She takes her word back. The word is Killdeer and it swoops from her mouth when she lets it out for the first time. The smallest sister watches it slice the wind in loops of flight as scallops of air fall like crepe paper around her boots.
It is months later when the oldest sister brings a robin home, its head the color of a bruise. The smallest sister watches its chest fill and shrivel, an orange balloon in the oldest sister’s hand. Rust is wedged like scales into the crevices between its feathers. It lifts one wing, heavy with corrosion. Beneath the downy underwing, strings of brown stretch and drip like maple syrup. The smallest sister wants to taste it. Suddenly the robin throws its left wing into circles, slicing the air, and the smallest sister shouts, Killdeer!
But at the word, the bird stops moving, and the oldest sister says never to say it again.