Ira Sher grew up in New York City, received a BA from Oberlin College, and his MFA from the University of Houston. His short fiction has appeared in venues including Chicago Review, The Gettysburg Review and This American Life and has been frequently anthologized. His short story The Man in the Well has been the subject of the critical theory book The Writer in the Well (Ohio State Press, 2016). He has two novels, Gentlemen of Space (Free Press, 2003) and Singer (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009). He lives in Hudson, NY with interior designer and writer Lithe Sebesta and the young people Asher and Margot. Ira Sher’s short fiction has appeared in venues including Chicago Review, The Gettysburg Review and This American Life. He has two novels, Gentlemen of Space (Free Press, 2003) and Singer (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009). He lives in Hudson, NY with interior designer and writer Lithe Sebesta and the young people Asher and Margot.
Excerpt from the short story Birdwatching
She took meticulous notes. It was clear by the second day that this was a storm of unusual duration and strength. The world was entirely white. Nothing moved. It was not so cold as other times, but the snow was unrelenting. It occurred to her, then, that this might be the one—the one with her name on it. If they found her here, what could she tell them? What could she show them, she wondered, about these bright, nearly blinding hours? She was not afraid; rather, purposeful. There were things she could do. She had worked for thirty-five years as a stenographer for the Ashtahoga County courts. She began looking through the window at hour intervals, and documenting the conditions. By 7pm on day two, the last plow had given up. By 10am on day three, the lower story of the house was half submerged and the windows drifted over. After lunch, she moved to the second floor.
On day four at 3pm she noticed birds flying in tight formation above the fields behind the house. The trees were buried to their hips. The birds were small—sparrows, most likely. The winter was a hardship for them. She’d read how sparrows were brought from Europe to America in the late 1800s. They lived in exile here, dying casually, or falling prey to hawks floating beneath the gray pack of clouds.
This day, though, the birds were flying very close together. She thought at first that her eyes were deceiving her, but after an hour of observation, the conclusion was unavoidable: The birds were flying in the shape of a larger bird. In the margins of the notebook, she made pencil illustrations of this compound bird hovering in the dusk.