He bullied his wife, walking through and never around her, slamming the screen doors—the metal netting torn at the corners. He bullied his friends with angry rants, waving his arms in their faces as if clearing out a big room. He bullied the table at meals, digging his elbows into the wood. He bullied the dog with his clunky boots clomping toward her and with his brutal hugs. Outside he bullied the ground with his pounding walk. With a stick, he bullied the snapping turtle by the footbridge, and he bullied the footbridge, jumping on it, making it shake and creak as he looked out on the stream. He threw rocks at the stream, but the stream swallowed them. He walked through it, kicking the water, but the stream hardly noticed, and his legs got all wet. He carved a hole in the wind, but the wind closed it. The voles heard him coming and dove into their holes. He walked into town where he bullied a barista over a lack of milky foam. His baritone voice boomed through the café, bullying the ears of even the young men and women with headphones on, staring at their cells. Sitting in a booth with his latte, he remembered his father yelling at his mother for the slightest mistake. “There was a bully,” he thought.
The mother and father were fighting again, arguing over who was at fault for all their problems. They had stepped away from the baby carriage to yell at each other when a hawk swooped down to lift the baby out of the stroller and flew away with it. At first, the mother and father didn’t notice, but when they finally stopped arguing, they saw that the baby was missing, which caused them to start arguing again, shouting blame at each other. The hawk carried the baby into the branches of the oak and laid it in a large twiggy nest. When the baby awoke and saw the hawk, it let out a series of high-pitched calls and shrieks until the hawk tickled its body with its beak, and then the baby laughed, its wings just beginning to open.
Jeff Friedman’s eighth book, The Marksman, was published in November, 2020, by Carnegie Mellon University Press. He has received numerous awards and prizes for his poetry, mini tales, and translations, including a National Endowment Literature Translation Fellowship in 2016 and two individual Artist Grants from New Hampshire Arts Council. Two of his micro stories were recently selected for the The Best Microfiction 2021. Meg Pokrass and he have co-written a collection of fabulist microfiction that will be published by Pelekinesis Press in March, 2022.