THE PROPER NAME FOR KILLING BIRDS • by Gavin Broom

The sparrow flutters and perches on the Mercedes badge at the end of the bonnet. Even though this feels out of the ordinary, I don’t even blink. Up ahead, traffic lights complete their sequence for perhaps the fourth time. The gridlock remains steadfast. Engines idle with their measured drone. Exhaust fumes drift like dry ice. I shut the vents.

“Pt’chyoo!” the little voice behind me says.

I prise my temple from the cold glass of my window and look at Jack, my son, in the rear view mirror, elevated and strapped into the middle of the back seat. Monica thinks he’s old enough at seven not to require his booster chair but I insist. She says it’s demeaning. Jack doesn’t seem to care.

His left eye is scrunched shut, a white crease running across the bridge of his nose. The tip of his tongue peeks from between his lips. His hands are clasped in the shape of a gun and point between the two front seats, through the windscreen towards the bird sitting on the badge.

“Aw, Jack,” I say into the mirror. “You shouldn’t shoot the birdy.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s not nice to kill poor little birdies.”

“Avicide,” he says.

“Excuse me?”

“Avicide, Dad. It’s the killing of birds. Didn’t you know that?”

I frown. “I know what it means, Jack. I’m wondering how you know what it means.”

He shrugs and shuffles irritably in his chair, his index fingers still mimicking the barrel of a pistol. “A-V-I-C-I-D-E. Avicide. Avicide is the killing of birds.” And then, as if to emphasise this, he adds, “Pt’chyoo!” and his hands recoil so that they bump into his chest, his fingertips pointing up to his chin. For the first time, I realise how tightly the straps cross his body and how much his legs spill over the sides of the booster seat, like a frog sitting on a matchbox.

There’s the blast of a horn. An impatient Audi revs behind me. Ahead, cars pull away through the green light, dragging threads of exhaust fume fog behind them. The sparrow on the badge is gone. I can’t stop wondering about the proper name for what else Jack has killed today.


Originally from Central Scotland, Gavin Broom now lives and writes in Michigan, USA. He’s been published over sixty times both online and in print and in a very focused world tour, has read at Dire Literary Series in Boston, MA and Last Monday at Rio in Glasgow, Scotland and MSU Creative Writing Open Mic, East Lansing, MI. He edits fiction for The Waterhouse Review.


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