A Whooping Crane Sketch by Bernardo Villela


Demented Mother’s Day Challenge Honorable Mention


Eight-year-old Bishop Crane lies on his stomach sketching a bird that is his namesake. The whole crane family has fascinated him since he learned about them.

“Bishop…” he heard his mother say in a soft, plaintive voice that was very unlike her.

He looked up from his drawing and could see into the kitchen, she was staring into the open fridge, desperate.

If she wants a beer, she’d scream her head off.

He glanced back down to his drawing, ignoring the orange glow that tinged the periphery of his vision. He had gotten used to that, though he didn’t know what it meant.

He heard the familiar crack and fizz of a can opening seconds later. She had beer.

“Bishop,” he heard again. “It wasn’t until you came that I realized I was never meant to be a mother, ain’t that a bitch?”

His head snapped up, shock in his eyes, prepared to sass back. He was already frequently told “You don’t speak to your mother that way.” This was made more difficult by her language and lack of filter, or what Bishop thought of as her lack of filter until now.

How could she say that? How could she say it out loud? To me?

Again he spied her, she sat at the kitchen table slurping from her can and didn’t seem as if she knew he was there, much less had just finished talking to him.

Bishop wanted to watch her. Maybe she was talking to herself.

Maybe she’s really drunk.

He grabbed a blue crayon to lightly fill in the sky behind his bird, it was something he could do while only half-watching the paper.

At the table, she popped open another can. Bishop hadn’t realized she’d brought over two. The empty sat next to the newly opened one. She lifted it and was chugging.

The orange glow flared, its intensity refused to be ignored, forcing Bishop to contemplate it and its meaning.

Her voice came anew.

“When it was your father, Jesse and me, shit, I fooled myself. Thought it was easy. Even before they left, you changed that.”

The glow now made it look like his mother was blocking the setting sun.

He heard her voice loud and clear. Her lips never moved.

It happened differently than it did in comics and movies, but he knew what it was now.

Before when the orange glow came, he’d also heard things, but thought it was idle conversation he didn’t care about. He didn’t focus on it.

She cracked another can.

“Look at him,” she thought staring at Bishop, who quickly made to get a black marker and returned to his drawing. “Not only did he make me realize I should never have kids, but I can’t fucking stand him.”

A tear rolled down Bishop’s cheek, but he kept quiet. He would not let his mother know; not that he was crying; not that he knew she hated him; not that he could read minds.

He would learn to control his curse and make it a gift.

Revenge would be his.

He wiped the tear on his shirt surreptitiously when she looked away from him. He saw his sky was only halfway colored in. He took his pencil and sketched a whooping crane in flight.


Bernardo Villela has published a novella The Isle of Helyr, and three short story collections, The Bloodmaster Trilogy and Teenage Death Songs, Vols. 1 & 2; and has short fiction included in Coffin Bell Journal, The Dark Corner Zine, 101 Proof Horror, A Monster Told Me Bedtime Stories, Page & SpineConstraint 280 and forthcoming in 42 Stories Anthology and Rivet. You can read more about these and various other pursuits at www.miller-villela.com

Published 5/6/21

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