Bird Deflated by
frenetically over the crow massacre site, she moved toward him,
her shoes making a clack-clickety-clack noise on the sidewalk.
The crow lying dead
on her front step was Shars first clue that her luck had run out.
It was seven oclock on a Thursday morning and already her toast
had burnt, her coffee was weak, and an invisible pool of water on her
kitchen table proceeded to soak the Vancouver Courier she was reading,
a paper she insisted on devouring daily, "for the stimulation."
But all of that seemed hardly unusual. It was the crow that did it for
"Oh God," she inhaled the words like overdone spaghetti, choking
herself with shock. Who did this, she thought. The crow
was skewered on a foot-long childrens fishing rod. Made
by Mattel, it said.
A smiling plastic construction worker hung from the curled tip of the
Three black flies sat trapped on the crows impaled stomach, buzzing
away. Here was one dead soldier bird. No colleagues to mourn him. No
honorable battle to fight. What the hell had happened here?
Shars apartment was a tiny ground level flat two feet from the
road. She lived on the corner of Elm and Delilah, near an exotic fruit
stand, two childrens bookstores and a Chinese noodle shop called
Chins. Most days Shar could hear the mailman drop her letters
on the step, so she was shocked that the crow had landed there in silence,
without even a pip or a squeak.
It must have happened while she showered.
Shar tried to recall their symbolic meaning. According to
Animalia: Symbols for the Everyday Nature Goddess by Cornelius Pum,
a book Shar deemed to be on par with the Bible, animals were messengers.
They carried important providential words for specific groups of people,
and seeing one automatically registered you for the group. Shar ransacked
her brain for the chapter on crows.
Thoughts sped by her mind, parallel to it, but inaccessible. The dead
bird, its sadistic murderer, the war on terrorism shed been following,
Pums glossary. What did this mean, this impious message left just
for her? The books glossary listed animal meanings in alphabetical
order at the back, and Shar had taken the time to reread significant
portions of it over the past rainy winter.
She had only experienced three episodes last year, luckily unbeknownst
to Dr. Handford, so that left her ample time to read. Once when she
mistook her gardener, Nick Consopoulous, for a nazi spy trying to rape
her. Once at work when her desk radio started to talk to her, reciting
personal ID information that she was horrified would be transferred
to the Senate. And then once when she dreamt that her apartment was
programmed by the Vietcong to explode at 7:43 in the morning-exactly-
and she had to make it out before the blast.
The glossary started coming back to her now.
Anteater: suck it up, you cant play the victim your whole life.
Black bear: meditation will be important for you over the next few weeks.
Eagle: (theres a no brainer she thought,) you will experience
a strength of high proportion, one that stems partly from those people
who love you most, and partly from a higher power.
..what did they mean again? Shars temporary state
of shock, the spaghetti-tongue-tied confusion of it all, caused her
And Shar never forgot.
She never forgot the phone list from her high school soft ball team,
(Sally Petrowski, 737-6793, Gina Warden, 682-4545), or the license plate
number of the baby blue 67 Chevy she had sex in for the first
time with Billy Sacowotza, a frizzy-haired charmer type who ended up
doing her sister in the front seat two days later. She never forgot
her favourite childhood hiding spot near the ugly brown fence in the
backyard, or the first time her mother held a cigarette to her flesh
and watched it burn.
Memories etched themselves in her like knives on tree bark, like their
presence in her was the very justification they needed to exist. If
she were to forget them, they would never have happened. She was a sum
of her memories and delusions, and at times, felt nothing more than
that. A cigarette, burning skin, a metal plate, a shortstop.
Shar felt only rage for her dragon mother. The woman she ran away from
at age sixteen after waking up straight jacketed in her own bed, mouth
duct taped, mother hovering over her with a smirk of triumph.
"You look so pretty that way Shar-baby." It was not until
she turned seventeen that Child and Family Services flipped into action,
insisting they remove her from her mothers home. Two long years
later, having lived with the fleet-sized Franchas family for what seemed
like eternity, she could finally be deemed an independent
according to Canadian law. This was her chance to run.
Shar thought of her mother daily despite determined attempts not to.
Over a staff room coffee, in the shower, and even sometimes while she
worked. To distract herself, she would focus on things like the newspaper
headlines, the men in her life, or the counting and cataloguing of various
inanimate objects around the house. Twenty-four Venetians on a blind.
