Birds of Thunder
Vinnie’s hair was longer, and against every expectation, she was wearing a girlish skirt and silk blouse. “Where have you been?" she asked with measured amazement. "I haven’t seen you in ages. What have you been doing?”
“Nothing I’ll admit to.”
They shared unenthusiastic laughter.
Vinnie stepped closer. “What are you reading?”
“About thunderbirds. They dug up a huge new species in Africa.”
“Too bad there wasn’t an ark to save them.”
“Don’t walk that path,” she said.
Another young woman was standing nearby. Judging by the glowering expression, Quentin was a problem, or the stranger was furious for reasons unrelated to this unknown male lurking inside the library. Either way, it was her sworn duty to glare at him while grinding her teeth.
Makeup softened Vinnie’s face.
“Anything new with you?” he asked.
“The usual. Grad school, getting ready for the summer term.”
“Wonderful,” she declared, looking only at him.
Her friend fidgeted like a bored five-year-old.
“My mother asks about you.”
He straightened. “Asks what?”
“’How’s your friend Quentin?’ That sort of thing.”
“Remind me. When did I last see dear Mom?”
Vinnie said nothing.
“Five months ago, wasn’t it?”
A complaining tone leaked out of the girlfriend.
“I have to go,” Vinnie told him.
He watched the women walk away, then returned to his thunderbird—a four-legged monstrosity with a tiny head and a set of reliable instincts riding on a body bigger than most houses. And it occurred to Quentin that although the beast was surely stupid, its life had been grander and more interesting than any little human existence would ever be.