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‘Since the Shawnee’

“Birds! Aren’t you the sheriff? Shouldn’t you be investigating crime?”

“Yes, ma’am. Do you want me to come back after…you know…when you’re dressed and ready to receive people?”

“You’ve already seen everything I’ve got. What’s the point of that?”

“Well, I was just wondering…Look, I’ll just ask you a question and get out of here. Have you seen any big birds?”

“How big?”

Jerry kept facing the house, but risked a sideways peek. Miss Pickens had arranged the towel over her corn silk and balloons. He said, “Mrs. Henryetta thought they were wild turkeys. So about that size.”

“I’ve never seen a wild turkey.”

“Well, that’s what I told her. There haven’t been any in Muhlenberg County since before I was born.”

“Then why are you searching for them?”

Jerry looked down at his shoes. He tried to keep them polished; he wore a uniform only on special occasions. He didn’t want to say, “Because I’m running for re-election,” so he said instead, “You know, I try to track down anything that concerns our citizens.”

“Have the turkey buzzards been concerning Henryetta?”

Jerry turned around and looked Miss Pickens full in the towel, but he tried to concentrate on her face. “There’re turkey buzzards in town?”

“There’s not a law against them, is there?”

Jerry looked at his clipboard. “No, I guess not.”

“Well, Henryetta and Daisy run the whole street, but they can’t run the air.”

“No ma’am. I guess not. But why would turkey buzzards be around?”

“Why are robins around?” Miss Pickens looked at her birdfeeder.

By that time Jerry was again looking at his shoes. There was a little twig between the leather and the sole of the right one. He thought about picking it out, but he didn’t want to get down closer to Miss Pickens’ towel. He said, “Well, robins are common in town, but turkey buzzards generally don’t make it in.”

Miss Pickens replied, “Well, that’s an interesting observation on the ways of nature. Now, if you don’t mind leaving, I’ll get up and go inside.”

“Oh, no, ma’am, I don’t. I’m…I’m just sorry to have disturbed your…your sunbathing. We…we won’t have many more nice days.” He lifted his hat, but he didn’t say anything more because he had no idea what else to say.

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