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News & Features » April 2018 » “For the Birds” by Bruce Harris

“For the Birds” by Bruce Harris

Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.

This week, Mrs. Hanniford replenishes her supply of millet for her beloved birds.

For the Birds
by Bruce Harris
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

The bell above the door jingled. Clark Tennyson looked up and smiled. “Hello Mrs. Hanniford, good to see you again. What’ll it be today?” he asked.

Henrietta Hanniford carefully closed the door. “More seed. Millet. The birds simply love the millet,” she chirped.

Tennyson nodded. “That’s good to hear. A lot of my customers are saying the same thing. But, I must say, none of them go through as much seed as ya’ll, Mrs. Hanniford. The birds must really like you!”

She blushed. “Well, bless your heart. I guess you can say that,” she replied while examining numerous bird feeders. “I must have the touch. You know, some people have a green thumb . . . me, I attract birds. It must be the seed you’re selling. They can’t seem to get enough of it. They gobble it up quicker than a hungry family staring at a Christmas ham. I see Juncos, Quail, Towhees, Sparrows, and all kinds God only knows what. They fight over the seed, poor darlings. My backyard is like a colorful orgy,” she laughed. The good mood rapidly changed. “Of course, nothing is as much fun any longer without my dear husband Herbert, even if he did graduate from North Carolina State University. I can forgive him for that. He was young, didn’t know any better.”

Tennyson waited. He knew what came next. The photo and the story, the same photo and story Henrietta Hanniford repeated every time she stopped in at The Bird’s Nest. Listening like he really cared was an insignificant price to pay for all of the business Mrs. Hanniford had thrown his way.

The old woman opened her vast pocketbook and lifted a purse. From one of the credit card slots, she pulled out a picture and showed it to Tennyson. “Have you ever seen such a beautiful parakeet in all your life, I ask you?”

Clark Tennyson pretended to study the photo. “I must say Mrs. Hanniford, that’s one handsome looking bird.”

She smiled. “Indeed. Look at that blue color. If that ain’t . . . excuse me. If that isn’t a perfect Carolina blue I don’t know what is. That’s sky blue. Go Tarheels! Where was I? Oh yes, the richness of the hue shows he was well treated and loved. Poor Junior was something very special. And you should have heard him chirp up a storm, especially after a Carolina win.”

“Yes, ma’am,” said Tennyson. He waited for the next sentence.

“Until that unfortunate accident. Have I told you about that, Clark? You don’t mind if I call you Clark, do you?”

“No, ma’am. You go right ahead and call me whatever you’d like. Please, tell me what happened to that gorgeous parakeet. A Budgie, is it?” Tennyson could repeat in his sleep what befell Junior.

Staring at the photo, Henrietta Hanniford continued. “Yes, Budgie. One day he was a healthy vibrant bird, part of the family and the next day he was dead. My dear Herbert neglected to shut the den window and the frost came unexpectedly and hard. Poor Junior froze to death. Such a sight, Junior’s eyes wide open, as he lay face-up staring into space. I’ll never forget it. Herbert had lined Junior’s cage with a newspaper page from the obituary section. Imagine that Clark. And then, the very next morning Herbert dies after eating my homemade grits. Ain’t . . . I mean isn’t that a coincidence?”

“Shocking.” He knew she was at the end of her tale. “Will there be anything else today Mrs. Hanniford?”

She carefully replaced Junior’s photo and pulled out a few dollar bills for the seed. “Not today, thank you. This will be all. I’m sure I’ll see you again soon, Clark.”

“I hope so,” said Tennyson ringing up the sale. “Bye now. Ya’ll come back and see us again real soon, ya hear?”

“Oh yes I will. Goodbye.” The bell above the door rang as she exited.

Once home, Henrietta Hanniford removed the empty bird feeder from a low branch on the maple tree in her backyard and brought it into the house. She filled it with the millet she had just purchased. Prior to hanging the feeder back on the tree, she lifted an urn from an oak mantle and sprinkled Herbert Hanniford’s ashes into the mixture.

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BRUCE HARRIS‘s story, “Carried Away” won the September/October 2017 Mysterious Photograph contest in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

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Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—Accepted submissions are typically published 6–8 months after their notification date and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.

Posted: Apr 2, 2018

Category: Original Fiction, Mondays Are Murder, Original Fiction | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,



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