Cleopatra Bysbys sat facing the windows of the topmost room of her house with a cup of lukewarm coffee at her side and her air rifle across her lap. She wore ancient and washed out pajama bottoms frayed at the crotch and unraveling at the hems. They stuck to her bony knees. Her breasts hung low on her chest under a ratty pit-stained T-shirt and her saggy arms looked like raw chicken wings. Her hacking cough shook the walls of her musty home. The room was a small belvedere, shaped like a cupola with windows all around it; a lookout. She called it her aerie. It held nothing but a swivel chair with moth-eaten upholstery that had seen better days and a tatty side table held together by spit and prayers.
Christmastime had, of late, become her favorite time of the year, not because she was full of cheer and good wishes, but because the practice of stealing packages was most rampant. From her “eagle’s nest” Cleopatra Bysbys kept a watchful eye over the entire neighborhood.
Cleopatra took a gulp of coffee, grimaced and pronounced it “pure and absolute swill.” She closed her eyes, and, using her extraordinary gift, surveyed the neighborhood with her mind’s eye. The windows of the aerie afforded her a remarkable, yet limited view of the goings-on around her, but her gift let her pry beyond the walls of her neighbors’ houses and into their daily trials and tribulations. Cleopatra Bysbys was privy to everything, the comings and goings, the conversations, and sometimes, even the innermost thoughts and emotions of people. Nothing was a secret to her; not the past nor the present, not even the future.
“Ha!” She cackled, “smart girl, Betty Jackson, tracking it on your phone!”
When she used her gift, Cleopatra Bysbys was a sight to behold. Her wide mouth gaped open and rotted teethed peeped out. With eyelids ajar, the whites of her eyes showed. Wispy and gnarled silver hair framed her withered face, and her skeletal fingers, resting on the arms of the chair twittered and twitched as if handling buttons and dials.
“Here we go!” She sneered, opened the front window and propped the air rifle against the sill. She crouched, and looking every bit the sniper, waited with the patience of a saint, unfazed by the cold air wafting in from the window; only the ancient furnace in the basement protested.
A blue car pulled up to the Smith house across the street. The mailman had delivered the package after the couple had left for work. A young woman shimmied out of the car and hurried toward the front door. She slipped on the icy walkway but kept her footing. In her mind’s eye, Cleopatra saw the driver growl in dismay; had she fallen, they would have sued.
Cleopatra Bysbys took aim as the girl approached the package, glanced side to side and bent down to pick it up. A crack boomed through the wintry air. The porch pirate jumped several inches and grabbed her butt-cheek. With a crazed look in her eyes she gazed around the perimeter, sighted nothing, yet heard a phlegmy witch-like cackle. Her eyes, welling up with tears of pain, fixed on Cleopatra’s hiding place, but there was only an empty window. Sneaky Cleo lay flat on the floor, hugging her gun and giggling through a devilish grin.
The frustrated thief limped back to the car, and with a “fuck it” they sped away; the package still on the stoop.
Cleopatra Bysbys pulled herself up, and, scratching her bottom, shuffled downstairs to watch her soap operas. There would be three more attempts later in the day.
Ah yes, Christmas was now her favorite time of the year, and porch pirates her favorite target year-round.