Reasons for Building a Nest

by Sara Dobbie


1.   Shelter: to provide eggs with protection from summer sun, stormy winds, or drenching rain

The house on the corner is only half built when Delia wakes to a dead man in her bed. A heart attack, the coroner tells her, common for someone his age. The lack of emotion she feels towards the body of her husband doesn’t shock her, but the nausea she experiences each morning does.

They crossed the sea together on a great ship and bought this tiny parcel of land. Drew plans, hired builders. Began sleeping inside the unfinished rooms once the roof was intact. Now, she flits through the house as her womb expands, directing strange men to install floors, windowpanes. To paint the exterior a bright blue, the color of the sky.

Evenings, she sits on a chair in the back yard, the grass a clean slate, the canvas of her imagination. She watches a robin dancing over the lawn. The plump bird performs her task with grace, pecking at the ground to collect bits of twig. Carries the fibers to the crook in the branches where she weaves them into a warm refuge. Rain falls, and still she flies, up and down, back and forth. Nature knows no more diligent builder than an expectant mother.

    2.   Cushioning: to ensure eggs are safe from breakage by surrounding them with feathers, moss, and animal fur

Melody lives alone inside the blue house. She sits on a bench in the music room plucking at chipped piano keys. She never did well in lessons, never took to music the way her mother intended. Named for the birdsong Delia so admired, Melody fell flat, deflated by expectation. Her swollen fingers tap out dissonant notes, then fall to rest on her belly, rounded like a giant egg. She frowns at the wallpaper, a pattern of robins perched on intricate vines, the only thing in the house she didn’t change after she found Delia stretched lifeless in the bathtub.

After the funeral, she placed Delia’s ashes on the mantle in the living room. Ripped up the carpeting to reveal the hardwood. Knocked out the ugly bathroom tiles and hired a man to replace them. The tile man proved to be talented, Melody enjoyed his company. His hands, his laugh. She traced the slope of his neck, counted the vertebra of his spine.

The child will not know it’s father, just as Melody didn’t know hers. The bouquet of violets the tile man brought wilt in a vase. She should have pressed them in parchment paper, should have asked him to stay. Instead, she decorates the nursery in shades of purple, lavender walls, mauve curtains. The baby flutters and kicks inside her, and Melody imagines tiny bruises spreading across the lining of her uterus.

    3.   Camouflage: to use materials that will conceal the nest hiding vulnerable eggs from predators

The blue house is filled to bursting with Violet’s collections. It began with the birds, because they reminded her of the grandmother she never met. Figurines, statuettes. Postage stamps featuring blue jays and cardinals. When she was a girl, Violet listened to her mother’s stories of Delia, her love for winged creatures with musical voices. Violet viewed her mother, and herself, as stationary, earthbound, tethered to the blue house.

Violet found Melody one afternoon stiff and wide eyed in the lavender room, lulled to eternal sleep in the chair they’d both been rocked in. Since then, the compulsion to surround herself with objects is much worse. The music room is packed with tarnished flutes, used trumpets, a broken violin. Records sit stacked in piles on top of the piano. Pages of sheet music drift into the hallway and float down the stairs to rest on the landing.

The gentleman from down the street keeps knocking at her door with offerings, bird trinkets, music books. She takes them from him and closes the door; to Violet, men are foreign creatures. The years for bearing children have long fled, but she frets over what will happen to the blue house when she dies. She thinks about adopting a girl, thinks about circles. Cycles. Retreats to the bathroom to soak for hours, staring at the outdated tiles. God, she loves those tiles. When the tub is dry and clean, she considers lining it with blankets from the lavender room so she can sleep there, safe and warm inside the curved porcelain.



Sara Dobbie is a writer from Southern Ontario, Canada. Her work has appeared in Ghost Parachute, Flash Frog, Sledgehammer Lit, Ellipsis Zine, Trampset, and elsewhere. Her debut collection Flight Instinct is forthcoming from ELJ Editions (2022). She is a reader for Tiny Molecules and Fractured Lit, and you can follow her on Twitter @sbdobbie.



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