Stik Mann

The Sacrifice

It is a cloudy, unseasonably warm, Sunday afternoon. I am sitting alone at a table on the patio behind my favorite espresso joint, sipping a double mocha, and reading yesterday's news.

I hear a strange buzzing, which grows louder and louder. I soon realize that a large fly--the first I've seen this season--has taken a particular interest in my ear. It hovers around to within inches of my face, then flies away, only to return with aggressive dive-bombing maneuvers. I swat it away, but still it returns.

An older couple at another table notices my plight. The old man whispers something to his wife and nods in my direction. I smile and they smile back. They are smartly dressed. A notebook and a well-used bible sit on the table between them. They have obviously just come from church.

Suddenly, there is a commotion in the alley. A scraggly-looking teen in an oversized, black T-shirt staggers from around the corner of the building and catches his balance, having been pushed by another equally scraggly, similarly dressed companion. They laugh and shout obscenities at each other. When they see that the older couple and I are watching, they stop and glare at us, then walk toward us in a slow but aggressive manner.

I turn back to my newspaper, hoping to avoid a confrontation. From the corner of my eye I see that the old man has also turned away, and has taken hold of his wife's hand. But his wife has not turned away; she stares at the pair, her eyes wide and black and still.

The teens walk up to within a few feet of us and I hear the woman gasp. I look up. Printed on one of the teens' T-shirts is an image of a nun masturbating, an evil smile on her lips. They both force overly dramatic, wicked laughs. The one kid grabs the other in the nun shirt and swings him around. Printed on the back of the shirt, in large bold white letters are the words JESUS IS A CUNT.

I look over to the older couple. The old man makes a strange sound and stands abruptly, causing his plastic chair to fall over backwards. The teens look over to him, or rather, up to him, because suddenly he is very, very tall. I am nearly as surprised by this revelation of his height as I am shocked by the kid's T-shirt. I look up at his head, nearly poking into the clouds. There is much in his eyes: sternness, confusion, incredulity, anger, sorrow. He casts these eyes down at the teens. He says nothing.

One teen slaps the other on the chest and they laugh nervously and walk off, disappearing into the alley.

Suddenly, we are all startled by a flash of blue and a loud, sickeningly dull thud as a bird smashes into a window just a few feet away from me. A crumpled, feathered mass slides down the pane, leaving behind a glistening, red streak. The bird quivers a few times, is still for a moment, then twitches once more, and does not move again.

The old woman shrieks, covers her mouth, and sobs loudly. The old man sits, and once again is the frail old man I suspected. He places his hand on his wife's back and pats gently. He whispers something in her ear.

I walk over to the bird, scoop it up with my newspaper, and carefully wrap it within. I step around the corner and into the alley. The teens are there, talking and laughing, looking my way, as if they are waiting for me. They begin to approach me, then stop when they see that I am walking toward them.

I stop in front of them. I hold up the package before me and slowly unwrap it, revealing the deformed, bloodied creature. It rolls off of the newspaper and falls at their feet. They look down at the dead bird, then up at me.

I silently walk away.