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JWGoll

Winged Collaborators

A statue of the most famous 19th-century atheist stands in a corner of a beloved city park. Except he’s identified as an orator and freethinker to protect his cover in this born again town. The swallows who muck in the river mud for freshwater mussels and grubs use his head for a perch and a toilet. Robert Ingersoll doesn’t seem to mind.


The swallows head south to Michoacan in winter, where they employ the bronze head and shoulders of Mexican atheist Melchor Ocampo for the same purpose. Like neurons, the birds facilitate a communication. The apostates correspond, console one another, and speculate when the next Inquisition will commence. In transit, the swallows sense an alien melancholy, which does not deter them in the slightest.