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News & Features » January 2018 » “The Sparrow” by Kristen Petry

“The Sparrow” by Kristen Petry

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, a sparrow takes revenge . . .

The Sparrow
by Kristen Petry
Florida

The sparrow literally dropped through the flue into Helen’s cold fire place at just barely daylight. At first, she thought she imagined it. Her heart trilled and her breath quickened. She had to leave Jarett before she got killed or went crazy.

Last night he cut off her finger and left her on the floor, beaten and bloody. This morning, a sparrow needed her help. She forced herself to get up and open the nearest window.

“Here’s your escape route,” she told it.

She lit a cigarette and held it over the sill, ash shearing in layers. When it had nothing left, she dropped the stub and curled up on the sofa. Terrified and lonely, she began to sob, gasping for breath, but the sparrow wasn’t afraid. It rearranged its feathers, and, in a familiar voice, began to tell her a story.

Jarett’s red Silverado drove down a narrow, moonlit road with a tangle of black woods on one side and cow pasture on the other. Helen felt the bass from his music and heard the rebel flag flapping loudly off the rim of the tailgate.

It was still hot in Naples. Jarett cranked the AC, but the truck was old. Humidity leaked under the weather stripping, along with another mosquito. It buzzed, and he swatted, slurping beer from the can. The next thing he knew, a mass of enraged sparrows swarmed out of the woods, covering his truck like a blanket.

Flustered, he stomped on the brake pedal and twisted in every direction, trying to see. His ears popped and blood dripped onto his cheek. The truck accelerated and bucked like a rodeo bull out in Ocala, when beyond reason, the sparrows disappeared, into the unknowable, the same way they came.

At first Jarett thought he beat the odds, but then the hiss of the devil’s voice rose on a frequency most people can’t hear. The cows set up a racket and a coyote stopped and howled. Jarett shrieked and thrashed as the truck barreled into the pasture, its jacked-up suspension easily taking the swale.  A light popped on in a farmer’s house at the top of the low hill. Inside, the man grabbed his rifle and his wife checked on their children. Their oldest called 911.

Its story finished, the sparrow stopped speaking, with Helen still trying to place her voice, but that didn’t matter. Its sound wrapped her in a cocoon of love and protection, as if she were a lullabied child at bedtime.

The day passed into evening, while Helen slept, until she heard the doorbell somewhere in the back of her brain. The ringing turned into knocking and then into hammering. She sat up, wiped the ick from her eyes, and opened the door for a detective, who stood on the landing, badge raised. The detective unclipped the radio from her belt and requested an ambulance.

“What happened to you?” she asked warily.

“Jarett . . . my husband . . .” Helen answered.

The detective had seen this kind of thing too many times. It made her sick, but Helen survived, so she could handle the truth. Even more than that, she deserved to know.

“About Jarett . . .” said the detective, “he drove into a tree over on Seven Sisters Road. Evidence of bird swarm. Rare, but the State Lab said this is the third time this year. Dead on the scene. Had this on him.”

The detective gave her Nana Sylvia’s ring and Helen tried to put it back on her finger. It was broken and hurt like fire. She only dreamed he cut it off. Strangely, that seemed hilarious and Helen’s knees gave out because she laughed so hard. The sparrow’s story was true.

“He wanted to sell my grandmother’s ring.” Helen said. “It’s not a diamond, but he wouldn’t believe me.”

“I guess he got his,” the detective answered.

“She’s buried in Seven Sisters Cemetery.”

“Who?” the detective asked, startled.

“Nana Sylvia,” Helen answered.

Goose bumps prickled the detective’s arms and the hair stood up on the back of her neck. Sirens pulled up outside. She told herself to get a grip.

“Sshhh. Help is here now,” the detective said.

“It already was,” thought Helen.

***

KRISTEN PETRY is a native New Jerseyan living in Naples, Florida. Her master’s degree in landscape architecture trained her to design upscale gardens and study people. Her relationship to talking birds, possessed or otherwise, is purely imaginary.

***

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: Jan 29, 2018

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



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