Six black mugs. Lined up. Straight. Mundane things that were in her
One more glance down at the pathetically martyred bird and his smiling
plastic suicidal counterpart, and she flung her hand over her eyes.
Stood there unmoving, warm breaths escaping her lips like fleeing convicts
in the night. She wanted to leave behind the memory of this front-step-scene
that was now carved into her retinas: purple, black, red
"You playing hide-and-seek with your cats again Shar baby?"
It was Cameron. Joking. Despite the morbid events of the moment, Shars
carpool-to-work group was still here, ready, and they were waiting for
her in the loading zone on the opposite side of the street ten feet
away. Camerons blood red VW beetle vomiting blue smoke onto the
pavement. He was Shars dream. A tall laid back guy, muscles bulging
out from under his blue collared dress shirt, he looked like a Ken doll,
only less plastic. Organic Ken. Cameron had been working with Shar now
for almost a year. After barely completing his degree in finance, he
took three years off to write and experience life, but when
his bank book hit empty, he reconsidered his plans, taking a job with
the firm. And there was Shar, lurking behind her desk, smiling.
"Hey youre lookin good Shar," called Lonna, admiring
her pink suit. Lonna was the sweet old pear-shaped lady who worked in
the back of the office. She had been there living in her fruit-basket
corner longer than anyone and was due to retire any time.
"Oh, uh. Thanks. Umm. Im not feeling well today you guys.
I think Im gonna have to stay home. Sorry I didnt call.
It just sort of, um, came on
just now." Shar spat the words
out uncomfortably, awkwardly, "Ptu", trying to avert Camerons
eyes from the mess at her feet. Dead crow. Bad luck. Psycho.
He looked confused. His tin foil face crinkled as he walked towards
the building. He stared at her face, sallow and withdrawn under ebony
curls. Her hair unruly, framing her face like windy sand on granite
stones. Pink suede power suit tight around the hips and loose in the
chest. Cameron liked her chest.
"Whats going on Shar?" He was closer now, stepping through
"Wait," she stammered. Cameron could not be witness to the
killing. That would implicate him later. Jumping frenetically over the
crow massacre site, she moved toward him, her shoes making a clack-clickety-clack
noise on the sidewalk. She almost threw up from the nerves doing a barn
dance in her gut. "Ill come to you," she offered. When
she got to the gate, eyes darting left and right, searching, suspecting,
Camerons eyes were big and curious.
"Yeah, I should have phoned to tell you I wasnt going to
make it, but, well, I was fine when I first woke up."
"Are you sure everything is ok Shar? Do you need anything? Is it
Now she just wanted to curl up and disappear. Like a wood tick. Bury
herself deep into the skull of someone else. Someone safe. Shed
had enough of fear.
If she confessed, at this point, to being overly superstitious, to her
obsessive compulsive need to hide in her bedroom if even the mere possibility
for disaster loomed, she would be the topic of the lunchroom gossip
circle for the next six months.
She lied. Some story about how her cold medication was causing her to
feel woozy and was keeping her up at night. Some lame-ass excuse as
to why she could not meet Cameron for dinner that evening. Ass-lame.
A slam, in the ace-fey.
Ten debating minutes more and they were gone. Disappeared into a cloud
of exhaust left over from the beetle. For once, the weekday morning
was free of rain, a rare occurrence for Vancouver, and one that made
She went to her room, grabbed Pums book off the shelf and plunked
herself down in the bowel of her closet. Musty clothing everywhere.
There sat the scissors she had been missing. Tucked in behind a set
of shoe shelves that held photo albums, records, history books, and
files and files worth of research she had done in her former years as
a poli-sci grad student, before shed had the breakdown. The
Journal of Nathan Churkan, United States Senator from Philadelphia,
1795-1799. State of the Union Addresses, 1990-2000.
Chicken Soup for the Travelers Soul. Oops, that one
got filed wrong. Move it. She got up to put the soupy sappy book back
on her shelf of crap and thats when she saw them. Outside her
bedroom window on the street. A little red haired boy playing with jacks.
And a man, parked in a seedy low ride sedan on the opposite side of
the street, staring down at his lap.
Must be the man.
The crow-killing, child-molesting man who visited her doorstep in the
wee hours of the day to perform the act of merciless cruelty.
Dont stare, she told herself. She pulled the tatted lace curtains
all the way shut. Shar could feel her breathing quicken and her throat
swell up. Here was the man who had left the impaled bird at her door.
