About the Writer
Tyler Barton is one half of FEAR NO LIT. His stories have been published in Hobart, Monkeybicycle, NANO Fiction, Smokelong Quarterly, and others. Check his work out at tsbarton.com. Check his jokes out at @goftyler.
Mom loved that eagle cam so bad. She watched it like she watched NASCAR and Seinfeld in the 90s. Two feet from the screen and both hands in a bag of Martins. All day she stayed glued. Mom. Why. It’s birds. There, look. Outside your window. Crow pecking the dog’s turds. You can almost touch ‘em they’re so big. Same speech I gave her all day that winter: Turn it off awhile, I went. Wrong window, I went. You never done a day of homework in your life, she went, so stop interrupting me doing my homework. And I know what she means, but then again no.
But then one Wednesday morning I came over, just off work, and she ain’t there. She ain’t at the TV. She ain’t in bed. I looked out the window to see if she was appreciating what was around her, maybe laying in the crabgrass letting them crows eat suet from her hands or hair or sagging chest, but no. What I’m saying is I don’t know where she was, and that meant she could be anywhere. Like when the remote got swallowed or carried off by the dog and we would sit down on the dirty carpet together like Well... and she’d tell me stories of Dad and Grandpa reliving their service days by shooting the stars off Wheaties boxes lined up along the inflatable pool with the stakes sky high cus if you hit the blue plastic it was all heat all summer. Or how I bit that red Skittle from off the floor of the van and swallowed a chip of my side tooth and she promised me it was still in there, just one of the many little things wrong with me, Haha. And I listened to her talk even though really I gave the remote to the dog. The dog who chewed each single button out of it until he got the batteries and ate them too and died a week later once the acid got itself through all his insides.
What I’m saying is on that weird morning with Mom gone somewhere I sat down on the floor of the house and listened. Heard the background buzz of her TV turned to a cable channel she didn’t get. I reached over, hit HDMI, and there’s her computer screen, the YouTube page. There them birds sit. Around an egg with a hole the size of a tooth’s chip. The big birds perched out around like it was God whispered through the hole. Grey Pennsylvania January above them. Brown Pennsylvania January below. Tree branches like fifty-fingered hands. The birds white-headed and brown-bodied and beaks neon cus Mom always turned the contrast up and I stuck to the floor staring at them until the camera shakes and turns and gives me a kind of headache. But then there’s Mom’s head and the pain stops. Mom’s freaking out face. Her first-place face, all red and hot out of breath like she’s climbing out the driver’s side window in victory lane. And the birds flapping at the sleeves of her Earnhardt shirt, and Mom’s bright blood on their claws. And the lens slips from her hands to her face. Her TV screen turns the pink of her cheek and then the dirt of the woods and the sand of the sky as it flips. Then there’s this giddy sound that is my Mom, I guess, flying away with her eagles who had her.
I ain’t never been more terrified or impressed. And I know cus I been thinking. Studying my failed life. Turning it over. I still got four limbs and all my teeth, really only ever lost a chip. And a tooth is really just a chip of the mouth, and the mouth’s just a chip out the head, the head only half a guy, and a guy will always be a growing chip inside his mother no matter where she went. Cus of course there’s a reward for first place, but it’s a different reward for last, which is that there’s nowhere to go except up. Pretty sure I’m up next.