any other name

Janie ran to the phone to call her husband. “Fred, a baby robin fell out of its nest, and I don’t know what to do.”

She’d blurted this out before he’d even had time to say hello, and Fred knew this meant she was all worked up, and what he should do was try and talk her down before things got out of hand. But his boss was standing right behind him, her breathless call had interrupted a heated discussion about a screw-up on a big order for an already impossible to please customer, and he just didn’t have time for one of her episodes this morning.

“Janie, I don’t know the first thing about baby robins and I can’t talk right now. Why don’t you just go back inside, and I’ll see if I can rescue it when I come home for lunch.”

“But Mutt and Geoff are both outside, and I just know they’re going to get it as soon as I shut the door.”

Fred still couldn’t believe he’d let Janie talk him into naming that cat Mutt, and every time she said it, he felt himself wince. Except for when he was in a really good mood, then it made him chuckle a little. But today was definitely a wincing kind of day, and he could see his boss’s reflection in the window separating his office from the warehouse floor, his head cocked his head in Fred’s direction, listening.

“I have to go, honey, I’ll call you back when I get a chance.” And he shut his phone off, quick, before she had a chance to say another word.

“Sorry, Steve, I’m heading down to the floor right now to double-check the status of Paltmeyer’s order. I’ll make sure it’s right this time.”


Janie stared at the phone in her hand, still not believing that Fred had hung up on her like that. But she knew he wouldn’t answer if she called back, he had yelled at her enough times about bugging him at work, and she could tell when he left this morning that it was a grouchy kind of day. Fred had those a lot, and most of the time she just pretended not to notice. It never did any good to mention it anyway, every time she brought it up, he just got grouchier.

She’d left the back door wide open, and could hear the mother robin growing more and more agitated from her perch at the tip of the old white pine, and she looked out to see Geoff belly crawling through the grass, almost close enough to pounce.

“Geoff, no!!” She screamed and ran straight for him, hoping she could put herself between him and the little fledgling, who sat in the grass with his shoulders hunkered down, trying hard to hide himself, and failing.

Geoff turned his big orange head in her direction, and she wagged her finger at him. “Don’t you dare,” she hissed in her meanest kitten mama voice, and he stopped slinking just long enough for her to reach the baby bird, keeping one eye on the cat the whole time.

“Come here, you little monster.” She knew as soon as stepped towards Geoff he would take off running, that was the game he liked to play every night when it was time for the two brothers to come inside.

And she was right, the cat bolted as soon as she made her move, but before her foot even hit the ground, she heard an awful rustling, peeping, screeching sound behind her and turned to see Mutt looking up at her with the baby in his jaws. The mother robin started dive bombing both of them in a frantic attempt to save her baby, and Janie ducked and lunged for the tiger cat all in one motion.

“You little shit, put it down!” But Mutt took off like a shot, down the side yard and across the street into Old Man Waverly’s garden. Still in her slightly see-through nightgown, barefoot, and without even stopping to think, Janie ran right after him, screaming like a banshee and tearing up her legs on the carefully-tended rose bushes circling his house.

Mutt scooted underneath and behind them, and by the time she caught up to him, he was already devouring the tiny bird. She sank down onto the grass, red rose petals strewn all around her, sticking to her legs in the places where blood had started oozing from the scratches.

Dew from the grass soaked right through her nightgown, and she shivered as she sat there whispering, “I’m sorry, Mama, I’m sorry,” again and again and again.

She was still there an hour later when Old Man Waverly came around the corner of the house, pruners in hand.

He reached out and touched Janie’s shoulder, asked if she was alright.


“Fred, you have a call on line three.”

“Christ, Sheila, tell her I can’t come to the phone right now, would you?”

“It’s not Janie, it’s your neighbor, Mrs. Whitcomb. She says you need to get home right away, Mr. Waverly just called the cops on your wife for tearing out three of his rose bushes.”

He sat down at his desk and stared out the window.

“Fred? You still there?”

“Thanks, Sheila. Tell her I’m on my way, okay?”


I’ve signed up for A Story A Day’s May challenge, which is to write a short piece of fiction every day. I don’t think I’ll be posting every day, but I will be writing, and I’ll post whatever seems worthy.
This was a combo of a couple of prompts from the last few days, theme and dialogue.












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