Year 6: “What are you doing, kid?” John’s dad had gotten in the habit of calling him “kid” instead of his name for a long time now. He picked at the tobacco from the can on his lap, managing to pull at the stems and begrudge John all at the same time. His fingertips were stained a dirty yellow and always smelled sweetly sour. 

John was very busy at the end of the driveway, his back to the house. He didn’t even lift his head in acknowledgment. 

“I said, what are you doing?”

John’s head lifted just slow enough to annoy his father. He managed to turn so that what lay in front of him was hidden. “Nothin’.”

“Do I need to come over there?” It was an empty threat. John knew his dad had no intention of leaving his rocking chair. He grunted once and then turned his attention to the rolling of cigarettes. It was an art making them straight and even.

John was too busy to watch his father now though. Earlier in the morning, he had heard a squawking beside his bedroom window. It was still dark, but John was in the habit of sleeping with a flashlight. He wound the crank that would turn it on and made his way through the house, swishing the light back and forth across the walls. His dad’s snores came steadily and masked any sound John made on the creaky floor boards. He found a baby bird at the end of the noise. 

Since then, John hadn’t let it out of his sight.