Fiction

Story: The Snake-watcher

Troy Farlander

When Quaker Parrots are content, they puff their feathers and make a variety of gentle sounds: purring, soft bleeping, a whispery “kh kh kh.” That’s what the one on my finger was doing when the floor started to rumble.

I was above the garage. The garage door was opening. They were home.

I set the parrot back in its cage. You’d think that this bird, with the rainforest canopy-like mélange of greens on its wings and tail, and its warm gray chest, would have a very inspiring song. Nope. No singing from this bird. It shrieked. The shrieks grated through the room. Kind of like a car alarm. But faster. And harsher. A two-year-old’s temper tantrum, a fire engine siren, and a circular saw. All compressed into one brain-bashing staccato.

This bird didn’t inspire; it maddened.

I grabbed my bag and then, shushing the bird, backed up. My foot caught on something soft. I dropped the bag and fell backwards.

I hit the floor and a high-pitched drawl came from my feet. “We gotta look ahowt fah ah own.” The culprit was a stuffed Chummy the Mockingbird. Chummy’s the latest incessantly babbling computer animated sidekick who crashes and whines his way through a hundred million dollar movie. “We gotta look out for our own” is his catchphrase. And since the mockingbird is Texas’s state bird, Chummy is a blatant stereotype of the dumb hick. Texans love him. I got up and booted the bastard.

As I turned around, I heard Chummy’s plastic eyes click against the wall, and then clunking rattling clanging, followed by a pop.

The garage door rumbling stopped. The parrot’s screeching didn’t.

On the floor was an overturned lamp. Part of its globe-themed base had broken off. Mostly North America. Shards of light bulb were sprinkled on the carpet. I picked up a couple, but there were so many. Too many. The rumbling resumed and the floor vibrated beneath my knees. The garage door was closing.

Too many shards. I swiped my hand across the carpet as if I were gathering Frosted Flakes instead of light bulb flecks. The pain was grrreat!

The rumbling stopped, but the parrot kept screeching. I grabbed my bag and staggered through the hallway—its walls were smothered in baby shit yellow—until I reached the stairs. A picture over the stairs bullied me into looking at it. It showed a man sitting on his porch and gazing up at a constellation in the shape of Texas. The bottom of the picture said, “Lone Star State.”

I recovered from the kitsch thrashing when a schwoop came from downstairs. The door. I waited, and stared at the wood floor down there. It was a paprika color. The bird stopped screaming.

How to get out? But first, how to do what I came there to do?

My hand reminded me of the idiotic mistake I’d made. It wasn’t a gentle reminder. Blood had started to collect in the lines of my palm. I dabbed my hand on my shirt. The carpet hallway was a sandy color. If my blood fell on it, I’d be in trouble.

Clacking and huffing from downstairs. A creature slid into view. Black. Very black, and hairy. It saw me, then froze. The head tilted. Too black to see the eyes. Hair burst out around the head in a kind of high voltage look.

It charged up the stairs.

***

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

Categories: Fiction

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