'Bye Bye Blackbird' by Susan Howe

I think it’s a blackbird. Mum won’t look at it but she gives me a chocolate box with a red tassel for its coffin.
“Why do you keep bringing dead bodies home?” she says. “It isn’t nice. You should be out having fun like Ben Fisher.”
“I would if you’d let me have a dog. A real live one.”
“Don’t be cheeky, Tom. Dad says no and that's the end of it.”

I’ve left the bird in my den. At the end of our garden there’s an old tree with a hole in the back like a cave. I can sit there and watch Ben Fisher playing with his dog through a gap in the fence. I get a great view of his mega telly, too. I’d swap places any day.
I lay the bird on a soft bed of leaves and drop daisies on top. It looks asleep, not dead. There’s no blood or anything. Maybe it hit a window and broke its brain.
I dig a grave. Then I do the prayer Grandad says before dinner.
“Maythelord make us truly thankful, airmen.”
I cover the coffin with soil but not too much because I’ll be digging it up again tomorrow. I like to see what happens. Mum says it’s weird but I’m training to be a scientist, like Dad.
There’s a whining noise from Ben’s house and I peep through the fence. It’s Wednesday so he’ll be at football practice. I expect Rusty’s lonely.
The curtains are half-closed over the patio doors and Ben’s mum is on her hands and knees. Her head’s bobbing up and down and - oh gross - her boobies are swinging about like long white balloons. Her eyes are closed and her teeth are showing. She looks ugly.
She opens her eyes and looks straight at me. The bouncing stops and we stare at each other. She says something I can’t hear and a hand comes from behind and pulls the curtain across. I duck back into my cave.
I think I know what’s going on. Mrs Fisher has banged her head on the window, like my blackbird. 

I’m watching a spider mend its web when Mum calls. Dad’s in the doorway with his arm round her.
“I got off early so we could all go bowling,” he says, like it happens every day.
We have a great time - pizza and everything. I win and save the score card to show Ben.

Next day after school I go to see how my bird’s doing but the box is empty. I race indoors.
“Mum!”
She comes flying out of the kitchen. “Whatever’s the matter?”
“My blackbird’s gone!”
“That’s odd. Dad didn’t mention anything after he mended the fence last night. I expect it’s gone to heaven.”
I never thought of that. I wish I’d seen it go.
“Anyway,” she says, “forget the dead bird. Guess what? Dad says he’ll get you a dog if you promise to stop bringing corpses home. Happy now?”

Comments

  1. Wonderfully convincing childlike POV. Love 'airmen'

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  2. Great! Loved this when you read it at the National Flash-Fiction event in Bristol last night! Lovely to meet you too.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Tino. It was a good evening, wasn't it?

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