Hope Is the Thing with Feathers(5)

By: Brandon Witt


Poor little thing. Showing up on fucking Raymond Webber’s doorstep, expecting a treat or a pat on the head, or maybe just seeing who the new guy was, and ended up being dinner. I hoped it was quick, that she’d didn’t realize what was happening.

Though, honestly, by the following morning, I blamed myself more than Raymond. I should’ve made it so that Faloola couldn’t escape ages ago. She just enjoyed exploring so much. I’d known it was a risk with wild animals about, but she’d been lucky so far. It seemed like it was okay to press our luck. Plus, that sort of end would’ve fit her wanderer personality.

Not being on some jackass’s Thanksgiving table.

The fucker.

I fixed Faloola’s escape route the next morning. Too little. Too late.

I stewed over Thanksgiving evening on a constant loop in my head as I took care of the cattle and my birds. In the moments when I didn’t picture going over and grabbing him by his stupid tie-dye kimono again, I tried to see things from his perspective.

He obviously was a hunter if he’d been so quick to prepare a live turkey. To him, she’d been nothing more than dinner. Like grocery store delivery. It wasn’t as if he’d eaten my dog. If I’d had a dog. People considered turkeys dinner. It was what they did. Hell, I ate turkey. Just not my turkeys.

But the whole Mother Earth, destiny, tie-dye robes, magic brownies, and naked shit? What the hell was all of that?

Okay, the naked bit wasn’t too bad.

Once in a while, in between the glaring, I considered going over and trying to make amends. It was more my fault than his. And if I had to have a neighbor, at least it was a gay neighbor.

A gay, naked neighbor.

Of course, that thought brought on all kinds of guilt. I was going to overlook Faloola’s murder and cannibalization because of a hairy chest and great cock?

I was despicable. I couldn’t even look the other turkeys in the eyes as I fed them.

Even so, on the second day, I trudged through the snow toward Raymond’s house, determined to be the better man. Then I noticed the huge Winnebago parked on the other side of the house, sunlight glinting off it. I narrowed my eyes. Solar panels? The entire roof of the Winnebago was made up of solar panels.

That pissed me off all over again.

The Winnebago. The solar panels.

Moron.

Probably drove all over the country eating people’s pets and using solar power to bake his drug-laden brownies.

Later that evening, as I lay in bed, trying not to picture the hippy as he answered the door in absolutely nothing, I tried to remember why the Winnebago had made me turn around. I couldn’t find a reason.





ON THE fourth day, I’d finished all the work with the cattle, had warmed up with half a pot of coffee, and prepared to go back out into the ice and snow to give the birds their evening meal and shut them up for the night.

Removing one of my gloves that I’d just put on, like I’d never tried opening my door with them before, I twisted the knob, threw open the door, and let out a yelp.

Raymond flinched and stared at me, wide-eyed. “Oh, geesh! Scared me to death. I almost dropped this all over your porch.”

I glared at him. “Scared you? You’re the one just standing in my doorway terrifying the crap out of people.”

The corner of his mouth curved up into the beginning of a smile.

It did not make him look sexy. Nor did it distract me from my anger toward the weirdo.

It didn’t.

I swear.

“I was actually trying to figure out how to balance this casserole and ring your doorbell at the same time. Your timing was impeccable.”

I glanced down at the rectangular glass dish in his hands. It was covered in a heaping dome of tinfoil. The glint of the low-hanging sun somehow managed to reflect off its shiny surface right into my eyes.

Fucking solar panels.

“Why do you have a casserole?” I couldn’t keep my irritation out of my voice. Then again, I didn’t really try.

Raymond shrugged. “Well, I know around these parts, when someone passes, people bring casseroles. So….” Another shrug. “I thought….”

For a split second. The briefest of split seconds, a traitorous part of me was touched by his sweetness.

Just for a second.

I continued to glare at him. “Most of the time, the people bringing the casseroles aren’t the ones who committed the murder.”

He snorted out a laugh, and then his eyes went wide once more. “Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean to do that.” Humor left his expression, and he muttered something to himself so quietly and quick that I didn’t catch it, and then he met my gaze. “I really am, Samuel. I’m so sorry.”

Those blue fucking eyes.

I could feel my defenses begin to crack.

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