Plugs

Read Rudi’s story “Detail from a Painting by Hieronymus Bosch” at Behind the Wainscot.

Jason Fischer has a story appearing in Jack Dann’s new anthology Dreaming Again.

Luc Reid writes about the psychology of habits at The Willpower Engine. His new eBook is Bam! 172 Hellaciously Quick Stories.

Ken Brady’s latest story, “Walkers of the Deep Blue Sea and Sky” appears in the Exquisite Corpuscle anthology, edited by Jay Lake and Frank Wu.

FAR FROM HOME

by Daniel Braum

I thought I saw something bright green moving in the leaf-free branches of the crab-apple tree. It was another gray December day in New York. The strip mall parking lot was full of holiday shopper’s cars. A bunch of day laborers bundled against the cold waited near the entrance of Home Depo, despite the mid-day hour, hoping that someone would come needing work.

 I found a parking spot under the tree. A green bird swooped from the sky into the branches. A parrot. The tree was full of them. A few dozen tropical birds feasting on the fruit that was still hanging on the tree. A few sparrows and blackbirds were in on the action, looking dull and drab next to the bright green and electric blue feathers.

 I tried to get a picture on my crappy cell phone. Were these the descendants of escaped pets or a lost flock, very far from home?

 There was a commotion by the day laborers. A man in a pickup truck was taking pictures of them.  He wasn’t a cop. The cops mostly turned a blind eye so long as the laborers just waited in the lot without causing incidents. Some of the laborers turned away or pulled their hoods down over their heads. Others paid no mind. And others posed, taunting  the man in the pick up.  

 I just had that bad feeling that something was going to happen. I knew I should be on my way. But the tree was alive with a tropical murmur and layers of sound from the birds. One was taking apart a crab-apple in the branch only feet above my head. I couldn’t help but stand and stare at the delicate lines in the bird’s green-blue tail feathers.

 One of the day laborers walked over to the tree. Paying me no mind he lifted his hand. The bird above me flitted away from its meal and on to him. The man said something to the bird and stroked him gently, like a child. the bird took to the sky, ignoring the free feast and its flock and disappeared high into the gray. My Spanish isn’t so good, but I thought the man said something like, “Go home for me, brother. Tell my wife and daughter I love them.”

 The man in the pick up was out of the truck now. He had a gun instead of a camera in his hand. The group of laborers were backing away from him, fanning out into the street. Nothing had changed but everything had changes about the sound of the wind and birds, the murmur in Spanish and the suburban afternoon buzz. I braced for the bang I knew was about to come.

-END-

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