Their son has been eating dead birds.
Birds he finds on the side of the road, in people’s lawns, mauled by neighborhood cats and dogs.
They can’t stop him.
They’ve brought him to doctors and psychiatrists but nothing has helped.
They found him last night, in the back garden, surrounded by dead raccoons and rats. Bones and feathers on his face and in his hair.
He had a plastic shopping bag full of birds.
Why, they screamed, why are you eating the birds?
There’s healing in the bones, mommy. The feathers will help me fly away to a better place when you die.
The bag is moving. Wings flutter and spasm.
Their son reached into the bag, pulled out a bird, and bit into its thin neck.
Blood dripped onto his pajamas from his chin.
His parents flew into a rage.
His father vomited and his mother stared in cold disbelief.
I love you, but I can’t stop it from happening. This is the only way. The birds told me so. They tell me lots of things you don’t want to know.
The parents held hands and backed away slowly.
They went back into their house and locked the door.
Turned the light in the back garden out.
They left their son to his bones and feathers and blood.
I know, the boy says, they don’t understand anything. No adults understand. But I’ll be free and safe and with all my friends.
A bird squawks in response from the plastic bag.