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by Tom Darin Liskey 

We rented a crummy little place from a farmer who owned a row of shacks on Joachim Creek because it was all we could afford.

The field pickers he hired to work on his farm lived further down the creek with their families, but we barely ever spoke to them. The only ones who understood English were the kids, but they were always working too.

The farmer was an aging widower with a shrewd head for business, but no kin to speak of. But he took a liking to me for some reason, offering me $5.00 a week — a princely sum for a ten-year-old in 1977 — to walk the split rail fences surrounding his crops with a BB gun. My job was to shoot at any crow brazen enough to glean the corners of his fields. I was a good aim and could skull shoot the birds if they were close enough.

This was my first job ever, and I got a pretty big head about it. I patrolled the perimeter of his farm — the lever action Daisy airgun cradled in my arms — with the cockiness of an Old West lawman.

To prove I’d done my job, I had to fetch the birds I downed with the Daisy, and leave them in a bag by his cellar door each Friday. The farmer came by our house on Sunday after church to pay me for the dead birds.

It worked out pretty well for most of the summer, then one week he didn’t show up to pay me. I kept on killing the birds, because I didn’t know what else to do. I dropped the bags off at his house until the reeking cloud of flies was too much for me to stomach.

Then we learned the farmer had died of a heart attack, and that we’d have to move because the estate was going under the gavel.

When the sheriff came to tell us that we had to leave by the end of the day, my mother cried in the bathroom with the door locked. I guess the grind was wearing her down: Another town. Another job. Another crappy house.

We finished packing the car late in the afternoon and got in. She pulled away from the house and lit a cigarette. The car windows were rolled down and the wind blew her hair across her face. The little place faded in the rear-view mirror.

It was early evening and the moon rose above the fields I once walked. The farmer was dead, but I wished I had my BB gun on my lap. It was in the trunk with our stuff.

With no one to guard the fields, the freeloading birds perched on the tall, green stalks of corn that swooned under their weight. Their wings flashed like strobe lighting as they feasted on the unharvested bounty, cawing so loudly it sounded like they were laughing at the dead farmer.

Tom Darin Liskey spent nearly a decade working as a journalist in Venezuela, Argentina, and Brazil. He is a graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi. His writing has appeared in Crime Factory, HeartWood Literary Magazine, Live Nude Poems, Driftwood Press, and Biostories, among others. His photographs have been published in Hobo Camp Review, Blue Hour Magazine, Synesthesia Literary Journal, and Midwestern Gothic. He uses images and words for a monthly narrative photography column at Change Seven.