by Ryan Sayles

He held the dead crow in his small hands and operated the beak with his pointer finger.

“Hello, Timmy, my son my pal. Why are you so much bigger than me?” the crow said in Timmy’s eleven year-old voice. The boy twisted the crow to try and regard himself with a perplexed look.

“Because dad, this is the way mom wanted it.”

Timmy sat in his room, at his desk with his elbows digging into the top of it. His little desk lamp with the flexible arm craning overhead, splashing a tight cone of light down over his play area.

The crow continued looking perplexed, dead as it was, with its sleek black feathers having lost their luster while remaining on the side of the road for a day before Timmy scooped it up. “What do you want, Timmy?”

“I want you to say you’re sorry.”

“Sorry for what?”

“For how you treated mom.”

“She needs to apologize to me.”

Timmy had heard his father say that word “apologize” a thousand times before. It and all its forms. He didn’t understand how the big man who ran the house was always so wronged by it.

Timmy reached over into the plastic cup that he had earlier taken into the yard. His fingers plucked out the earthworm squirming in the cup’s bottom and plopped it down beside his crow father.

“There she is. Say you’re sorry.”

Timmy let his hands work the crow the way he figured his dad would work his own head. Stared at the earthworm as it gyrated in little whips and coils.

The crow shook its head and said more familiar words. “Your mom needs to be treated that way. Look at her.”

Timmy grew angry. Angry at all that control he never had. “You do it,” he said through clenched teeth. “You do it because here I’m big and you’re not. You’re a smelly little bird that can’t make itself talk.”

“Then you make me say I’m sorry, Timmy,” the crow father challenged. “Big man that you are.”

Timmy smacked the crow’s head into the desktop. “I told you to do it.”

“If it were that easy, you’d make me.”

Timmy smacked the bird again.

“Still not working, my son my pal.”

Timmy hollered with all the pent-up fury buried deep down in his little boy gut and beat the bird into the wood until he felt the sweat on his forehead fling off into the room, striking the walls and ceiling like blood spray.

When his shoulder burned and his lungs gasped for more air, Timmy let go of what was left of the crow and stared out the window at nothing. Eventually he looked down at the desktop and saw the mashed remains of the earthworm; speckled with loose black feathers and prints that matched his own palm.

“You did it again, dad,” Timmy said as he threw the bird carcass in the trash. He stared at his earthworm mother for a long time, and couldn’t make sense of his world or his anger.

Ryan Sayles is the author of Subtle Art of Brutality and That Escalated Quickly! He has over two dozen stories published on websites, anthologies and in traditional print. Ryan is a founding member of Zelmer Pulp and the submissions editor at The Big Adios. He may be contacted at