis­ten.

Jesse smiled. His smile was so warm and invit­ing. Like a hug.

“Preach­er some­times lets me come in here and prac­tice. Is your name Sarah?”

“You know my name?”

“I make it my busi­ness to know every­one in this church. You smell like lilies. You been up on the hill?”

“My mama’s up there.”

“I’m real sor­ry for that and this.”

Jesse pulls me down on the floor, real rough. My head hit the pew. He put his hand, both small and strong, on my neck. I thought for sure he would kill me. Jesus made me strong though. My head turned to scrip­ture, but I couldn’t remem­ber vers­es only sto­ries. Jesse was lift­ing my dress and shed­ding my under­gar­ments, and then… Mama taught me to be a lady, so I can’t tell you what he did. “Jesus this is my cross, help me look to You like You looked to God.” Then it was over. My body, limp from pain and bloody as he dragged me to the altar only to prop me up like a doll on dis­play.


I was sit­ting on the choir bench hum­ming a tune I made up in my mind. I look through the hym­nal. Shame on me, I almost like the hym­nal bet­ter than the bible. I hear the door open and close. Did God send anoth­er angel for me? No. It was my old­er broth­er Jacob; he can nev­er escape that smell. I smiled. Jacob entered a church and the earth did not shake.

I thought I’d find you here.” said Jacob.

You smell like whiskey.”

“Hell, I always smell like whiskey. Even on Sun­days when I sell the most bot­tles while you’re in here singing about lovin Jesus in that pret­ty white robe.”


“I ain’t got all day, so let’s go.”

“Go where, Jacob?”

“Home. You asked me to pick you up at the store, when I didn’t see you there I thought I’d try here.

Do you know what I was think­ing about today?”

No. I broke my crys­tal ball Min­er­va from out on 53, gave me.”

I was think­ing about the time when you, Camp and me got drunk off of Uncle Mount’s white light­en­ing.”

That was a time.”

You and Camp wrecked Daddy’s bug­gy and ruined Mama’s gar­den”

That gar­den looked bet­ter ruined.”

That’s because Mama had a black thumb.”

What I remem­ber Jesse, is you killing a lit­ter of kit­tens while you were try­ing to save their souls. You cried so hard you made your­self sick.”

The Lord’s work nev­er goes unpun­ished.”

Has the new preach­er in town ever killed any­body in the riv­er, on acci­dent of course?”

Preacher’s a good man.”

Just check­ing. Thought there might be a club for men who drown their vic­tims while bap­tiz­ing them.”

I only drowned the kit­tens and they don’t have any souls.”

You drowned your mama, Jesse.”

She refused to accept Christ, Jacob. I had to resort to des­per­ate mea­sures.”

I ain’t bap­tized.”

I’ve been mean­ing to talk to you about that, you and Camp both. Where is Camp?”


You mean Gehen­na?”

I mean he ain’t here, lit­tle broth­er.”

I see blood on your hands.”

I think what you see is dirt.”

That’s a cru­el way to go.”

So is drown­ing.”

You must accept Christ as your per­son­al Lord and Sav­ior today, right now, with me as your wit­ness.”


If you deny Christ, you will burn in hell. Why?”

Because it piss­es you off. I also have no desire to spend eter­ni­ty on a cloud play­ing a flute or a ban­jo with some blond angel. I’m count­ing on hell hav­ing a damn good assort­ment of whiskey. At least I know I’ll have a few drink­ing bud­dies there.”

I pity you.”

Not as much as I pity you.”

I slam the hym­nal shut. I feel my blood boil­ing. Thoughts of may­hem and mur­der enter my mind.

Who’s the cunt on the floor? The one I’ve been pre­tend­ing not to notice.”

Jesus sent her to me, sweet Jacob.”

She dead?”

Why do you ask?”

They always are. She’s got blood on her dress.”

The last one didn’t bleed.”

The last one had two lit­tle chil­dren miss­ing their mama. What am I going to have to do with this lit­tle dove?”

Noth­ing. She has no fam­i­ly”

That don’t mean peo­ple ain’t gonna miss her.”

She’s so pret­ty, all still like that.”

I hope you real­ize what a fuck­ing mon­ster you are.”

Jesus don’t like you swear­ing in his house.”

But, it’s okay to rape a woman in church.”

Jesus sent her to me. He knows my weak­ness­es.”

Per­haps if your tongue was ripped out of your mouth and hung on the church door with the word rapist writ­ten on your white angel­ic robe, God would stop send­ing the women to you.”

You love me too much to do that.”

No, I don’t.”

Remem­ber when you burned Daddy’s hym­nal because he pun­ished me for not want­i­ng to go to the church pic­nic?”

Cracked my knuck­les good.”

So you see, I was right when I said that you love me too much to hurt me.”


It hurts to breathe. My neck feels like it’s being stabbed by a thou­sand tiny knives as I began to wake up.

How did I get in here?”

My guess is you opened the door and walked in here,” said Jacob.

Do I know you?”

Jesse, I thought you said this one was dead.”

Oops. She must have been stronger than the oth­ers. Do some­thing with her for me.”

