Night fell and the Bullocks were lying under the stars, which was ironic, since they were inside their house. There was a hole in the roof large enough for a person to crawl through.
Maggie was sound asleep. She was an accomplished fidgeter. Every few minutes, she contorted herself into a new position, which usually ended up with Martha get whacked in the nose or Bullock taking a tiny foot to the face.
They didn’t mind because it was their little one. Plus, sleep evaded them. An owl perched himself on the roof and made sure of it.
Bullock had recounted his meeting with the town fathers to Martha earlier in the evening. The discussion turned into a blow out fight. They’d been quiet for hours until finally Martha addressed the issue once more.
“It’s out of the question.”
“It’s just for a year,” Bullock said.
“A lot can happen in a year,” Martha replied.
“Yes,” Bullock said. “As in I save up a lot of money so I can buy some land and build a home on the outskirts of town – far, far away from all of these people.”
“Or you get shot,” Martha said. “Again. Only this time you’re not as lucky.”
“Make up your mind, woman,” Bullock said. “First you hate this place and are sore at me for bringing you here. Now you don’t want me to take a chance that could fix it.”
“I can learn to…”
The owl interrupted. “Hoo…hoo…”
“…get used to this place. But I don’t want to learn to get along without you.”
Bullock grinned. Then he was bonked upside the head by Maggie’s foot again. But then his grin continued.
“Come on, girl,” Bullock said as he put his arm around his wife. “You know you can’t get rid of me that easy.”
“I bet I could shoot it,” Bullock said.
Martha fought against her desire to be mad and laughed. “You could not.”
“I bet you I could,” Bullock said. “Right between its beady eyes.”
“You!” Bullock shouted up at the ceiling, which only exacerbated Martha’s laughter. “You, you glorified pillow stuffing!”
Bullock reached down to the floor, picked up his boot, and tossed it high, right up at the roof. It made a thud sound as it hit the ceiling before it fell to the floor again. There was a ruffling of feathers and then…blissful silence.
“Did you get it?” Martha asked.
In their exhaustion, both Bullocks found this to be hysterical. Someone else did not.
The Bullocks’ elderly neighbor with the stomach problem livened things up with some gun fire.
“Shut the fuck up, bird!” the old man yelled.
More gun shots until finally the owl screeched and flew away.
“You folks all right over there?” the old man asked.
Bullock and Martha looked at each other, trying their best not to laugh until Bullock shouted, “Yup!”
“I didn’t get any of you, did I?” the old man asked.
“Nope!” Bullock shouted. “We’re fine.”
A few moments of quiet followed by, “Name’s Chester by the way.”
“Thanks Chester!” Bullock shouted. “Goodnight!”
“Goodnight, neighbor!” Chester yelled back.
After the hysterics died down, Bullock stroked Martha’s hair. “What was I thinking? We can stay here forever.”
“We can stay anywhere forever as long as it keeps you alive,” Martha said.
Quite abruptly, Maggie repositioned herself upright, socking both parents in the face with her hands in the process as she splayed out and made herself comfortable.
Bullock squeezed his daughter’s hand.
“Then again,” Bullock said. “If one year is what it takes to give this little girl a nice yard to play in…”
Martha’s good mood turned sour fast. “Do what you want.”
“I hate to say it but I expect I will,” Bullock replied.
Martha rolled over and turned her back to her husband. “I don’t know that I’ll wait for you the next time…”
“The next time, what?” Bullock asked.
“The next time you do some fool thing that makes bad men chase out of our home in the middle of the night,” Martha said.
“Oh,” Bullock said as he closed his eyes. “Nope. You should definitely not wait if it comes to that.”