By Pamela Hill
Another Halloween conquered. Ghostly Jared and Stevie were sitting at the dinner table, drinking red punch and eating fish sticks while their mother, Sandy, studied for a physics exam. Birds in the cage across the room were squawking. Sandy looked up from her book and watched the birds, forgetting about three-dimensional particle dynamics. The mother parakeet seemed agitated as her chicks fluttered around her in the cage.
Jared and Stevie squealed and giggled. Red punch spewed from Jared’s mouth into his salad and macaroni and cheese.
“Bedtime.” Sandy jumped out of her chair. She gave the boys a bath then read Good Night Moon.
“Bathroom,” Jared said.
Sandy sighed, smoothed his sheets and fluffed his pillow while she waited for him. She thought about the physics exam she wasn’t prepared for and yawned. She had to study or she’d never pass that test. She’d have her degree soon.
Jared ran back into the bedroom and jumped on the bed. “I’m thirsty.”
Sandy heard sirens outside and shuddered. "Ask not for whom the bell tolls."
“Mommy, I’m thirsty.”
“I’m going,” she said.
Jared jumped off the bed and followed her to the kitchen. The birds were still squawking. She gave Jared a glass of water and rushed him back to bed.
Stevie started crying and threw up on his blankets. “My stomach hurts.”
She then cleaned the grubby kitchen, made a cup of instant coffee and picked up her physics book. The birds were squawking again. Sandy took the mother bird out of the cage. “You need a break.”
She picked up her physics book and reread the same paragraph. The birds were still squawking, and Sandy looked at the mother bird perched on the curtain and wondered.
She opened the front door, and the mother bird flew away.