CROW’S FEET IN THE SNOW • by Deven D Atkinson

The deputy said the snow where Uncle Jake had broken his neck is interesting. Over by Harper’s cabin a jay is harping and there are flashing red and blue LED lights on top of all of the sheriff cars and trucks just like Christmas. If you squint just right the LED lights are magenta. That’s a computer word for bright purple. I found that out when I squinted to keep the tiny snowflakes from stinging my eyes.

Miss Abernathy my favorite teacher from when I was in school told me about computer stuff like LED lights.

Look at the detail the deputy said. If we could cast this it might help. I accidentally caught a robin with a fishhook last summer when I was practice casting in the backyard. I got the hook out without much blood. It just sat there with its beak open gasping for air even after I let hold of it. Isbeth told me the robin must have been scared and it was lucky it didn’t die of a heart attack from being scared. She is my favorite cousin. Uncle Jake took to shooting robins with Grandpa Herman’s Walther P38 pistol that got surrendered to him. When I was burying them I found the one with the fishhook scar.

The deputy asked if those are crow’s feet in the snow. I didn’t see any crow feet over by where Uncle Jake is laying in the snow. I do remember some sparrow footprints but they are tiny. Sparrows mostly hop like a robin. Crows walk and their footprints are bigger than Yellow Tom’s footprints. I’ve never seen Yellow Tom eat crow but he sure does like sparrow. I saw him cleaning his ears and hiding under the broken 2002 Jeep Liberty earlier. Under the broken 2002 Jeep Liberty is Yellow Tom’s favorite place now. Aunt Yvonne used to let him nap by the wood-stove inside the house.

Such a detailed face the deputy said. Look at that mole. I wanted to go over and look but Isbeth still held my hand. You don’t normally see moles in the winter time. Except for the one that Yellow Tom dug up that lived in the dirt under the porch last week. Uncle Jake shot holes in the broken 2002 Jeep Liberty the same day he shot the robins and broke it. Isbeth had bought it herself to get to work and back and to the store and back. Now we have to walk. Moles don’t walk much, they dig. I only saw its feet in the snow cause I guess Yellow Tom don’t like the taste of mole feet just like he don’t like the taste of sparrow feet. The EMT lady tending Isbeth here on the porch says it is getting colder. I can see my breath in the air.

A state patrol man climbed the porch steps. I know he’s a state patrol man cause he has a hat like Smokey The Bear. He wants to know where I was when Isbeth was hurt. So I tell him that Uncle Jake locked me out of the house and I was over by the broken 2002 Jeep Liberty looking for Yellow Tom. He asks if I saw Isbeth being hurt and I tell him No Sir. When I was in school Miss Abernathy taught me how to be polite. Her name is Mrs. Nestor now. He asks did I hear anything.

So I tell him about Isbeth yelling for help and he asks me if that was when I broke down the door. Isbeth squeezes my hand and tells me it is okay when I ask the state patrol man if he is going to arrest me for Breaking and Entering.

The deputy poured green goop into the snow where Uncle Jake fell down.

The state patrol man asks what Jake did to Isbeth. I tell him that Uncle Jake made her bleed and cause he did I told him I was going to tell Miss Abernathy on him but not Aunt Yvonne cause she drowned in the tub last June. I tell the state patrol man that Miss Abernathy changed her name to Mrs. Nestor cause she likes Mr. Nestor the dog catcher and that he drives a bright red 2013 Ford F-150 Dog Pound Pickup Truck. He also picks up dead skunks on the road. I tell him Uncle Jake got real mad at me and chased me out of the house. I showed the state patrol man where I skinned my elbow when I tripped by the firewood pile. He told me I’d been brave and walked away.

The deputy peeled a face made of hard green goop from the hole in the snow where Uncle Jake’s head fell. I told him I was sorry for stepping on his head cause I couldn’t stop running fast enough. When I rolled him over he just closed his eyes and went to sleep like he does on the couch after he drinks 24 cans of beer.

The deputy said the face looked just like Uncle Jake being scared. I want to tell the state patrol man about me maybe scaring Uncle Jake from chasing him with the wood ax but the EMT lady grabs my arm and says no. I ask if Mr. Nestor is going to put Uncle Jake in the back of his bright red 2013 Ford F-150 Dog Pound Pickup Truck with the dead skunks. Isbeth laughs and so I tell her about the jay harping at Harper’s cabin and she laughs again. Isbeth gives me a big hug and tells me she has to go to the hospital and asks the EMT lady if I can go with her.

The deputy showed the green scared face to the state patrol man and said look at those crow’s feet in the snow. I look as we walk past and I still only see sparrow footprints. And mine.


Deven D Atkinson is a computer programmer living in rural Southern Ohio.


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 average 3.8 stars • 32 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • S Conroy

    I thought I was going a bit lu-lah, but we do actually have 2 stories on 18th. Extra Christmas present or system acting funny? Look forward to reading eitherways.

    • Carl Steiger

      Extra Christmas present! (I joined the EDF group on Facebook and got advance notice.)

    • Camille Gooderham Campbell

      Extra Christmas present! It’s our first ever DOUBLE FEATURE! There will be another later this month too (not saying when).

  • Lisa Walpole Finch

    I especially love the pov here. It allows the reader to piece it all together. Nice.

  • Michael Stang

    Not an entertaining read for me, but an interesting way of telling a story. Had some difficulty with the tense.

