The Pond Heron – by Chella Coutington

I can’t think of my cousin without seeing the Chinese Pond Heron. Its yellow bill tipped in black. During mating season gray feathers flecked with white turn red. Low-lying, he wades in brackish water, spears a glossy frog. Cracks him in half before swallowing. One leg tucked under his body, he holds position. Behind a break of water palms, silt seeping through the hole in his boot, my cousin holds position too. Waiting for another boy probably his age, fresh from school, handed a Chicom56 rifle without his asking. They’re two seventeen-year-olds, dropped in a skewed world, chins still fuzzy. Eyes too young to detect hate. When my cousin finally spots him, my cousin begins to shiver, nearly loses his grip. The other boy never notices. Caught by the heron taking flight.

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