The Goldfinch is Fine
Number 1 of the eighteen stories in my debut short story collection, Mammals, I Think We Are Called.
A weatherman reporting on looming environmental disaster finds the courage to come out.
Read an excerpt:
“Slept well?” Kimani, the makeup artist, asks in an arch tone.
The weatherman glances up at him and notices that he also has dark rings under his eyes.
Kimani smears on concealer, then powders the weatherman’s face, before adding blusher and a touch of lipstick. “There you go. Ready to weather any storm.”
The weatherman struggles to keep his weather face on, serious with a hint of cheer, sweeping his hands across the North-East Atlantic towards the UK in the direction of the low pressure arrows. The enclosed broadcast studio, with its strictly delimited walls and ceiling, no longer calms him. He watches himself on the small screen in front of him, still smiling, still making the occasional joke. It could be worse, he could be a newsreader.
The station has gone full CNN lately: live graphics have him standing on a gently lapping sea, explaining the increasing frequency of rogue waves, until an animation of a giant wave surges through his body like a materialising ghost.
“Stay warm and dry, folks,” he quips, and feels like slapping himself.
Lars, the cameraman, comes over to him after the broadcast, headphones around his neck. The weatherman lifts his chin and tries, unsuccessfully, to relax his facial muscles. Don’t scare ’em.
Like his weather reports, the crew’s customary bustle has become lacklustre, distracted. Younger than him, they have always treated him with deference, but also as if he is irrelevant. Now they are finally taking a keen interest in the weather, asking questions. What is going to happen, is what they really want to know.
“I just present the weather,” has become his stock answer. Which is not entirely true: a qualified meteorologist, he knows both more and less than he would like. But what else can he possibly say?
He couldn’t start to explain that ‘out there’ and ‘in here’ are phrases he wishes still had currency. At times, his mind reverts to a childish imagining: the studio windows breaking, sharks and God knows what flooding in, hunting. Although, if it does happen, it’s unlikely the sea creatures would behave in quite that way.
Lars’s last question was about the speed of rogue wave formation, something technical, and he waits for his next with a twinge of dread.
But Lars only asks about the set-up for tomorrow. He towers over the weatherman, but his troubled eyes look so like those of an uncertain child that the weatherman contemplates telling him about the goldfinch to cheer him up.
He dismisses the idea. The goldfinch is his little secret. What would the crew think if they discovered that his private obsession is to watch a small, plain-looking bird nesting high up on a pristine glacier?