Post Road Magazine #28

Grandpap's Burials

Casey Quinn

At noon, Grandpap takes aim and shoots the crow in our garden.

"Get it, boy, sniff it," he says, shooing me with one hand. I burst out the back door into the heat, sprinting towards the trellis on which the grapevines grow.

The crow is four feet, four inches and boy-shaped. Two mustard-colored seashells form a teepee over his mouth. A black mask is sharpied around his two blue eyes. Glued feathers crisscross up and down his forearms like tic tac and toe. Timmy Jensen was in my third grade class-before he became a crow and formed a one-boy flock, flapping up and down our suburban street, marring tulips and rummaging gardens the way he imagined a crow would. He was troubled long before Grandpap shot him down.

"Don't he know crows don't eat no grapes?" Grandpap asks. His face is patched with pink splotches. I don't think he has shot a boy before, but I can't be sure.

I nudge the body. The crow whimpers.

Buckshot punched holes in the back of his black jeans, and shiny red-flecked metal juts out from his haunch like bits of asteroid. His wings are sun-faded trash bags. In the daylight, the plastic Hefties are more vermillion than black. When I point out the wing discoloration and that the Timmy is still alive, Grandpap shakes his head.

"Cruddy crow," Grandpap says, and spits close to Timmy's face. Grandpap kicks Timmy in the stomach. Timmy groans but remains dead.

"Nope. See, he's dead. Dead crow is dead crow," Grandpap says. This makes me uneasy. I do not think Pap's defense will hold up. At least not here. Grandpap is from the south; things are different down there.

Mikey Henderson, age seven, and my brother, age five, bound towards us with shovels.

The boys bring three. I take the extra and Grandpap hobbles back towards our Cape-Cod. Once he's out of earshot, I turn to Timmy Jenson. "Stop faking it dummy, we know you're alive," I say.

Timmy makes dead crow noises. He lifts a wing slightly then lets it fall.

"Come on, get up," I say. I prod his crow face with my foot. He squawks and bats me away, then resumes death. Mikey and my brother look at the body. Then me. They shrug and sink their shovels into the ground. Grandpap returns, dragging a lawn chair.

Grandpap drinks sweet tea until the hole is big enough. Then he rises, walks over and rolls Timmy Jenson with his heel. Timmy lands with a groan. The four of us gather around the grave and look down. The hole is only three feet deep, the same depth of our Golden's grave. After one night, raccoons discovered Milo and dragged pieces of him to the four corners of our yard. I wish the same for the big faker, Timmy Jensen.

"What now, Pap?" my brother asks.

Grandpap looks at us three. His hair is gone. His teeth are yellow, mostly gone. He taps his chapped lip with his one unscarred finger. "Ice cream?"

I hold my tongue. It is not okay to shoot our neighbors and then leave them in an open grave, but in this heat, a little Rocky Road won't hurt.

"Where's your grandpa from again?" Mikey asks after we pile into the bed of Grandpap's truck.

"Pap's from 'Bama," my brother says in his recently acquired twang.

"Where's that?"

"Ma says that's where we ain't supposed to go."

I peg my brother with a pebble.

The horn shrieks. Swerving into the other lane, Grandpap shakes his scrawny fist at a Honda, then guns past.

"Why'd he shoot Timmy Jenson?" Mikey asks.

"He didn't mean to," I say.

"You sure?" Mikey asks.

I punch Mikey in the shoulder.

Of course Grandpap meant to. At 11:50, he found me crying after Timmy chased me, shrieking "Gonna eat your eyes. Gonna get 'em." Grandpap had me load the buckshot and open the window. We looked down the barrel together, but he pulled the trigger. I'd swear it in a court of law, just not about the crying part.

Mikey looks over but says nothing. He's not as dumb as my brother. He knows we've done bad.

"What flavor you getting?" my brother asks, "I'm getting Razz-burry with sprinkles."

"Chocolate and vanilla," Mikey says.

My brother turns to me.

"Rocky Road," I say.

Grey clouds suture the last strip of clear skies above. We pull the tarp over us when the rain starts.

"You like Timmy Jenson?" Mikey asks.

"Nah," I say. But, in fact, Tim was my best friend before his parents' divorce and crow transformation.

"I'm glad we killed him," my brother giggles.

Mikey and I avoid one another's eyes.

It's hot under the blue tarp. I peek out but don't recognize the flash of buildings. Rain pocks the blue fabric then dribbles down the sides onto my feet. I flick the fabric wherever drops collect and think of Timmy Jensen down in his grave. Had he lifted himself from the hole we dug, run home, and told on us, or were his eyes still closed? Was Timmy that eager to die? After the showers break, we remain under the tarp. Our plastic sky is perfect blue, no clouds.

The truck slows, then halts. We wait a few minutes before peeping out. Steam rises off the hot asphalt. We slip out from under the tarp and off the truck bed. There are only cornfields and the newly paved road that splits them for miles and miles. The cab door is open, and we tell ourselves Grandpap went for a wizz. A blackbird is perched on a cornstalk. It watches us as it reaps unripe kernels. We wait and wait, but soon even my brother realizes something is wrong.

 Copyright © 2018 | Post Road Magazine | All Rights Reserved