Allen hated heights.
He had tried everything to pick up local channels with little success due to living in such a remotely rural area and now he was standing on his roof carefully fitting yet another television antenna together, sweat pouring down his face.
“Honey,” he had told his wife. “It’s a Saturday and I slept late, so I don’t feel like getting up there in the summer heat and wrestling with the antenna.”
“If you don’t then I’ll call my dad to come out,” was her only response, her hands on her hips.
Allen did not want to be shown up by his father-in-law, and he thought about the prospect of getting one of those satellite services again and it made his skin crawl. He had placed the shaky aluminum ladder on the eve of the house, tried to will his legs to stop shaking as he climbed it, and then wished he had worn gloves after touching the superheated composite on his roof.
Somewhere in the back of his mind he worried about deforming the shingles, but finding local channels was much more important than having to face his wife when she wasn’t able to pick up that new summer show which was starting tonight, the one all of her friends were talking about.
Allen slid the two large pieces of the fishbone antenna together, tightened down the wing nuts and then looked around the roof for where the coaxial cable had fallen after he had unhooked it from the useless multidirectional hunk of plastic he had taken down. Multidirectional was apparently a myth, but Allen wasn’t into doing much research about television broadcasting signals until only recently. All of the others had failed.
He took down the gold colored aluminum pole and began attaching the fishbone monstrosity to it with two u-bolts when his Great Pyrenees in his front yard, too fat for the summer heat, started barking and a thick cloud passed in front of the heat lamp that was the sun.
But only briefly.
Allen stopped for a moment, wiping the sweat from his face with his thin white t-shirt, and looked up to see the blazing sun, a roaring fire of blinding heat, yet not a cloud in the pale blue sky.
He continued working and fat Chewy continued barking, and he felt a bead of sweat roll down his nose and drip off onto the back of his right hand which was busy trying to connect the split wire transformer to the coaxial cable.
Another shadow, brief, heavy and dark, blotted out the light for a moment and this time he felt a strange wind on this still Oklahoma day, and then a stench like that of something rotting in the woods. Chewy became hoarse with barking. He stood, dropping the coaxial cable, and walked up to the peak of the house. Looking down into the yard he saw his dog, tail extended like a rod, gnashing his teeth toward the roof, hopping up on his hind legs now and again as if he wanted to climb up to where Allen stood.
“What’s wrong with you, Chewy?” he shouted down.
And then the shadow came again, across the yard, of what looked at first like the passing shadow of a plane, and then as Allen looked up he saw a black bird as big as a Cessna reach out with onyx talons to grasp at him as if he were a mouse.
His wife would not be watching the new summer show.