Don’t I always.”

I guess, I will leave you two. Miss Sarah, believe me it was a plea­sure.”

Plea­sure. What does he mean plea­sure? All I feel is pain. I began to cry. My rapist is gone and left me with this man who…

Blood. There is so much blood on my dress. Oh Jesus.

There ain’t no rea­son for you to be cry­ing. This ain’t noth­ing you can’t recov­er from. I buried my best friend today. You don’t see me cry­ing.”

The man walked over to me and rough­ly put his hand on my mouth. I almost gag from the smell of whiskey and dirt.

Shut up!”

I’m bleed­ing.”

I’ll get you a dress.”


I leave the room and walk into a clos­et filled with choir robes and a few dress­es as well as one or two men’s suits. My hands search through the dress­es. I pull out three: a pink one, a green one, and final­ly a blue one. Why do I give a fuck? I picked the blue one because I knew it would match her eyes. I walk back into the sanc­tu­ary. She hadn’t moved

and her eyes were blood­shot from cry­ing. I took the dress off the hang­er and threw it at her.

Wash your face and put this on.”

I watch her strug­gle to stand up. A gen­tle­man would have offered assis­tance. I ain’t a gen­tle­man. She limps to the wash­room and clos­es the door. I heard the water run­ning.

“What’s your name?” she asks.


From Gen­e­sis?”

If you say so.”

You don’t come to church?”


She walks back into the sanc­tu­ary wear­ing the blue dress. Jesus, she looked beau­ti­ful.

Why don’t you come to church?”

You about done ask­ing me ques­tions?”


Dove, I don’t go to church because Sun­day is when I make my mon­ey. You ever sit in here on Sun­days and notice a lot of hus­bands miss­ing? The men are in the back woods behind my house buy­ing what you call the devil’s brew. I make the best white light­en­ing in three coun­ties.”

I pull a bot­tle of whiskey out of my pock­et and chug about half of it. She glared at me, but she didn’t protest.

You want a taste; might make you feel bet­ter.”

I offer her the bot­tle. She turns her head away.

Do I look okay, accord­ing to your opin­ion?”


I grab her by the wrist and look into her eyes. A tiny eye­lash had fall­en on her cheek. I remove it.

Bet­ter. We got to go.”

It‘s twi­light, and the two of us sit at a train sta­tion. I stare cold­ly at the train. Look­ing over at Sarah I see her fid­get with her dress. If she doesn’t stop, she’ll pull a but­ton loose. Her eyes look as if she’s being sent to the slaugh­ter­house. She turns her eyes to meet mine.

I could cook and clean for you. Share your bed. Any­thing.”

I chuck­le at this pro­pos­al.

I don’t pic­ture you as a fall­en woman.”

Mar­ry me. I’ll even for­give Jesse because he’s your broth­er.”

Dove, you ain’t nev­er gonna for­give Jesse. That’s des­per­a­tion talk­ing. And anoth­er thing, if I plan on get­ting mar­ried to some woman, it’s gonna be me that does the propos­ing.”


I already told you. You’re gonna get on that train and get off at Way­cross, and you ain’t nev­er com­ing back here. If I see you or smell you with­in forty miles of this town, I will per­son­al­ly put a bul­let in your head.”

She starts cry­ing again. God­damn it why can’t she stop the cry­ing?

I’m still bleed­ing.”

As a woman, you should know how to han­dle that.”

How did your best friend die?”


Ear­li­er, when I came to, you told me that your best friend died. How did that hap­pen?”

He stole mon­ey from me. Stu­pid son of a bitch put it in the car box. Oth­er than me, he’s the only one that had a key to it. He was sup­posed to make the run tonight, so he didn’t think I would see it. I found him drunk in his house. I drug him kick­ing and scream­ing to a shal­low grave and cov­ered him with dirt.”


The con­duc­tor makes an announce­ment let­ting every­one in the sta­tion know that the train to Way­cross has arrived.

What if I’m preg­nant?”

I lead Sarah to the train. The word preg­nant stings in my head and tiny heart. I lean down and kiss her on the fore­head. A baby in her bel­ly would be my blood. I take her hand and gen­tly mas­sage her fin­gers.

If it was mine, I’d like to see his face, if it’s Jesse’s I’d kill it. There’s an old man, Mur­ray, in Way­cross. He buys a bar­rel a month from me. His hob­by, aside from drink­ing and hunt­ing with arrows, is watch­ing trains. Find him and tell him I sent you. He’ll be good to you.

Will I ever see you again?”

I bend down and kiss her. Next, I pulled an old stop­watch out of my pock­et and put it in her hand.

Some­day I’ll want this back.”

She smiles at me and gets on the train. I don’t stay to wave good­bye.

Tiffany Buck lives in north Geor­gia on the edge of Appalachia. She is mar­ried and has a three-year old daugh­ter. Her inter­ests include writ­ing grit and mak­ing her own cos­met­ics.

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One Response to Songbird, fiction by Tiffany Buck

  1. Becky Conners says:

    Tiffany! I didn't know you are a writer!! Excel­lent work- you had me from the first line

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