Ray took his coffee and joined Lorraine on the back patio. It was a glorious spring day in Denver, with just a hint of the ghost of winter’s passing in the air. He sat down at the glass coffee table and admired the Blue Spruce tree, with its silvery-blue needles, prickly to the touch and aromatic. A robin was perched on one of the slender branches.
Ray sipped his coffee, then lit a cigarette. “I shot a bluebird once,” he said, leaning back in the wicker patio chair and closing his eyes. “With a BB gun. I was about ten years old.”
“Isn’t shooting a bluebird bad luck?” She jabbed a spoon into her grapefruit.
Ray nodded. “And mockingbirds, according to Atticus Finch. Anyway, my mother had just given birth to A.J. and she was bed-ridden, a hard labor. There was a blackbird in the tree outside her window and it frightened the hell out of her. She thought it was a harbinger of death. My mother was convinced that A.J.’s birth would be the death of her.”
“How did your father feel about that?”
“He was back out on the road two days after she delivered. He was never around when she needed him and as time went by she learned to need him less and less. Anyway, one morning I took it upon myself to rid that damn tree of that damn blackbird. So I took my BB gun and quietly walked onto the front porch, raised the little rifle to my shoulder, took steady aim like my old man taught me, and squeezed the trigger; only, the blackbird flew away at the precise moment I fired and a slender bluebird literally flew into the trajectory of the shot.” He drew long and hard on the cigarette. “I buried him in a shoebox in the backyard and never told anyone about it.”
“You’ve never written about it?”
“Why should I? It was a typical experience for a little boy. Everyone learns the power of death over life at some point. And then you move on. You have to move on.”
(Rodger Jacobs was born in California. He has been a journalist for Eye Magazine and Hustler, among others, a documentary writer and producer, screenwriter, playwright, magazine editor, true crime writer, book critic, columnist, and literary event producer. He currently lives in Las Vegas, Nevada.)
Rodger can be found writing at Carver’s Dog