Archive for December 17th, 2009

Chuck and the Four Calling Birds

December 17, 2009

by

Jack Roth

            Chuck loved hot showers.  Beyond hot.  So hot that his skin would actually burn, maybe almost sizzle.  The bathroom would fill up with a think cloud of steam and Chuck never, ever turned on the overheat vent.

            Hot showers washed things away.  An aching muscle could be soothed and relaxed.  A bad day could be easily erased by putting his head under the water for a few minutes.  Then of course there was dirt, the whole point of showers.  And once in a while, only once in a while, some blood.

            “Number four,” Chuck said wiping the mirror with his yellow towel.  Yellow was his favorite color.  Some of his towels though had orange spots on them where colors mixed.

            As Chuck was plucking a few nose hairs, panic set in. 

            “The damn sheets!” he yelled and threw the tweezers into the sink.

            He stormed out of the bathroom, down the short hall to the laundry room, and ripped open the doors.  He dug through the one shelf to find he had three sheets on it.

            “Blue, green, white,” he said.  “White?  I hate white.  White doesn’t absorb.”

            Chuck left the laundry room and went into his room.  Suzie was on the bed, peacefully resting.  Chuck quietly snuck to the computer desk and found pen and paper.

            More sheets.  No white.

            He clicked the pen shut and shuffled his feet over to Suzie.

            “You asleep?” he said slapping her foot.  “Ah, come on, don’t be so quiet.  You couldn’t shut up ten minutes ago.”

            Suzie lay on a dark green sheet, Chuck’s favorite.  It showed nothing but wet spots.  And the untrained eye wouldn’t realize those wet spots were blood.

            Suzie lay with her head titled to the left, mouth open, eyes shut.  Chuck could still hear her talking. . .

            “There’s something wrong with you.  I touch the closet door and you scream like that?  You think I’m going to stand for that kind of treatment?”

            Chuck had no choice at that point in time.  She had touched the closet door AND had talked back.  In Chuck’s baseball game there were only two strikes . . . then death.

            The funny thing about blood is that it doesn’t take much to stain things.  Chuck knew he had to move Suzie because if she bled through the sheet, she’d hit the bed set and then things would get bad.  Chuck didn’t have a spare bed set . . . he pointed at Suzie:  “Don’t move,” he said smiling.  He walked back to the desk and wrote bed set – dark green – maybe – not so dark.

            “Suzie, oh Suzie,” Chuck said lying down next to her.  “What could have been for us.”

            He moved the bloody hair from her face behind her ear.  He kissed her forehead and then licked his lips.  The rough taste of iron tasted so good.

            “Well, no use crying over spilled milk here,” Chuck said rolling over and looking in the mirror. 

            He stood up straight and turned sideways.  He slapped his “half-kegger” belly as he lovingly called it.  It shook.  It was never this big.  Time was winning.  From the smells from the closet to the fat hanging off his stomach, time was definitely winning.

            “Okay Suzie, let’s go,” Chuck said grabbing a shirt.

            He wrapped Suzie up in the sheet and picked her up.  He felt his hands and forearms getting moist.  He smiled – another hot, super hot shower would be needed.

            “You know what Suzie?  I thought of a great name for you.”

            Suzie didn’t respond, she just bounced with each step Chuck took towards the closet.

            “Eh, hold on,” Chuck whispered as he reached out for the door knob.

            He twisted it slowly and the closet door opened.

            The light from the room was enough to cast a shadow on the other three bodies in the closet.

            “I’m going to call you the four calling birds!” he yelled. 

            With a soft grunt, Chuck threw Suzie on top of the other bodies. 

            “The four calling birds because none of you would stop talking . . . unless I did something about it.”

            The door bell rang.

            Chuck looked at the clock. 

            “Fifteen minutes early,” he said shutting the closet door.  “Not a good way to start a new relationship.”

            Chuck rubbed his arms and hands on his dark pants and grabbed the knife that was next to the pen and paper.  He took a deep breath and began to walk down the steps as the doorbell rang again.

            “When will I ever find the right one?” he said with the knife behind his back and his hand on the door handle.

BIO:  Jack Roth lives in Shelby, Nebraska.  With his dog, Boomer.  He reads and writes.

Heirloom Birds

December 17, 2009

by

Laura Eno

Jim adjusted the calling birds on the tree – again. They wouldn’t hang right. What was the point of spreading all this work out over twelve days anyway? Why not just hang all of the ornaments at one time, like normal people?

He sighed. Marcie had begged him to follow her family’s tradition of hanging each set during the Twelve Days. She even presented him with the traditional ornaments handed down through her family.

This was to be their first Christmas together as a married couple and Jim wanted to please her. Maybe next year she’d let him go back to the tried and true way.

Another bird fell to the floor. Grumbling, Jim picked it up, examining the hook. He felt eyes watching him through the front window.

Turning to catch whomever had the temerity to spy on him, Jim found the front lawn empty. The world outside held nothing but graceful, snow-covered trees and a white lawn, while one desperate bird scratched for a meal.

He wondered if he’d filled the birdfeeder recently, then went back to his onerous chore. Who would have thought that four lousy birds would give him so much trouble?

Marcie had mentioned something about hanging them with reverence, or some such nonsense. She’d even taught him a silly little poem to say as he adorned the tree each day.

The first three days he’d recited it, feeling silly each time he did so. This morning Jim decided to forego the rubbish, refusing to utter the words lest he become as batty as her relatives were by the twelfth day.

A second calling bird fell off while he’d been gazing out the window. What was with these damn birds? He looked at the partridge gracing the top, the two turtledoves nesting side-by-side, the three French hens. They were just as he’d left them.

While contemplating whether he should just step on the fallen ornament, Jim felt the eyes again. Spinning back to the window, he found no one. A second bird had joined the first, calmly pecking in the snow and paying him no mind.

A clatter behind him caught his attention. Bird number three lay on the floor, its little claw feet pointing skywards, much as if it were dead.

Jim felt the blood of anger pounding at his temples. He was going to have a vicious headache by the time he was done. Stooping to grasp the wretched bird, he felt the prying eyes pull at him.

Looking at the window from between his legs, all Jim saw were three scrawny birds, hopelessly digging for a frozen worm. Straightening, he stomped over to the window.

“See if I ever fill your feeder again.”

Clank. Jim knew without turning that the fourth bird now lay on the floor. Fine. They could stay there for all he cared.

As he continued to watch the miserable birds outside, a fourth flew down to join the others. As one, they turned to look in the window, fixing their beady little eyes on him.

Jim was so mesmerized by the birds outside, he never knew what hit him when the attack came from behind.

BIO:  Laura Eno (http://lauraeno.blogspot.com) has written two YA fantasy novels and a paranormal romance.  Her flash fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Twisted Dreams, The Monsters Next Door, Flashes in the Dark, 10Flash, House of Horror, The New Flesh, Everyday Weirdness and MicroHorror.

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