To scare her. He must be a CIA affiliate or an undercover investigative
reporter testing to see whether the operation is set up in the back
room. This apartment used to be a spy op. after all. Back in the 1950s
when the country had their soldiers back, housewives were no longer
happy house suffixes, and Trudeau was just thirty something. But why
would he come to her place and not try to contact her at work as is
Must be safer.
The sedan-man seemed to be content sitting there, staring at his lap,
looking up occasionally to eye up the red haired boy, she thought. Shar
was still watching through translucent lace. Make your move Shar,
she told herself.
But then the phone rang.
Let it ring she decided. It was probably her boss wondering why her
desk sat empty. Papers stacked like dead bodies, inbox bleeding onto
the floor. She couldnt leave the house today now that the perpetrator
was right outside.
Four RING-RING-RINGs and the machine clicked into super-hero-action.
No personal greeting message though. There was just a robotic monotone
voice over: "please.leave.message." Shar thought it ludicrous
to leave her own voice on a public device. Out there for anyone to hear.
Vulnerable. The answering machine clicked on and off for over an hour,
capturing the same drunken, mildly aggressive words, again and again:
"Ou est mon pantalon? Ou est mon pantalon?" After the first
two alien messages, she crouched down into the corner of the kitchen,
folding her hands around her knees, rocking on her tailbone. He was
just trying to scare her, she thought. But she stayed there for the
whole hour anyway, listening. He was uttering nonsense to throw her
off his track. She would not indulge him. What did he want anyway?
Finally, it wasnt him. There was someone else on the line.
"Shar, its Doctor Handford," the emery board voice filed
down her fears. It spoke with conviction, calculation. "Shar, I
noticed you missed your appointment yesterday and the pharmacist phoned
to report you not refilling the prescription I ordered for you."
Yeah, prescription for a rubber room maybe. She hated doctors even more
than spies. They kept referring to her fears as delusions,
or dissociative strategies. There was no time for condescending
pedagogical bullshit. There was a CIA agent outside. And she supposed
the doctor wouldnt believe that so she ignored his request to
Six days later, she was still at home, sitting in a velvety blue arm
chair by the front bay window, watching a photo like it were television.
The photographed body was plump, curvy, hidden under a pink striped
bathing suit, and a sunhat the size of Texas. Huge Diana Ross sunglasses
in the shape of infinity, a Marilyn Monroe leather handbag, and toes,
tucked in sand like kids in bed. The image was smiling. A perfect vision
of happiness. The sun making patterns on her shoulder, was approving
of her, assuring her of her bliss.
Beside her stood a little girl, aged five maybe. Two pony tails standing
straight up on top of her head like antennae to send her to the moon.
The little girl was slouched a little, standing under pressure. Hurt,
or ashamed, or in need of a pee. She still felt that way.
Shar felt the tears oozing down her face before she realized shed
been crying. Waves splashing onto cheekbones. Why did God let people
love parents? The people who hurt them the most, the people whos
very hint of disapproval could crush them like flies on pavement, transform
them from well adjusted adults to blubbering babies with one discerning
glance. She wiped the tears with her t-shirt sleeve, leaving Rorschach
inkblot proof of her sorrow that somehow wouldnt fade away.
Then a scream. Shrill and heated, to the top of the oak trees, to the
gods, to the businesspeople downtown. She wailed like an aria gone wrong
until she could breathe no longer. Until her voice died. Every last
inch of her stomach, her kidneys, her esophagus was emptied and concave.
A song bird deflated.
"Why the fuck cant I just get it together." She held
her hand to her mouth, as if to hide her remorse from the walls. Her
mother had been smiling in the photo, like she enjoyed her power over
Shar. Thats it, Shar thought.
She walked slowly into the kitchen and pulled out a large brown envelope
from the drawer. Addressed it to Mother. Clutching a fork
in one hand and the envelope in the other, she opened the front door.
Wincing, she lifted the skewered, forked-crow and plopped him into the
envelope. Shoved him in the outgoing mail box- a corpse amid flyers-
and went back inside. The morbid crow was outward bound now. She could
The very next day, she went to work.
© Heather Neale 2003
Previously by Heather on hackwriters
Heather is a Hackwriters regular now and contributes to the 'Bolts of
Fiction' group on Commercial Drive.
Fiction in Dreamscapes
< Reply to this Article