by J. Bradley

Comet flies out of his birdcage and into a wall. My stepdad Jake gets up from the dinner table to check on Comet. Mom asks what’s wrong as Jake picks Comet up from the carpet and puts him back in his birdcage. “Nothing,” he says. Comet paces side-to-side slower than usual. His cheepcheepcheep sounds more like chup…ch-ep…ch-up. 

“Is Comet gonna be okay?” I ask, making sure Mom can hear my concern over the dishes she’s washing. 

“Call me ‘Dad,’” Jake says. 

“Is Comet gonna be okay?” 

“I’ll answer that when you call me ‘Dad.’” 

I walk my dirty plate over to the kitchen sink and go to the half of the bedroom I don’t have to share with my little sister, Jean. 


When I get home from school the next day, I walk in on Jake smoking one of his Parliaments at the dinner table, his fingers drumming on a shoebox. I look over at Comet’s birdcage and it’s empty. Jake hands me the shoebox while he grabs the shovel leaning against the same wall that Comet flew into. “Come with me,” Jake says. I follow Jake out the sliding glass door. He perches the shovel between his shoulder blades as we walk around our apartment complex. “Where’s the best place to bury it?” I stop after he calls Comet an “it.” Jake finally figures out I stopped following him when he can’t hear my Keds scuffing the sidewalk. “What’s wrong now?” Jake doesn’t bother turning around to ask. 


Comet was the first thing Jake bribed me and Jean with when Mom brought him home for the first time. Jake said he had something for us, and he took the black blanket off the birdcage to reveal bright yellow and green parakeet. The bird danced left and right, side to side, cheep-cheeped something that sounded like he was happy to meet us, too. Jean cooed and pointed at the dancing, singing parakeet. “Does it have a name?” I asked. 

“Not yet,” Jake said. 

“Hi, Comet,” I said to the parakeet. “I’m Bobby.” I stuck my finger through the bars and Comet nuzzled it. 

Jake moved in a month later. My Mom went from being Ms. to Mrs. again a year after that, but me and Jean kept the only thing our dad left to us: our last name. 


I stop Jake from taking the shovel to the sandbox that’s part of our apartment complex’s playground. “Would you want Jean to find the body?” I ask. As much as she bugs me, Jean doesn’t deserve to find whatever’s left of Comet like that. 

“I guess you’re right,” Jake says. “Got a better place to bury Comet?” 

I take Jake over to a spot where me and Paul used to hang out before he decided to stop being my best friend. He said he couldn’t hang out at my house anymore because he couldn’t breathe when he was around Comet, and I asked him what kind of weirdo couldn’t breathe around a bird. He answered by punching me in the mouth. Jake digs while I stand watch to make sure no one stumbles onto what we’re doing. Jake grunts and grunts and grunts. He stops grunting and I hear his lighter flick flick flick until I smell a freshly lit Parliament. “Go ahead and drop him in.” 

I walk over to the hole Jake dug and gently place the shoebox in the hole. I wonder what I did to make Comet fly into a wall, whether I didn’t feed him enough or talk to him enough. The shoebox blurs as my snot and tears fall on the lid. Jake kneels and hugs me, says everything’s gonna be okay, and I hug him back. I stop crying when I think of the ghost of Comet flying around while Paul and his new friends are here, what Paul’s face would look like when his body becomes Comet’s birdcage for a minute.

J. Bradley is the author of The Adventures of Jesus Christ, Boy Detective (Pelekinesis, 2016) and the Yelp review prose poem collection Pick How You Will Revise A Memory (Robocup Press, 2016). He lives at jbradleywrites.com.
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