Milligan looked at the crow and the crow looked tasty.
The crow considered Milligan with one eye and then the other. Things were about to change.
How to throw a brick? There’s a lot to consider: the length of ones arm, the distance involved and if there’s a crosswind; the force behind the brick at its release; the angle of that release and the brick’s speed, taking into account the effects of air resistance and gravity, the only constant in the whole equation, which is always plus or minus thirty-two feet per second squared depending on whether you’re going up or down, unless, as in this case, the projectile is thrown horizontally whereupon the opposing forces cancel each other out.
Milligan thought about none of these. He didn’t have the time—which is another factor in the equation, come to think of it. The bird positioned itself ready for flight. It was now or never. Without a thought, acting purely on impulse, he threw with all his might and would have missed his target by a good nine inches if the crow had not decided a split-second before to take flight. It leapt into the air and straight into the path of the oncoming projectile, which broadsided the bird and knocked it to the ground, but didn’t kill it outright. Alas, the poor creature flapped about on the grass and cawed with pain and in shock. For a few very long seconds Milligan watched this with morbid fascination but did nothing. Had he really lived on this planet for forty years and never seen anything die? Only it wasn’t dying. Oh, it would eventually—everything does—but not for a long while if it could escape the notice of variety of wild animals that might wish to snack on it. It would never fly again. That was for sure. The blow, however, was not fatal. Something had to be done. Milligan roused himself, found a large boulder, one too heavy to throw, and, with a single stroke, crushed the crow’s skull. It made a popping noise. He hadn’t expected that. He was sure if he crushed the skulls of another hundred birds he would never hear a sound like that again.
The grisly deed done, he flopped back on the grass and gently placed the murder weapon beside him. Thought returned to him now he had time for it. He retched but fought back the urge to actually throw up.
“What’ve you gone and done?”
The voice was that of his brother standing at the corner of the ruin still fighting with the buttons on his flies.
“I killed a bird.”
“I didn’t imagine it fell from heaven right into your lap.”
Milligan looked down. The dead bird was indeed spread-eagled in his lap. He pushed it off him.
“I was hungry, Murphy.”
Murphy picked his way through the rubble and shook his head at the bird.
“Was that the best you could do?”
“Do you see any ostriches anywhere around?”
“Ostriches? What the hell are you going on about ostriches for?”
Milligan said nothing in reply. He just smiled at his brother and they both burst out laughing.
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