Casey Hannan is an on-again-off-again museum guard protecting/not protecting the art of Kansas City. In his off time, he writes stories and crochets harpies. His work has appeared in Staccato Fiction and Necessary Fiction. He says some things at casey-hannan.com.
Call it the gun in my waistband, but I feel good. It’s the visible lack of birds, I think, over the produce section. I hate when birds come indoors. Reason number one for bringing the gun. Some things aren’t worth the trouble, but then, like birds hiding in the grocery store, some things are.
I grab a white-splattered apple and poke at the chalky residue. In the center of the mess, there’s a crumpled pillar of ashy shit that flakes under my finger like a spent cigarette. They’ve been here. Birds.
I pocket the apple to get security watching me on the cameras. Reason number two for bringing the gun requires an audience or I’ll feel cheated.
Behind me, in the bakery section, a girl with a dog in her cart is freaking out over stale bread samples. The baker’s saying, “Those are croutons, ma’am. That’s how they are.” The dog is barking. The girl is knocking croutons on the floor. I hear the littlest flap of wings like cards shuffled in a closet.
I struggle to keep the gun where it is, like a pervert might struggle with opening the trench coat before it’s time. I take a handful of the croutons and drop them one by one behind me as I make my way to the soda aisle. People watch and that’s good.
There are walls of plastic soda bottles like you wouldn’t believe. I imagine they’ll throw them all out when I’m finished. You never know where things end up after a catastrophe. People will try to claim the bottles as trophies. They’ll drink from them and mistake the rush of caffeine for a genuine connection.
The first of the hidden birds rounds the endcap, picking at the trail of croutons. I can’t keep the gun where it is anymore. I pull it out and wonder at its weight. I look in the barrel and pull the trigger, skipping the parts of my plan that were just for fun. Reason number two before reason number one.
Bottles explode. Grape soda tickles my eyes. In the purple dark, an audience of birds is anxious to show me where they’ve been hiding all this time. They pick at my face, one by one, and take me to places you will never find.