Seventeen weeks after they moved to the city, Sofia stole her boyfriend’s mouth.
Opening line, ‘Magpie’, Mikaella Clements, in Overland, Issue 227, Winter 2017
This is the kind of opener I can’t look away from. What on earth is Sofia doing?
Reading through the story I learn that Sofia wished she could speak German like her boyfriend. She’s been trying to learn it by herself with phone apps and lessons, but is frustrated with her failures. So she steals his mouth while he’s sleeping.
I could relate to the conversational trip hazards in a language-other-than-your-own, wishing I could suck the language from a native speaker’s head and pump it into my own.
Now, to leave the opening line theme and go to the very first thing a reader reads, the title. ‘Magpie’ as a title threw me. I didn’t get the connection between it and the content of the story until I read that the author is Australian but lives in Berlin. European magpies have a reputation for thievery, and the story’s protagonist becomes a magpie herself. A European magpie. Australian magpies, on the other hand, are infamous for bad behaviours like swooping but not really thieving. So the story being published in an Australian journal by an Australian author about a common Australian bird, or so it seemed, confused me. It’s simply another language trip hazard.