(Content warning for ominous hints at domestic violence.)
(Written 7 May 1995; typed up 26 September 1995.)
“Louise? Hello? Are you here?”
Sam hesitated in the half-open doorway. “Louise?” Then, louder, “Anyone home?”
Still no answer.
Sam gingerly pushed through the door and into Louise’s apartment. He recognized the photo of her parents on her desk. The matching photo of Sam’s parents was still on the mantle in their house, next to a bare spot.
Sam swallowed hard and looked away. He placed the shoebox he’d been carrying on the tiny kitchenette table, and turned to leave. Then he stopped and picked up the box again. In five steps he crossed the living room to the bedroom door and opened it. “Louise?”
The bedroom was a mess—half of Louise’s clothes were still in boxes, the other half were strewn around the floor. The bed was rumpled, unmade.
A chirp from behind one of the boxes made Sam jump—he caught the box as it started to slip from his fingers.
“Oh, hello Daffodil,” he said to the bird in the cage on the floor. “You scared me.” He squatted to look into the cage. “How you doing? Got enough food and water?”
Daffodil cheeped and cocked her head to one side.
“Wish you could tell me how Louise is,” Sam said. He sat on the floor, his back against a cardboard box, and placed the shoebox next to him. He poked a finger through the cage bars.
Daffodil moved closer to nibble on his finger.
“Or where she is,” Sam added. And then, “She left some stuff back at the house. I sure don’t want it.”
Reclaiming his finger, he lifted the lid off the shoebox. A gleaming pearl-handled pistol nestled in tissue paper inside it.
“I miss her, Daffy,” he said. “I wish... I wish I could tell her that.”
The bird chirped sympathetically and nibbled a sunflower seed.
“Does she miss me, too?” Sam laughed wryly. “Does she tell you about it? She sure doesn’t tell me.”
He looked at the pistol, finally lifted it from the box.
“Kapow,” he said. He raised the gun, sighted along it at the mirror by the bed. “Kapow.”
Daffodil chirped again.
“You poor bird,” said Sam. “Poor, cheerful, dumb bird. Your whole life is being rearranged and you don’t care. You don’t even know it. As long as the seeds keep coming, you don’t care what else happens.”
He lifted the gun again, aimed carefully at the ball of yellow feathers in the cage.
“Kapow,” he whispered.
From the living room, Louise called out, “Hello? Is someone here?”
This came from an exercise on characters. We picked two characters and a situation out of hats, and wrote for twenty minutes or so. I don’t remember all the details, but one of my given characters was “a parakeet,” and the situation was “He’s got a gun.”
As with the other exercises I’m publishing here, this isn’t intended to be a complete story and hasn’t been revised at all (even for spelling or grammar) since writing. Though I edited it while I was originally writing it—crossing out phrases, making false starts, and so on.