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Killing Starlings (we’re all mad here)

Killing Starlings

It’s kill your darlings, I know, but Starlings are more poetic. They flew around my sister’s front lawn in Santa Fe the summer she went mad. I tried to speak with her about the voices she was hearing.

“You know,” I whispered to her, leaning close into her ear, “Horses cannot speak.”

“It’s so amazing, little buddha brother, but they can, they do, and I understand.”

There was no explanation for her break. No previous history. No sudden indulgence in psychedelics or cults. Still, she was mesmerized by the horses that came to the back fence and took apples from her hand. Like a mad ghost, she would stand out in the backfield, communing with the spirits of the horses’ huge eyes and steaming nostrils. I would often have to go fetch her, still in her pajamas, to bring her in for lunch or dinner.

I thought I could talk her down. I watched the Starlings out the front window through the thin white curtains, wishing my personal experience with depression and mania could guide me with some course of action.

I read to her at night from Alice in Wonderland. “The best people usually are.”

The morning I was packing to leave I called for her, as the Airport Shuttle would arrive soon to take me to Albuquerque. I looked out the back. No horses and no sister. I walked around the big house. I found her only half-conscious in bed, she’d consumed all of the Xanax left in her bottle. Either an attempt to escape or to capture me here with her.

I aborted the plans and hobbled her into the Toyota Land Cruiser and sped us off to the Santa Fe hospital where they pumped her stomach and woke her from her peaceful trajectory. Outside the hospital window, there were no Starlings, only the mean and aggressive red-winged blackbirds, making a raucous noise as they fought over scraps in the high desert.

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