  • MPmcgurty

    I’m going to be so sorry for asking this but what is crow’s feet in the snow supposed to be? I realize his footprints are there, but what am I missing?

    • Paul A. Freeman

      I assume Uncle Jake fell headfirst into the snow and for some reason the police have made a detailed death mask (with the green gloop)of the face, crow’s feet included. I do wonder whether this is feasible, though.

      • S Conroy

        Thanks for that. So the crow’s feet are the wrinkles under his eyes like the mole is the mole on his face. That’s consistent.

    • Michael Stang

      Your not alone there Kemosabe. In fact the whole crow vs sparrow thing was lost on me.

      • Paul A. Freeman

        Yellow Tom’s a cat, though it took me a while to suss that out. The crow/sparrow feet/footprints is the MC’s confusion due to his challenged mental capacity.

        • Ah yes, thank for that – I had him as a child but of course he *used* to be in school and also his teacher has married which suggests he’s now an adult. I’ll read it again now I’m looking at it from a different height 🙂

  • Paul A. Freeman

    At least Isbeth probably got what she wanted for X-mas. By the way, is it possible to drink 24 cans of beer? I think you need to research this over the festive season, Deven.

    • Michael Stang

      I have a friend who is a professional house painter (if that tells you anything) who, when he gets serious, can do this. Experience has taught me to never ever think I can keep up with the likes. Thing is he is as skinny as a rail.

  • S Conroy

    Really enjoyed the read, especially the narrators connection with the animal world. The voice reminded me a lot of the voice of the teenager with aspergus in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night.
    Can someone confirm my understanding that Jake tripped while the boy/man was chasing him with an axe?

    • MPmcgurty

      I got the impression that Jake chased the narrator from the house, but along the way the narrator located the axe in the yard and chased down Jake. It actually was the one time I (probably innapropriately) laughed.

      • S Conroy

        Ok. So that would fit with him finding the axe when he trips near the firewood pile. I found the logistics a bit confusing, because I’d assumed he’d broken down the door with the axe. Or maybe it’s easier than I thought to break down a door with sheer physical strength.
        It’s starting to fall into place though… He chases his uncle. The uncle falls. The narrator is running so fast that he can’t stop, runs right over his uncles head pressing it right down into the snow which is why the crows feet under his eyes and the mole are so clearly imprinted in the snow.

        • MPmcgurty

          Yes to your question.

          Back to stepping on his head…the narrator is either running from Jake or chasing Jake. At what point would the narrator be running that fast AFTER Jake did his faceplant?

          • S Conroy

            Yes to this too. To sort it out for myself, and again it might be forced/unrealistic, I pictured a clumsy guy – I’m not sure if I’m way off or even offensive, but I associated poor coordination with aspergus syndrom – running impossibly fast, almost catching his uncle. His uncle falls and the narrator doesn’t have the deterixty to veer out of the way so ends up trampling him into the snow.

  • MPmcgurty

    First, I want to say I enjoyed this. I’m often a critic of writers trying too hard to give their characters a genuine feel with dialect or speech patterns that distract rather than enhance. This was done very well with the omission of commas. By the third or fourth sentence I was already shaping our narrator in my mind. Yes, there’s diminished capacity, but he/she is certainly not stupid. Excellent voice and story.

    I was relieved when I wasn’t the only one to miss the crow’s feet aspect, but I’m having trouble believing it’s a face detail like the mole. What does “in the snow” mean? The deputy says it twice, so I have to believe the narrator is mishearing it, as with a mondegreen (“scuse me while I kiss this guy!”). If not, I’m not as happy with ending, because we already know he or she killed Jake so we’re not surprised that footprints are there. Why would the deputy remark on the crow’s feet twice and say “in the snow”? He even says “in the snow” while he’s holding the green mold.

    Yikes.

    • S Conroy

      Yeh, I wondered too about “in the snow”. It’s a bit of a forced understanding, but I decided that he’s looking at the imprint in the snow while holding the green mould.

  • Chris Antenen

    I just plain liked this story. I had to read it more than once and didn’t mind at all. Writer captured the voice and the thoughts, both past and present, and made it all come together. I’d guess the ending was difficult to write, but it held up as is without any boring explanations.

  • J.C. Towler

    I thought this was well written and was particularly impressed with the deft handling of the narrator. As MP notes, he’s clearly of diminished capacity, and that’s a tough voice with which to tell a story. It does lend itself to some amusing moments, like when the MC wonders if they’re going to put the body in the back of the animal control truck (with the other dead skunks…nicely done). You stay consistent, even as he’s following his own thought process, spinning off of what others around him are saying.

    My only nitpick is trying to figure out why they are taking a cast of the dead man’s face. Casting is usually done to preserve evidence such as footwear, tires, tool marks, etc. for comparison purposes. In this instance, they have the body and there’s nothing an impression is going to tell you that you can’t glean from looking at the original.

  • Very unique story. Kudos to the author for creating the MC and his mental/psychological deficiencies. As others have said, the voice was consistent throughout. I’d originally thought it was some stream-of-consciousness hybrid story, but then I realized that the MC isn’t all there. Not in the sense that most “normal” people are anyway. Brilliant writing to craft this character, in my opinion.

    I too was thrown by the crows feet, why they were casting Jake’s face, and a few logistical problems. But the quality of the writing and the creation of such a unique character (not to mention that the story is told in the voice of that character) far overshadowed my minor critiques.

    One of the best stories I’ve read here in quite a while. Thanks for sharing. 5 stars from me.