Sample first chapter from my story "Some Birds Fly North for Winter," available from Dark Moon Digest, Issue #8.
Some Birds Fly North for Winter
Alex Winter watched the woman he was supposed to call grandma. He watched with plastic binoculars that didn’t work too well. The focus knob had grains of sand that snapped between the gears, so it couldn’t twist all that far, and everything looked clouded through the lenses. The binoculars were part of a whole NYPD cop set, complete with plastic revolver, gold badge, and handcuffs made of actual metal, key and all.
From his tree fort, he watched his grandma through the window of the upstairs guest room. She rocked back and forth and stabbed her quilt with long knitting needles. Her hands worked far quicker than he would have thought possible for a woman in her eighties. Her hands were large and wrinkled and spotted with rust.
Alex looked at his own hands, young and smooth and with Little Debbie frosting under his fingernails. He had stolen the treat from the cupboard when his mom was vacuuming, then ran up into his fort so he could snack in peace and keep an eye out on things. It wasn't something an officer of the law would do, he realized, so he decided to change the word “steal” to “borrow.” It sounded better. Besides, the stakeout was a full-time job. Cops had donuts. He had Little Debbies.
He licked the sugar from his fingers, frosting all warm on his tongue, and thought about abandoning his post to go grab another, but decided against it. He had already borrowed three. His mother might notice an entire box missing. So he sat and watched his grandma, waiting for her to conduct any malicious activity.
Alex had the gold badge on his shirt pocket and pistol wedged in his belt, loaded with water he had blessed himself from a Bible that a mean Christian had given to him outside the mall bookstore. The man had told him he was now old enough to go to Hell, so he was old enough to read this here book. Alex took the book and threw it in his closet, not knowing that come the following summer, he would desperately need it.
He watched her hands move with needle-flash speed, the oxygen mask secured around her face. Usually, she only used it when she went for walks. She must have had problems breathing today. Suddenly, her face twisted all up. Her lips curled back in a snarl, teeth stained yellow from years of black coffee and cigarettes. She ripped off the mask and clutched at her throat, gasping for air.
Alex thought she was having a heart attack. At least he hoped. Then she burst out laughing and slapped her knee and regarded Alex with dead eyes that looked like shark eyes--the way they roll back when they attack. The directness of her stare caused goose bumps to engulf his arms.
They stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity--ocean eyes meeting bleached eyes--until she finally turned away and went back to her knitting. A little smile played at the edges of her mouth.
Alex was holding his breath. He let it out in a loud wheeze, then pulled out his water pistol from his belt. He put his grandmother’s withered face into the sights and feigned pulling the trigger.
Accidents happen all the time, he thought. Especially to old people.
Available in print at: