Randy shuffled into the kitchen and set the air pistol on the counter. “D’ja gettim?” she asked. He knew she was well aware that he hadn’t even tried. The satisfying fip of pellet fire was something she’d grown accustomed to hearing only when she was behind the sight.
She stretched her neck to see out the back window, but couldn’t get an angle to the post-mounted birdfeeder. Still craning, her eyes rolled to meet his. He was upset, breathing through his nose, mouth curled. “Randy,” she started, “it’s a squirrel.” Her voice dripped with the same sarcastic taint that always made him cringe when he refused to eat her lazy tomato sauce baked beans as a boy.
“He ain’t botherin’ nobody,” he mumbled. Randy was the household marksman. He liked to observe the squirrels, and he hated the crows with their sickening slurry and incessant squawking. It had been months since the crows chased off all the songbirds, and all they had now was a yard full of bird shit. Still, Mama fancied her gazebo some kind of aviary and she got real uptight about the squirrels climbing the feeder post. Randy smoked and watched the squirrels and hated shooting at them, but Mama made him try every week, if only to remind them who was in charge. Lately, he’d been fighting it. Missing when he shouldn’t. Tossing rocks at the crows when she wasn’t around. He’d put a collar on the post to keep the squirrels down, but Mama shot it to shards a while back and it didn’t work all that well anyhow.
She snorted a laugh and let her mouth go slack in mock amazement. “Ran-dee. It’s a dang squirrel.” Randy felt like he’d cry if he had to look at her. He huffed through the kitchen and into the front of the house, flopping onto the davenport and turning on the television. He heard the feet of her chair bounce and slide across the floor to the cabinets as she stomped her angry stomp to the back door. She didn’t bother closing it, and Randy listened to her curse under her breath as she fumbled with the weapon.
He closed his eyes.
He held his breath.
He tried to forget the names he’d given them.
Randy was certain now that time had stopped. His eyes shot open. Dick Cavett was silently interviewing Richard Burton in brutal slow motion. The sound of blood pumping in Randy’s ears stopped dead and he waited for something or nothing or anything.
Dick Cavett turned to the camera and smiled.
A piercing crash shot through the house and into Randy’s head and he didn’t think and he just stood up and he heard ten thousand tiny grains hit the oak gazebo floor and he didn’t think he just ran and he heard her bark God dammit and he didn’t think about guns and he crashed full force into and through the front screen door and he didn’t think about birds and he as much as flew down the steps and into the street where he ran as fast as his thirty-seven year old legs would let him and he didn’t think about cars or people or Mama or squirrels and he just ran.
Randy fell onto his back in the sand at the playground five blocks away, heaving and crying and wanting to throw up. He heard the creaking of an occupied swing and turned toward the slowing shape of a young girl. She dragged her feet in the sand. He crinkled his face in the falling sun silhouetting her stringy hair and nodded that he was alright. The girl looked up to the sky and her lips parted. Randy surveyed her expression a few seconds before his eyes followed hers up and then across the spotted clouds, tracking a murder of crows away from his home.