The bastards are determined to kill each other. Little blips of iridescent green. More vibration than bird. Two males. They take turns trying to drive one another into a large picture window. She thought she could outsmart them, harken an age of armistice, when she placed a second suction-cupped feeder onto the glass, its lurid red plastic a neon invitation. It only pissed them off more. More to defend. More to die for. Hopeless, pretty, little war machines.
The call is unmistakable. She hears it in the church parking lot, a child’s hand in each of hers. Low, introductory notes. Then louder. Clear. Assertive. Then a high-pitched trill to finish. A complex echo of flute-like song, if a flute were made of sunlight.
They run to the trees, dive into the forest, turn their ears to track him by his song. Quiet feet on a leaf-strewn trail. Will we find him, momma?
There, at the yaupon. They fall to their knees. From the lower canopy, he sings a song just for them.
On the wall, a gratitude calendar for the month of November. On the first day they were grateful for robots. On the second, lollipops. The rest of the days are blank. Good intentions.
A child whining with hunger. Not hers. She stuffs a crescent roll into its mouth and sends it away.
Cider-roasted turkey, stuffed with onions and apples and sage. Finely diced rosemary baked onto its crispy skin. Apple and herb pan sauce simmers with the bird’s neck, heart, liver.
A pristine white platter.
Her hands on the counter, her face down. I am thankful, she says. I am thankful. I am thankful. I am thankful?
No children, no others. The women perch around the fire. They pass a bottle of champagne, eat handfuls of dry cereal, braid each other’s hair. They say the things they can’t say to their children, their others, their sisters, their therapists. They cry. They cackle.
Do you hear us?
We sound like witches!
Oh my God, I wish.
Later, the fire reduced to glow, a barred owl rouses in a nearby oak and calls out for his one, singular love: Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?
Bird of prey, outstretched wings, talons reaching. Tattooed onto her toddler’s meaty forearm in blue and green glitter. This schoolgirl artist is a genius, a master of stencil and glue. The toddler is happy. So happy! He runs in circles, stomping on a shadow cast by the statue of a man who killed many in battle. He is half child, half raptor, flapping his wings, bringing destruction to the pitiful earth.
Everyone says they are a wonder. Majestic. Sometimes, though, when you aren’t looking, they eat dead things off the ground.
She jumps from the table where she works and flies through the back door to the outside of the picture window. It had been a hard, abrupt bullet of sound. Not the quick flick of a hummingbird or the dull thud of cuckoo.
On the ground, a Tennessee Warbler, broken and dead. A little puff of olive, gray and yellow. Sweet. Unassuming. Humble. The field guides use words like drab and dull. The field guides are written by assholes.
She picks it up, cradles it in her palm. Still warm. The feeling of light manifested in her hand.
Over her shoulder, that familiar vibration. A ruby throat hovers.
Yes, yes, he says. Yes, bury your dead. Then feed me.
Kristin Bonilla is a fiction writer living in Houston, Texas. Her work has appeared in Hobart, Jellyfish Review, Gulf Coast online, Smokelong Quarterly, and elsewhere. She is a flash fiction editor at jmww. Follow her @kbonilla and read more at www.kristinbonilla.com.