The Northern shrike population is in decline, she says, her voice a tongue on his ear. They are solitary and wary, maybe that’s why. They can’t even trust each other.

It’s the males who sing: as defense, to protect their nesting territory, sometimes to attract a mate. She eyes him out of the slashes she’s blackened on her lids. They pretend they are other birds until their imitation of reality becomes the new reality.

Their dead, all those amphibians and rodents, are placed on thorns, to be eaten later. She laughs, her mouth a wet red flame. It isn’t a beautiful bird because power is better than beauty. No, don’t try to tell me they’re the same.

Look, there it sits, alone in the open field, on a scrubby little tree. She points with the tip of her knife and says, watch it watching, perched as still as dirt, as the tree’s skin. You’ll see, it can wait for hours. It can wait for as long as it takes.

***

Katie DePasquale enjoys telling a good story and making sure it’s correctly punctuated. Her writing has appeared in The Worcester Review, Atticus Review, and Tin House online, among other publications, and is forthcoming in Grist Online. A Pushcart Prize nominee for fiction, she has an M.A. in writing and publishing from Emerson College and works as an editor at Berklee College of Music.