Monthly Short Stories by Stuart Liss for Citizen Readers: A Return to Ilion Heights

By Ginni Spencer

Stuart Liss
Stuart Liss

Flying the Coop on the Wings of Birds That Don’t Fly, this month’s short story by local author Stu Liss, the last in a series of six, takes us back to Ilion Heights the setting of an earlier submission.  (Alert readers will also note cameo appearances by previous characters.)  A sense of place is vividly created in this gritty neighborhood “generations of mayors had chosen either to forget about or neglect, or both.”

Francesca and Daigo Taira live in a seventh floor walk-up overlooking Alley 49-13, a dreary railroad apartment dotted with “water leaks that had never been repaired [and] puckered the plaster walls and ceiling.”  Their place of employment offers no respite from these grinding circumstances:  Peninsula Poultry is a Dickensian chicken processing plant where Francesca and Daigo – illegal immigrants like most of the other workers – slog through each day motivated by a sliver of hope as narrow as the bit of sunlight Francesca can just glimpse at the end of Alley 49-13.  That hope is for a “citizen baby” and a winning lottery ticket that will move them beyond the tyranny of the floor boss at Peninsula Poultry who holds sway with his constant threat to call Immigration and report anyone who fails to make quota or complains about conditions.  A potential savior arrives in the form of Eugene Lindeman, Union Organizer, who knows Francesca is recognized by her fellow workers as a leader.  “You have the absolute right to talk to me.  Guaranteed by law,”  he tells Francesca through her unopened front door.  “Only thing the law ever guaranteed me was trouble and more trouble,” she hisses in response.  Consistent with the themes explored in his earlier stories in The Citizen, Liss allows Francesca’s hopes to be partially realized but in the context of a larger moral dilemma that will likely yield devastating results.

“Flying the Coop on the Wings of Birds That Don’t Fly” was published in the Florida Review and received the Editor’s Prize for Fiction.  It is part of a collection that was a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Award for Fiction sponsored by the University of Georgia Press.  A staged reading of the story was given at the St. Botolph Club in Boston.  The Bedford Citizen extends its sincere appreciation to Author Liss for allowing us to publish six of his stories over the last months.
Click to read Flying the Coop on the Wings of Birds That Don’t Fly  or click here to learn more about Liss’s work.

In case you missed Liss’s previously posted short stories:

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