The Killdeer

November 6, 2008
The long, slender form of Ms. Joyce's pointer cracked unevenly on the board.

'The killdeer,' she started, 'is a peculiar bird. It resides in North America, mostly in the continental US, but it also goes into Canada and South America during the migration seasons.'

My head slumped down on my arm, gradually getting lower until I jerked back up, only to repeat the process over again. Biology bored me to death. Not only would it never help me in my life, but it also had some of the most stupid topics.

'It is relatively easy to identify a killdeer in the wild,' Ms. Joyce continued, 'Most of the bird's body is brown, however the underbelly, the throat, and parts of the face are white. The back feather tails of the bird are a bright orange.'

I sighed. Despite school being so boring, I did not want to go home. Biology was my seventh period class, and school was going way too fast. Today was Tuesday, and my dad would be coming home drunk after a long day with his friends. Hopefully he had done well at the slots. Otherwise, he would probably be in the mood for a beating. I shivered.

'Henry!' I snapped out of my daydream at the sound of my name.

'Yes, Ms. Joyce?' I made the most innocent face that I could muster.

'Can you tell me what makes the killdeer such an interesting animal?'

I was completely blank.
'Uh'' I scanned my brain, trying to think of anything that I might have subconsciously heard. 'Is it because it has a large head?' I asked dumbly, knowing that my answer was wrong the moment that it left my mouth. The class erupted into laughter at my answer, and I slid further down into my seat.

'Were you paying attention to anything I said Henry?' She glared down at me.

'Yes ma'am I was!' I exclaimed. 'Just maybe not that last part.'

She turned away from me and addressed the class once again.

'The killdeer is an interesting animal because of what it does when its chicks are put into a dangerous situation. Because the killdeer nests on the ground, the mothers have developed a most intriguing habit.' She paused for a breath. 'When a predator comes upon a killdeer nest, the mother will pretend that she has an injury, and try to run away. The predator, seeing it as easy prey, follows the 'injured' bird. The mother killdeer will lead the predator farther and farther away from the nest, risking its own safety in order to save the chicks.'

'What a stupid bird,' I muttered under my breath. 'I bet that they die all the time.'

The bell rang. The three horrible chimes that meant I would have to return home to my family. My family hadn't always been so bad. Things used to actually be quite nice. My mother was the sweetest woman I knew, and even my dad and sister weren't bad back then. I remember that my mom used to take us on long car rides or walks through the park. Sometimes she just sat down and talked to us for hours, asking about how we were and what we were doing in school and anything else that she could think of. Dad used to take us to the movies on Saturday nights. He showed us the best movie there was and bought us a huge bag of popcorn.

But all of that changed when we found out about the affair. My father found out that my mom had been seeing another man. A short while later, my parents divorced. My dad won custody over us, and that was the last time that I saw my mom. Now things are worse than ever. My dad is drunk half the time, and if he doesn't do well in the slots, which is often, he takes it out on me. I'm not sure if he even has a real job. The little money that he does earn from gambling, he usually spends on beer or medicine, for his damaged heart, barely able to pump enough blood to keep him alive because of the amount of alcohol he consumes.

Jane was late picking me up again. Jane, my older sister, is in eleventh grade, and goes to the high school. She doesn't like me very much, and I'm not too fond of her either. She yells at me all the time for almost no reason, and sometimes if she's in a bad mood, she doesn't even pick me up from school, and I have to walk home. Jane has a bookshelf in her room that is off limits at all times. Once, she caught me in her room, messing around with her bookshelf. I was shoved out of her room with a flurry of bad words, and then received a swift kick to the behind shortly followed by the door being slammed at my back. Her prized possession is probably her worn out copy of Romeo and Juliet, which I'm sure she has read at least two dozen times. Unfortunately, I've never even touched it, because it lies at the top of the bookshelf, safely out of my reach.

'What took you so long?' I said as I hopped into the back seat.

'I had more important things to do,' she said somewhat angrily. 'You're lucky I even picked you up at all.' I shut up after she said that.

As I gazed out the window, I thought of what would probably happen when I got home. My sister would probably lock herself in her room like she always did, and I would be stuck to face my dad alone. I closed my eyes tight and hoped my sister would take the long way home.

The events that followed weren't much different from what I had predicted. The only thing that was different was that the beating was worse than usual. It started out with my dad sitting on the couch with a beer in one hand, his steady gaze following me everywhere I went. Then, out of nowhere, he started screaming at me.

'Shut up boy!' he ranted. 'It's your fault that woman left me!' His routine usually included blaming me for whatever was wrong in his life. Still yelling, he picked up a nearby chair and started towards me. I tried to run away, but he had me cornered. As the chair rose above his head, my body tensed, preparing itself for the blows to come.

