And Bergdorf was alone again. Rachel slammed her bedroom door shut. He turned his head towards the mute television: ten wild parrots spotted in Ordway Park. He thought about turning up the volume, but he had already guessed the story. The parrots weren’t wild at all. Some had been released because their owners were tired of them. Others had slipped through a cracked window while their owners weren’t watching. But, somehow, they found one another. And now Ordway had a flock of parrots.

Bergdorf turned his head towards the road. The pinging of Bravo’s hammer and chisel had stopped completely. Scanning the entire picture window, Bravo was nowhere to be seen. He leapt from the couch. “Bravo?”

When he swung the front door open, there stood Bravo, pinching his pecker as hard as he could while hopping back and forth from one foot to the other. Bergdorf flung both arms up in surrender and moved out of Bravo’s way.

“Better step, boy!” he said as Bravo took fast, tiny steps down the hallway. A low rumble emitted from Bravo’s belly and there was a faint gurgling noise. Bravo spun to face his father, his eyes as wide as saucers as he smacked both hands over his crotch and turned his knees in before saying,“I pooped!”

“You pooped in your pants,” Bergdorf said. He had hoped it was a joke, but the grassy-egg smell was unmistakable.

Bravo shrugged with a faint smile. “I… I pooped,” he said again, as though that were some sort of explanation.

“Okay, fine.” Bergdorf walked towards the hallway, pointing a finger. “But don’t move.” As he passed his son, Bravo did a little pigeon-toed pivot so he could still see his dad.

“Didn’t I say not to move?” Bergdorf looked at Bravo, who was pursing his lips and giggling through his nose. He stepped to his son. “What? What’s so funny?”

“I pooped my pants!” Bravo’s cheeks had the blush of embarrassment, but he was pursing his lips, trying to trap a huge smile.

Bergdorf stared at the boy. Yeah, some joke, he thought. I come home to a five-year-old who shits his pants. And we named you Bravo. “Don’t laugh, Buddy. Daddy’s trying not to be mad.”

But the don’t laugh just seemed to make it more irresistible to Bravo. Bergdorf twisted the boy’s T-shirt and lifted him to eye level. “I said don’t laugh.” Bravo’s face opened in horror, and then screwed up to cry. That’s when Bergdorf began shaking him and couldn’t stop. There’s no telling how many times he shook before he slung the boy, straight-armed against the wall.

He’s breathing, Bergdorf thought as he studied Bravo where he landed—slumped on a throw rug, his head slung back on a pile of shoes. The boy’s eyes were looking straight ahead, unblinking, but he was breathing freely, panting almost. He’s going to be fine.

Bergdorf heard Rachel scream, “My baby! my baby! my baby!” before he felt her push him away from her boy.

Bravo’s body arced and went into a flapping seizure while he paced the seven by ten open feet of the living room. “Oh no-no-no-no-no! Please God, no!” Rachel said, trying to hold her son’s head still.

“Rach, look, he’ll be fine.” Rachel spun her head around, her mouth gaping helplessly. Bergdorf sensed he shouldn’t say anything else. But he went on. “With head injuries twitching is bad. Seizures are a good sign.” And then, as though to punctuate, Bravo sat straight up at the waist, vomited all over his knees, and began to cry.

Rachel picked up every shoe within reach and hurled them one by one, quaking too hard to aim well. “Get out! Get out! Get out of my house, you crazy….”

Bergdorf was halfway down the driveway by the time he heard her say “…mother fucker!” He was down the road quite a ways before a retort popped into his head. Whatever happened to ‘it makes sense to me,’ you crazy bitch! The more he walked, the better he felt. The kid will be fine. Just fine! Tomorrow Bravo would wake up, brush his teeth, and pick all the marshmallows out of his cereal while leaning on his elbows. Unlike Lopez, unlike Clendenen. Unlike Walker, who never even had a fair chance. Bergdorf stopped and clenched his fists and closed his eyes. He just needed everything to be still for a minute. He begged the world to stop moving. But it didn’t. A car whizzed past, the damned birds kept singing, the autumn wind kept blowing at his back, pushing him forward.

And forward he would go. Josh was probably already several hours into a game and a bowl ahead of him. He turned off of their windy road with no sidewalk. The one Rachel picked because of the “established trees.” The same road Bergdorf picked because of the giant backyard where he thought he would curse at complicated swing set assemblies and burn hamburgers on the grill. Then he turned onto the road they’d been less than impressed with—the rather standard base road with clean sidewalks, equal-sized ranches with equal-sized yards.

Josh wasn’t but a road or two from here. He would crack open the door glassy-eyed and then give a prolonged Heyyyyyy as he swung it open all the way. Josh wouldn’t ask him why he was in his pajama pants and bare feet. He’d just sit and hand him a controller and a pipe. Then, finally, Bergdorf could tell him about today. About how he was afraid of that bird. The bird that didn’t exist, but that just for a second he thought did. And Josh wouldn’t say, How terrible for you. He’d say exactly what it was. Something like, That’s some crazy shit, man. But after a few times shaking his head, and never taking his eyes off the game, he’d add, I think all kinds of crazy shit now too though. It’s all fuckered up now. And, somehow, that’s all Bergdorf would need.

Bergdorf began to hear the low moan of a dog howling. But the howl morphed into something more electronic. Something he hadn’t heard in years. It took him a second to realize what he was hearing was an American ambulance. He stopped and watched as it turned towards him. Please go down another road, he thought. His heart couldn’t pound any harder. It wasn’t physically possible. A visible shudder went down his spine as he covered his ears and braced for the passing of the blaring truck. After it whizzed past, Bergdorf found himself freezing cold, every hair on his body standing on end, and alone once again.

Pages: 1 2 | Single Page