The Magpies

by | Feb 13, 2024 | Fiction, Issue Thirty-Seven

My wife died watching the magpies. She rocked endlessly on that chair, sat monatomic on the porch, and counted them. ‘One for sorrow, two for mirth, three for a funeral, four for birth.’ She would keep mumbling until her voice gave out, and then she would still say it in her mind until all other thoughts had  left her. She drove herself crazy; she drove me crazy.

The magpies returned today. I thought when she died, they would leave me alone. I raised my rifle, looked through the scope at the middle one, pulled the trigger, and watched its three eyes stare back at me as the bullet missed him. I swear I hit him, I swear. I swear I didn’t hit her, I swear.

The neighbour’s called the cops on me, and they were back here like they were yesterday. When they inquired about my wife’s bruised body. I said the rocking chair did it; she was in it so much her body bore splinters of ancient trees. I said she tripped and gashed her knee, how the magpie pecked her eyes and made them black. I don’t think they believed me. Luckily, they only believed I had one rifle, so later that night, I did it again. There were four this time, taunting me. I missed again. I missed her as I slept and allowed the darkness to consume me.

The darkness took me back to the lights of the emergency room. I watched the same sweat as before run down my wife’s cheek. I hear her pants, her screams as the doctor pronounces the baby was stillborn. They ask me about her bruises. ‘She was mugged,’ I say. ‘The robber punched her eye and made it black. They kicked her heels to make her fall and stabbed her belly to make her baby bleed.’ My wife is asleep by now, and I notice three magpies at her window. The doctors don’t believe me, but a nurse brings me to the next room and asks if I want to see what was my child. I walked towards her incubator turned coffin, and a single three-eyed magpie stares back at me and pecks my eyes out .

I awake sweating like my wife did, my sheets stained with guilty tears fleeing my body, and the bathroom mirror laughs at me. I grab my rifle and look out at my porch; the rocking chair is empty, and four magpies stare back at me. I raise my rifle, I look through the scope.

I shoot the first one, and it drops. I shoot the second, it drops. The third, it drops. The fourth as well. I turn the gun and shoot the fifth one that was nesting on my head, and I drop. ‘The magpie made him do it,’ the neighbour says; the policemen don’t believe him.

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