The bruised form of my body lay limply in my bed that night. I sighed. Even though the beating was bad, it hadn't been the worst. Once, when he struck me in the face, the whole left side of my head had become swollen. He told me to say that my sister and I were playing baseball and I had been hit in the head with the bat if anyone asked what happened to me, and that if I told anyone what really happened, he would kill me.

I didn't sleep for long. I was awoken in the middle of the night to the sounds of my sister groaning and vomiting in the bathroom. She sounded like she was in a lot of pain.
'It's about time,' I mumbled. Dad never beat her. He even treated her nicely sometimes, and it seemed like she never had to deal with any pain. She was finally getting what she deserved.
The next morning, Jane was still sick.
'Go to school boy.' My dad said when I walked into the room. He almost never called me by my real name.
'But Jane is my ride to school!' I complained.
'I don't care where you go, just get out of my house!' he snapped back at me.
I ran out of the house, afraid of what he might do to me if I stayed. I tried to get to school as fast as I could, but I was still late. I showed up in the middle of third period. When the teacher asked me why I was late, I said that our car had broken down.
Despite my sister being sick, the week went on normally. I was almost happy Jane couldn't take me to school because it gave me a reason to leave the house earlier, and to get home later, which meant less time for my dad to beat me. Once, I tried being nice to her, and I asked her if I could do anything to help her. She replied that the only thing I could do to help her was to get my ugly face out of her room.
However, things changed by the end of the week. Jane's condition had worsened. She was losing weight fast. Her eyes sunk into her head and her skin paled drastically. She barely had enough energy to get up and get a book off the shelf in her room, and she couldn't hold down hardly any food.
Even though Jane was sick, she wasn't any nicer to me. In fact, I think that she may have even been even meaner. She was constantly grumpy, and she yelled at me for things like not heating her soup up to the right temperature.
Finally, Dad decided to take her to the doctor. We lived in a small town and the doctor in our town was completely baffled, and couldn't help us at all, so he recommended that we take Jane to the hospital in the big city near our town, about a fifteen minute drive from there.

On the slow drive to the hospital, I noticed some things about Jane that I hadn't noticed before. For instance, her breathing; each breath was painful and shallow, like she didn't have enough energy to take in the air. Also, her ankles and legs were swollen and purple, I had no idea why. I still didn't feel any sympathy towards her though. She was laying down in the back and had me squished onto the door, and she kept complaining that she didn't have enough room, and every time she said that my dad would yell at me, and then she would kick me hard in the thigh.

The time in the waiting room wasn't much better. The time I spent alone with my dad was unbearable. He glared down at me, looking at me the same way he would look at a bug that he was about to smash under his shoe. I knew eventually the blame for Jane's sickness would fall on me. It was only a matter of time.

When the doctor finally came out, I was itching to leave. He looked down at us with a look that made it appear that he was trying to be sympathetic.

'I'm afraid I have bad news sir,' he started, 'it seems that your daughter has a rare disease called Amyloidosis. This disease causes the kidney to stop working, and eventually, the unfiltered toxins traveling through her blood will kill her. We found out too late, the toxins in her body are too wide spread. She could die any day. I'm so sorry sir.'

My dad's face didn't even flinch, and the doctor continued.

'We can give her some medication so that she won't feel much pain in her final days, but that's about all we can do for her.'

Dad's face still didn't change. All he did was nod once.

The doctor looked down at my dad, and feeling bold he asked, 'Sir, we were wondering if you would give us permission to examine your daughter's body after she has passed in order to see if we can learn more about the disease. If you agree, the hospital has already decided that it will pay for some of your daughter's medical bills.'

I was disgusted by the flash that I saw in my dad's eyes. He looked up and said, 'Of course you can. I would hate for any other family to go through what we're having to go through.' With this he put his arm around me as if to comfort me. I shook it off. I knew that he was lying. All he cared about was saving a few bucks.

'Well,' the doctor said, 'I guess I'll go tell them. We will give you the medication, and you and your daughter are free to go.' And with that, he left.

They wheeled Jane out in a chair, looking more fragile than ever. But when I looked at her, I was surprised at what I felt, or more, what I didn't feel. I felt nothing. No sorrow, no sympathy, nothing for the crumpled form being wheeled out of the hospital to our car. That was when I realized that I truly despised my sister. She had always been so cruel to me, and I had never done anything to her. I finally found all the suppressed rage I had held on to for so long against her, and I nearly laughed out loud. She was finally getting her just desserts.

I spent the next few days taking care of her, despite how much I disliked it. I did everything from feeding her to dressing her, and not once did I ever hear a thank you. The only thing I didn't do was give her the pain medicine. I had asked my dad if he wanted me to do that, and he told me I was stupid to even ask, and proceeded to slap me across the face three times. He had 'experience with medicine' because he had been taking heart medication for all these years. So I let my father take care of medicating her.

She lived longer than we expected. It was almost a week before she died. The doctors said we were lucky to even have her that long. I wasn't surprised when my dad said we weren't going to have a funeral, but we were just going to have her cremated and dump the ashes somewhere. That was the cheapest way of doing things. But we never got that far. Two days after we gave her body to the hospital for examination, my life changed dramatically.

