One For Sorrow
'Good afternoon, Sir or Madam.' He bowed his head solemnly as the car raced by the solitary magpie perched on the central reservation barrier.
On the rear seats the kids giggled and pulled faces at their dad for being so silly; talking to a bird was just daft.
'Daddy?' she kicked her tiny feet into the back of his seat, eager to be answered.
'Daddy, why do you say hello to the birds?" she paused, feet now kicking with the rhythm of her mind, 'And what does sowwow mean?'
'Sorrow, sweety, it's just part of a very old superstition, a rhyme, like a song in a fairy tale book.'
'Yes, Daddy, I know that,' red shoes poked harder, emphasising that, at six, she knew many, many things, 'but the whyme says it… One for sowwow, two for joy… So what is sowwow?'
The question punctuated with an impatient patent leather prod.
'Somebody probably just thought that one little bird on its own was probably a little sad, maybe looking for his friends or family, so the rhyme is kind of saying, if you see one magpie on its own, it's a sign of sorrow, sad things and such?'
'Are we going to be sad, like the bird now daddy?'
Her feet stopped mid-prod.
'Ah, but here's the thing sweety, if you see magpies, and wish them, out loud, got to be out loud, if you wish them good morning or evening or goodnight, then nothing in the rhyme matters and you get good luck from the magpies!'
Red shoes kicked excitedly again. Pleased to know why her daddy said silly things to the blue and white and black birds.
'I shall always say morning, sir madam, forever daddy, I promise!'
'And I'm sure the magpies will appreciate that, my love!'
Grey motorway promised to end as the blue signs counted down to the exit. Yellow signals showing others leaving the drab road for home in the distance. Ten minutes, a cup of tea before tucking the kids up, it had been an enjoyable trip, but he would be glad to be home.
'Daddy!' the shout filled with anguish, 'Daddy you missed one! Over there! By itself, one for sowwoe! Quick, say it, Daddy, say it!'
He turned in the driver's seat, craning his neck to comfort his daughter, looking through the rear window, seeing the solitary bird take flight, screeching disapproval at being ignored.
'Never mind, sweety, he's probably too far away to hear us anyway!'
The smile vanished as he turned back to the road, the rear of the truck, stop lights blazing red.
White knuckles gripped the wheel as his foot stamped on the brakes. Screams from the back of the car competed with the screeching of tyres.
Unconsciously he screwed his eyes shut, waiting for the impact.
Then, deathly silence.
A small trembling voice.
'Afternoo', sir madams.'
He opened his eyes, cold sweat on his face.
The truck, now filling his view, mere inches from his face.
On the tailgate, a pair of cartoon birds, black, white and blue, played tug of war with a golden chain, below the logo for Magpie Locksmiths Ltd.
He turned once more, smiling again, 'See, sweety? Now it's two for joy!'