Gill sat in his rolling leather chair and leaned against his sturdy desk late in the night; perhaps early in the morning would be a more accurate assertion. The sun had long since ebbed beneath the horizon, and Gill’s drooping eyes gave way to a somber darkness reflective of the blackened window to his right. The only light came from the wide-open laptop on the desk, illuminating his hunched over body and drooping flesh. The computer screen brought false emotion upon his otherwise tense and expressionless face, giving apparent definition to his features, wizened with wrinkles by day. The shadows on each side of his lips showed a frown even more intense than was already present, hyperbolizing his expression. He had sat at his large study desk since arriving home from work the evening before to the shouting of his two daughters and frustrated condemnations of his wife, first directed toward the girls and then toward him for taking too long to arrive home and leaving her to deal with the arguing. He couldn’t stand it. The household was always replete with noise, and Gill didn’t wish to deal with it. Ever. He had angrily retreated to his study for the remainder of the evening and attempted to catch up on his work, but his efforts had been unsuccessful with the continuous shouting and yelling. The noise only ended when his wife and kids had retired to bed. He hated the noise. He wanted it all to end. A typical Monday, he thought to himself. Or Tuesday. Or Wednesday. Or Thursday. Or Frid…….
“SHUT UP STUPID!”
Gill jumped up from his hunched position and fell to the floor as his chair rolled backward in accordance with his sudden motion.
“Damn!” he shouted. “What in the hell?”
The exclamation had come from within the house and sounded like more of a shriek than it did a yell. He figured his daughters must have been awake and arguing as they did incessantly, and so he walked over to each of their bedrooms and peered in. Both girls were fast asleep. Perplexed and frustrated from fatigue, Gill began walking back toward his office, concluding that he had merely dozed off and fallen under the influence of a vivid dream. No sooner had he reached his study and sat down again at his chair when he heard it again.
“SHUT UP STUPID!!” The voice was clearer this time and most certainly within the walls of the house. It sounded as if it had come from the living room, only a couple of rooms over from the office.
Much more alert and anxious now, Gill aimlessly shuffled in one of his desk drawers and pulled out a small revolver. He carefully sneaked through the hallway toward the living room, pausing once he reached the closed door. He stopped suddenly, holding his breath, and then flung open the door with the revolver poised in front of his chest.
“Squawk! Shut up stupid.” Gill lowered his gun in immediate disgust, anger once again replacing his brief bout of fear. In a large cage by the sofa a few feet in front of him perched his daughters’ parrot, Richard. How could he have failed to recognize the imitative squawking of Richard, who had been repeating a favorite phrase of his older daughter, Mindy. His younger daughter, Matilda, had begun to adopt the phrase herself and used it right back against her sister often. Now the damned bird was using the phrase.
“Shut up yourself, you stupid bird,” muttered Gill, narrowing his eyes and lowering his head to the level of Richard’s.
“You never help out,” shrieked Richard. “You never help out, squawk.”
Exhausted and growing more frustrated by the second, Gill banged the cage violently, sending Richard into a flurry of shrill cries. By now the night was coming to an end, and the sun began to rise through the tall glass windows at the other side of the living room.
“Stupid bird. I never help out you say? Well I decide whether you stay or go, so maybe I could help us all out a bit and get rid of a little unnecessary noise. What do you think of that?”
Richard flicked his head from side to side as if in defiance. “Shut up stupid. Squawk! You never help out.”
In an instant of fury, Gill knocked the cage to the ground, and it landed with a heavy crash, sending the bird flapping and shrieking.
Gill’s wife and daughters, awoken by the violent commotion, appeared at the doorway to see Gill picking up the cage by the handle and heading toward the doorway leading onto the back porch of the house.
“Daddy? What are you doing? Where are you taking Richard?” Matilda rubbed her moistening eyes, looking first at Richard, then at her aggravated father, and finally at the revolver he gripped firmly in his hand. She, Mindy, and their mother were alarmed by the vigor and intensity of Gill’s actions. He was not himself. He opened the door and walked outside.
“Honey, what’s wrong? What are you doing?” Gill’s wife tried to sooth him but was unable to hide the nervousness in her voice. “Gill, stop. Let’s talk if you need to talk.”
Gill did not hear. He would not hear.
“Don’t do anything to Richard, Daddy, please don’t!” cried Matilda. Mindy wrapped her arm around her sobbing sister as they all followed Gill outside. Gill had walked onto the wet grass, which glistened as the sun struck each and every new dew droplet. The girls stopped on the porch, watching as Gill proceeded to open the cage. Richard, frightened from all of the commotion, quickly flew to a redbud tree several feet away and perched on a low hanging branch.
“You think I don’t do anything, eh? You think I never help out around here? You think I’m not important to this family?” Gritting his teeth, Gill looked directly at Richard, but spoke loudly, as if to everyone. “Well I’ll show you. I’ll show you alright!” Gill raised the revolver up and aimed it straight at the parrot, perching low on the chest-level branch.
“Please, Gill, think about what you’re doing. Think about the girls,” his wife pleaded from the porch. Matilda and Mindy were now both weeping uncontrollably.
“All I want is silence! For just a second, a minute even. I want silence. I NEED silence!”
“No daddy no! Please don’t kill Richard. Please!” Matilda moaned. He did not hear. He could not think. Long-stored anger replaced all reason.
“Squawk! No daddy, please don’t kill Richard,” the parrot repeated. Richard glared at Gill, his small black eyes drooping below his fluffy green forehead. The parrot’s stare was stern, as if in warning more than fear. This infuriated Gill all the more. How dare the bird challenge him! Gill narrowed his own dark eyes and took one step closer to the branch.
“Nooooo!” Matilda had leapt from the porch, arms out and wide.
Gill could not hear the wailing of Matilda growing louder and louder, her sobs closing in. He could not hear the overwhelmed screams of Mindy and his wife back by the house. Gill shut his eyes and applied a ferocious pressure to the trigger. “Squawk! Stupi-”
The gunshot popped through the air with a thrilling intensity. Gill’s ears were ringing as he kept his eyes closed tight. Beyond the ringing of his ears he faintly heard the violent flapping of wings. Opening his eyes slowly, Gill saw Richard flying away, the audible flutter of the parrot’s wings fading as he disappeared into the sky.
Gill’s eyes and mouth opened wide. The anger that had overtaken his mind was replaced with a sudden deep astonishment, a level of emotion beyond his own perception. The revolver fell from his hand to the moist ground. It hit the dewy grass hard. Everything was completely quiet. At the porch, Mindy and her mother were crouched on their knees in utter anguish and shock, in silence. The ringing in Gill’s ears from the gunshot had given way to a nothingness, to silence. A few yards in front of Gill, inches away from where the bullet had struck Richard’s branch, Matilda stared back at her father in paralyzed fear. Everywhere, silence.