The Birthday Box

I killed a bird on my birthday.

Honestly, I don’t think it felt anythin’.  It just kinda dipped down at the last second and it just got sucked under my tire.

Real quick too, like before I even had a chance to swerve, or break, or anythin’.

Anyway, I pulled over to see if I could save it, but it was pretty banged up. It wasn’t breathing or anythin’, but I figured I should call Gramma just in case.

I’ve lived with my Grandmother since I can remember. Never knew my parents. Both of ‘em were meth-heads, or somethin’ like it.

They left me on the porch wrapped in a nasty, ol’ sheet, still bloody and screamin’ my head off.

Haven’t heard from ‘em since.

She raised me, ya know. Just her and all the shit she’s been hoardin’ in that house since the great depression. I can’t complain, though.

Better than anywhere I might’ve ended up.

Gramma’s real superstitious though. She’s all into that voodoo or hoo-doo or whatever. Always burnin’ sage, or tryin’ to communicate with someone’s dead uncle or somethin’.

“Gramma? It’s me. No, everything’s fine. Yeah, I’m sure, I just hit a bird with the car and didn’t know—. Oh, okay. Yeah. Bye.”

I hang up and pull off my t-shirt. August is ending, but it’s still pretty warm for the end of the summer. The breeze is nice. I can feel it on my back where I’ve been sweating.

“Okay, fella,” I tell what’s left of the bird, “let’s get you home to Gramma.”

I spread the shirt out flat and try layin’ bird in the center. It’s head kinda flops around and one of the wings is crooked, but I wrap it up pretty quick so I don’t have to look at it anymore.
______________________________________________

“Gramma!” I yell, grabbin’ the shirt off the passenger seat.  The sooner she gets this thing away from me, the better.

“Gramma?” I call again, closin’ the front door behind me and scuffin’ my shoes on the rug.

“Where the hell are ya now, ya old bat,” I mumble.

“I can still hear you, boy. I’m not that old.”

I smile.

Even if she’s yellin’ at me, hearin’ her is better than nothin’.

She turns the corner to the kitchen, eyein’ me with suspicion.

“You okay?” She asks.

“It’s a bird, Gramma. I’m fine.” I say. She shoots me a look, playin’ with one of the ten different amulet-things she wears around her neck.

“You bring me what I ask for?” She says, eyein’ what’s in my hand.

“Yeah, here. Take it. The thing creeps me out.” I hand it to her, and I see her forehead wrinkle when she unfolds the corner.

“I didn’t mean to hit it.” I say.

“I know.” She says.
_______________________________________________

She’s been in the back room since I got home.  Comes out every few hours for more herbs and stuff from the kitchen, but never says much.

“Dinner’s gonna be ready soon.” I call after her. I mix some peppers and onions in with the eggs. It’s not much, but it’s still pretty good.

I hear her come back into the kitchen and set something on the table. I keep stirring the eggs, watching the peppers start to brown.

“I hope you want breakfast food.” I say.

It’s my birthday, so she doesn’t really have a choice, but I like teasin’ her.

“If you make it, I’ll eat it. You know that.” She says.

“Yeah, and that’s how I’m gonna poison you and claim all the inheritance.” I say, tipping the scramble onto two plates next to the sausage I cooked up earlier.

I turn around and there’s a box sittin’ in front of my chair.

I put the plate in front of her.

“Happy Birthday.” She says. I sit.

“It’s a pretty box, Grams.”

She shoots me a look.

“What do I do with it?” I say. The sides have symbols carved into the wood, and it looks a lot like some of the stuff I’ve seen in the back room.

“You bury it.” She says and shoves a forkful of eggs ‘n sausage into her mouth.

“An’ make sure you get it down there, nice ‘n deep. Don’t want anything crawlin’ back out.”

I look down at the box and back at her.

“What’s gonna happen when I bury it, Grams.”

She shrugs.

“Guess you’ll find out, won’t you.” She winks.

I slide the thing under my chair and pick up a fork.

“Happy Birthday to me.” I mumble.
_______________________________________________
I try to wash up after dinner, but she shoves me out the back door before I can finish.

“Humor an old woman an’ her last wishes,” she grumbles.

“Yeah, yeah,” I say back. I shove the box under my arm and light a cig.

She hates when I smoke, but it’s my birthday. She’ll get over it by tomorrow.

It’s cooler tonight, but not too bad for late August. I take a long drag and feel the buzz in my forehead.

Might as well get this over with.

I grab the shovel over near the garden and start walking towards the back woods. She’d be pissed if I dug a hole in the middle of the lawn. We barely have any grass to begin with, so it’d be my ass on the chopping block if I dug up any more.

The ground is soft from the rain a few days back. It’s not too long ‘till I’m four or five feet down. I climb out and throw drop the box in.

Nothing happens.

I sigh.

“Well, that was real fun.”

I start haulin’ the dirt back into the hole. At least she didn’t make me eat anythin’ weird. She did that once when I was little. Said it was a protection spell or somethin’, but all it did was make me shit my brains out for the next few days. Figures.

I walk back up to the house and lean the shovel by the back door. I can hear her singin’ some old church songs while she dries the dishes.

“I can hear you lurkin’ out there, boy. Get in here and help your Gramma with the dishes.”

“I’m not lurkin’,” I shoot back even though I’m smilin’.

“Well, whatever you’re doin’, you’re not helpin’.” She scolds. I open the door and scuff my feet on the rug.

“Yes, ma’am.” I say, and start puttin’ dishes away.
_______________________________________________
The next mornin’ I wake up around eight. Gramma won’t be up for a few hours, so I sit on the back porch and light another cig. My mind is wanderin’, but somehow my eyes keep endin’ up back at the spot where I buried that box.

I tap the lit end against the shovel, ashin’ it.

I hear wings flutter an’ look around.

Nothin’ there.

I take another drag.

My head starts to hurt, so I put out the cigarette an’ stand up. I get real dizzy all the sudden, an’ sit back down.

I put my head in my hands an’ close my eyes.

At first, there’s nothin’. Just black, like usual. Then, there’s a bunch of little spots, like jellyfish, just kinda swimmin’ around. I try to focus on one of them.

It’s blue, with some black and brown smudges and it’s gettin’ bigger an’ bigger the more I stare.  It spreads out ‘till it’s all I can see. And the shapes get clearer. I can see houses and roads and cars and all sorts of stuff. I can feel somethin’ rushin’ by me, everywhere, pushin’ me, makin’ me dip up and down like a roller coaster.

It’s the wind blowin’, and it’s guidin’ me.

There’s people now, muckin’ about. I wanna see them closer, so I push down.

Suddenly, the wind scoops me up an’ I’m movin’ way too fast to stop. I’m gonna hit somethin’ if I don’ slow down. I push left an’ right, but nothin’ happens.

I feel somethin’ shakin’ me, hard.

Grams is there, jerkin’ my shoulder back ‘n forth.

“HEY—hey! C’mon child. Come back” She says.

I open my eyes, and the vision is gone.

I’m sittin’ on the back porch again, like nothing ever happened.

“What the hell was that.” I say, voice shaikin’.

She smiles, and looks back at the woods.

“Happy Birthday.”

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