We received a letter from the hospital, and I opened it up and read it. It explained that when examining Jane's body, the doctors had found something out of the ordinary, something they weren't expecting. Jane hadn't died because of Amyloidosis. Yes, she had the disease, but the cause of death wasn't the disease itself. Jane had died because her kidneys had stopped working, in part because of Amyloidosis, but the thing that had actually caused her death was being poisoned from a drug called enalapril. Enalapril was a medication with the nasty side effect to the kidneys. Only, Jane hadn't been prescribed any enalapril, for enalapril was a heart medication. When I finished the letter, I dashed to the bathroom and grabbed my dad's heart medication off of the counter. It was enalapril. He had poisoned her. I looked up to see my dad standing in the doorway of the bathroom. My heart was pounding so loudly I thought it would fly out of my chest.

'What are you doing?' he asked me.

'Nothing,' I replied back as smoothly as possible. I prayed that he hadn't seen the letter yet.

'I need to use the bathroom boy,' he seemed a little agitated, but not more than usual. 'Get out of my way.'

'Y-y-yes sir!' I stuttered. I ran out of the bathroom at a full sprint. I snatched the letter off of the counter and ripped it into a hundred pieces, and threw them away. I knew it was only a matter of time before someone on the outside figured out what had really happened.

Three days later, my prayers were answered. The police showed up at my front door, and led my dad away in handcuffs.

Things kept getting better. A week later, a day before my dad's trial, my mom showed up.

'Henry!' my mother shouted. 'Oh Henry my sweet boy I've missed you so much!'

'I missed you too Mom.' I cried into her shoulder and held her tighter than anyone I had ever held. I was so happy to see her.

'I have good news Henry,' my mother told me, 'after what happened, the judge gave me back custody of you. You won't be living with your father anymore Henry, you're coming to live with me!' I buried my face in her shoulder again, unable to contain my joy.

My mother and I both stayed for my dad's trial. When the jury found my father guilty, I stared ahead, dumbfounded. It was unbelievable how much my situation had changed. In just a few months, the two people that I despised the most were gone, and I would be spending the rest of my life with the person that I loved most in this world.

My mom gave me three days to pack all my stuff up from my dad's house. I finished on the morning of the third day. Mother was in the kitchen fixing something to eat, and she thought I was still packing.
Suddenly, an idea occurred to me. I opened the creaky door and slid into the dust covered room that used to belong to my sister. It was time for my revenge. I gazed up at the top of the tall bookshelf, and my eyes settled on the beaten up copy of Romeo and Juliet that my sister had read so much. A vindictive smile spread across my face. I climbed up the bookshelf, and not until my hand grasped firmly onto the book did I slide back down. I took pleasure in the crackling sound the cover made when I slowly opened it. I took hold of the first thirty pages, and when I was sure I had a secure grip, I yanked with all my might, focusing all the hate that I had for my sister into the ripping of the pages of the thing she treasured most. Immediately, a dozen white balls flew out of the book and spilled out onto the floor. I gazed at them with mild curiosity. I looked back at the book. In the middle of the book, a small section of the pages had been cut out to form a hole. There were more of the white balls in the hole. I drew in a sharp breath when I realized what they were. They were pills. They were my sister's pills. All of the medication that we thought Jane had been taking for the last week of her life was stored inside the book. As I gazed at the pills, it dawned on me what must have happened.
Jane had known that Dad beat me, and she had actually cared. When she found out she was going to die, she knew that my life would become even worse than it already was if I was left alone with father. So, in order to protect me, she had killed herself and made it look as if my father had done it. Every day, she would hide the pills she was supposed to be taking in the book, and then she would take one of our dad's pills, which she knew would kill her. Since Dad was in charge of giving her the medication, it would seem like he had just slipped one of his pills in with the rest of her medicine, and without realizing it, Jane had taken the fatal heart medicine with all of her other medication. It was a perfect plan, and it had worked, Jane had successfully framed our dad for murder.
Tears spilled out from my eyes and onto my cheeks. All of this time I had hated my sister, only to find out now that she had died for me. I couldn't believe it.
I sat there sobbing for at least thirty minutes. When I finally collected myself, I realized I had to get rid of all the pills. I went to the bathroom and dumped them down the drain, all the while, silent tears poured out of me. As I watched the pills slide down the slick walls of the sink, I thought of the lecture my biology teacher had given us on the killdeer. Sacrificing itself for the safety of those it cared about. I remembered what I had said that day:
'Stupid bird, I bet they die all the time'
And as the last pill rolled silently into the darkness of the drain, I muttered, 'Just like Jane.'

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nettaoolaby said...
Mar. 28, 2009 at 2:35 pm
Really enjoyed, liked all the medical info. Story line was good, great twist at the end.
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