When I grew tall enough to stand at eye-level with the hummingbird feeder that my grandmother hung on her porch, I would put on the red bandana she always wore to work in the garden, because I knew that my best chance to go unnoticed was to pretend to be my grandmother. Even the birds innately knew she was harmless and generous and good. I covered my hair like a cowboy Aunt Jemima and stood still, two feet from the hanging bottle of red syrup. I would try not to move my head, using my peripheral vision to spot an incoming bird. There would be a darting movement nearby, a first fly-by, to test my resolve. But if I held still, the bird would return, and I would hear it before I would see it: a steady thrum, louder yet softer than a bee, faster and more even than a helicopter. If I held my breath, it came close to examine me, hovering in mid-air, head cocked at an angle. As I write this, I realize I should have been afraid. That needle-like beak, ready to pierce down the throat of flowers, was inches from my eye. Maybe I thought I could blink fast enough, or maybe I was too focused on the shimmering colours on the bird’s neck. Some had green and gold dragon tones, others were purple, metallic and bright. I had my favourites. I made wishes on them like candles before they darted away to the feeder, drinking my grandmother’s nectar. They were wild things, greedy to eat despite their dainty size and slim beauty. They were speed and economy of flight, both mysterious and to the point. When they flew away, they were never quite gone. I would remain motionless to see if they would return, and for years after, they linger in my mind. Even now, in my drawer of keepsakes, my grandmother’s red handkerchief still smells of her sweet gentle hair and kind deeds, and of hummingbirds that were never mine.
Today, as we open our Hummingbird Flash Fiction Contest, write like a hummingbird. Be elusive, daring, and breathtakingly beautiful. Short fiction up to 1000 words in any genre, limited to 300 entries. A $300 prize and eternal fame await!