THURSDAY: Stressor

BY KATHY WOOD

Copyright is held by the author.

“WHERE’D YOU hide the shovel?”

Pam froze.

Her husband, Fred, stuck his head around the kitchen door at her silence.

“Well? Did you hear me?”

“Oh for crying out loud!” she reacted. “I have no idea.”

“Well, it’s not in the shed and you used it last week for the tulip garden.”

Pam busied herself with washing pots, her mind pinballing off various explanations.

“Maybe the Smiths borrowed it.”

“Yeah, without asking,” Fred muttered retreating back outside and closing the door.

Pam leaned on the counter trying to steady her breathing. The tulip garden. She had not been sleeping well and had hoped the gardening exercise would tire her out enough that — she remembered now.

She had left it in the field out back.

Where she had buried Fred’s parrot.

Yesterday.

Since he had arrived home late last night (again), he still had not noticed El Gaucho was a missing parrot, something she still could not fathom. He was sickeningly devoted to the foul-mouthed dirty bird that screeched uncontrollably for attention even when Fred was not home. El Gaucho was wise to the blanket-over-the-cage ploy and could even be heard while locked up in the cold room at the back of the cellar.

Fred had only brought El Gaucho home a month ago, proudly declaring it his prize in yet another card game and Pam had been steadily losing sleep since. To her way of thinking, he had not been very understanding when she had complained about the noise and its effect on her equilibrium. Typically, he had advised that if she had a problem, she should reflect on the root cause and eliminate it before sailing out of the room. Her left eye had twitched for an hour. Shouldn’t a psychologist know that sleep deprivation was not a good thing?

Surely that was what had pushed her to commit violent parrot murder. Parrotricide?

Fred would sleep undisturbed through its mutterings and raucous outbursts in the night, sometimes shrieking profanities in Spanish. Pam recognized the offensive vocab from high school language class when everybody eagerly absorbed foreign curses from ESL students. She had to decide whether to kill either Fred or El Gaucho for peace of mind and the bird was a shoo-in; faster, easier, fewer consequences.

She had not heard Fred enter the house through the front door.

“Hey! Where’s El Gaucho!”

“Flying around crapping on the furniture?” she replied as innocently as possible.

“The cage door is open,” he accused, entering her domain. “Again.”

The word stabbed her conscience.

“I just don’t like to see them caged up like that.” Pam remained facing the kitchen window over the sink.

Fred stepped up behind her.

“I know where the shovel is,” he said softly and placed it beside her against the cupboard, dirt clumping on her newly installed hardwood floor.

“Damn it, Pam! That’s the third parrot this year! Get a grip!”

Ten minutes later, she was cleaning up much more than dirt.

3 comments

  1. Mary Steer

    I recognize a prompt from a recent Brian Henry workshop! Nice to see the short story that evolved from it. The third parrot this year?! No wonder she was cleaning up more than dirt…. Fantastic ending! 🙂

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