This is the story with the clearest arc in Uschi Gatward’s stunningly unusual collection. A newlywed couple return from honeymoon and open their wedding gifts in their new house. The woman’s nerves are already frayed when her husband wakes her to complain about a noise; “she feels like digging her nails into his arm, giving him a Chinese burn”. The persistent TAP TAP TAP turns out to be a bird trapped in the fireplace and they can’t escape from its suffering – “from its dark prison it can see the chinks of electric light”. An escalating anxiety slips into a surreal sense of wonder as the couple rescue their shiny new life from the smothering presence of the dying bird.
First published in English Magic, Galley Beggar Press, 2021