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News & Features » July 2018 » “Birds of Prey” by Brian Morse

“Birds of Prey” by Brian Morse

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 wife is sick to death of her husband.

Birds of Prey
by Brian Morse
Charlotte Beach, Rochester, New York

David’s gloved hand slid over the frozen cable railing for balance, and Claire concentrated on her footing. Long-tailed ducks sounded off in small pockets of open water, while a handful of white-winged scoters flew over the Charlotte Pier, and out into Lake Ontario. Claire wouldn’t have noticed these subtleties ten years ago. A bit of her husband’s recent obsession had rubbed off on her. How could it not, that’s all he does. It began to snow lightly, and luckily, the lack of wind made the cold tolerable: unlike David. 

She’d begged him to get a job, to stop chasing birds. Every fucking day with the birds. Could she have one day where she didn’t have to hear about how many warblers or waterfowl he saw, or worse yet, what he didn’t see. He couldn’t help himself. His constant chattering was like a house wren on speed. She cursed herself for thinking of a house wren. Like they’d nested inside her brain.

“David, look, a snowy owl on the ice!” Even Claire couldn’t dismiss the magnificent bird.

David responded indifferently, though. “Beautiful bird,” and baby-stepped further out onto the icy pier. He’d seen seven already this January. Claire glowered at him; their adult children would be fine.

The ice moaned and creaked on the lake; black water hissed. They passed an opening in the cable railing. With the life insurance, she could move anywhere—deep into the bowels of an enormous city where no birds existed. Shanghai perhaps? Might as well get away from Bernard as well. She wished he had taken care of this, but no, she had to do everything.  

Claire knew how to stop him at the next opening in the cable rail. She shouted, pointed, “Sandpiper.” David froze, peered through the spotting scope toward the horizon, and mumbled something to himself. She positioned herself, feet spread apart, then looked down the pier and confirmed they were alone. Her abdomen tensed. She held her breath until her lungs burned. David was still looking for the sandpiper. Now or never. She shoved him as hard as she could toward the river. His eyes bulged with fear; his face smashed the spotting scope. He grabbed and flailed, first at the scope, and then at the ice as he went sliding into the channel. His bald head, an abandoned fleshy egg, poking just above the surface.

A wild panic surged inside of Claire. Her leg had become tangled in the tripod and she tumbled forward to the edge of the pier. She grasped at the railing, her exposed wrist slapped the iron post; she couldn’t secure a grip. The back of her head smacked the edge of the stubborn ice. Her sight faded to darkness; she lurched into the black water. Her mouth filled with water and shards of ice David had clawed away from the ice flow. Desperation had only hurried his drowning, he never learned to swim.   


A purple sandpiper whizzed up from the channel and landed on an exposed rock. It tucked its head in and rested quietly. Snow fell at a steady clip, the shoreline now a white blur. Claire was wedged beneath the ice and David bobbed next to her. Ten yards away, the snowy owl ripped apart a mallard, its yellow eyes blazed through the strengthening storm that swept across the region.                                    


BRIAN MORSE is the author of Migration (Pski’s Porch, 2016), and his work has appeared in Pulp Metal Magazine. He can be found online at brian1morse.wordpress.com


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: Jul 2, 2018

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