Updated: Jul 19, 2020
She was tired of it all. Tired of the long hours, the eggshell walks, the black eyes. Tired of pretending, tired of forcing her lips to make a passable smile. There were times when she just cried quietly in the shower, hugging her knees, watching the blood spiral down the drain from her latest fall-down-the-stairs-ran-into-a-door-insert-bullshit-excuse-here.
Her son helped her spirits, though his obsession with the local flock of crows unnerved her, particularly the one he called Samuel, a big ol’ bastard with a crooked beak and an awkward tuft of feathers sticking out from its side like he’d once fought a battle he’d barely won.
“Mama, we need to put out food for Samuel!” He’d protest as she hurried to get herself ready for the diner, pasting on whatever she could to cover up the latest crop of bruises, frantically brushing his hair and getting his bag packed for Mrs. Meyer's house. She’d have to stop everything to gather peanuts, popcorn, or whatever she imagined crows eat, and leave them scattered on the front porch, lest she deal with a tantrum that would last the entire length of Berry Street. Each evening when they returned, the porch would be clear and her son would be satisfied, until the next day.
It was after a particularly bad drunken debacle, where her lip had been split in two, that she slept straight through her alarm clock, barely managing to call off work on time. She was surprised that he hadn’t woke her, and was even more surprised to discover he’d taken their son to Mrs. Meyers’s house on his way to the factory. For the first time in a very long time, she had the house to herself.
She pulled her ratty bathrobe around her waist, shuffling towards the coffee pot, her head throbbing. She sighed, wondering how she was going to explain missing work to him when he got home. God, maybe today should be the day to leave him, she thought miserably, as she downed an aspirin and winced as the acidic coffee chaser bit the cut on her lip.
Suddenly a loud caw made her jump, the grotesquely large Samuel filling the window as he swooped onto the porch. She blinked, thoroughly confused. Had her son actually managed to convince her husband to feed the crows before they left the house? The morning was becoming stranger and stranger. She set down her cup of coffee, determined to see for herself.
It sounded like a full chorus of birds had joined him, squawking and fluttering as she searched around for her slippers. She put them on and headed out the front, letting the screen door clang shut behind her.
She nearly slipped on the slick porch, but caught herself just in time.
No one really prepares you for shock, but she had seen it in the movies and was certain she felt it now. For her hair did not stand on end, nor did she scream, nor did she faint like she’d seen others do. Instead, she looked calmly at her son, standing amidst the crows, laughing and dancing like little boys often do, as they happily devoured their latest meal.
She didn’t even shiver when she saw Samuel perched on her husband’s mutilated face, his broken body splayed out on the front step. She didn’t even flinch as he pulled an eyeball from its socket, slurping it down and giving her a loud, satisfied squawk.
Her son noticed her staring and stopped spinning. “Don’t worry, Mama,” he called to her with a smile and a wave. “I already fed Samuel.”