The council cut the trees down in our road so I sent a message asking where my tits were going to sit.
I had a very nice response and a few days later found a hawthorne tree in a bucket by our door with the council’s compliments.
My shop is called The Birds, partly because it’s unsettling Hitchcockian overtones amuse me but mostly because I only sell birds. Customers flock to my avianorium, where only the best of the nest will do, so that they can pin a feather in their cap and cock a snoot at less discerning buyers. One day, a preening peacock of the human variety entered my shop and looked down his not inconsiderable beak at various of my wing-ed wonders and trilled thus:
‘I had hoped to find feathered treasure but, alas, I feel let down. Nevertheless, I will take that vaguely presentable kookaburra to give my friends a laugh.’
‘$500, cage included.’
‘Oh, you are a hoot. $200 is my best and final offer.’
Taking my silence as lack of consent, he turned theatrically and made for the door, before pausing and turning.
The birds sleep late into the morning these days and then cry out for brunch. And then, after a wholesome meal, they chirp contently with bulging bellies. We listen to this strange sonata of fulfilment at noon and wonder if our lives have turned upside down. Then we see that we’re wearing masks and sanitizing the doorknobs and realize that we are indeed walking on fours while the birds enjoy our privileges.
I’m sure, at first, the sight of deserted lanes and unfrequented alleyways shocked the birds. They must have readied themselves as usual for the pollution, the noise of traffic and construction, and the voyeur who spies on them from his rooftop. They must have looked forward to the usual cacophony of plates and curses at eight in the morning. But I look at them now and understand that they’ve changed their entire rhythm.
They lounge around at two, bathing in the green and insolently chirp when they spot a nervous gas mask-wearing, modern Rambo, scuttling like a cockroach to collect his supplies. They’ve grown fat and love the languor of the afternoon, and mockingly sing when they spot the voyeur – without his camera and bizarre instruments – sitting in the confines of his bedroom, thereby giving him a taste of his own medicine. They are also wise enough to stay away from mad protestors who selfishly demand rights, and Presidential tweets because they’re content with their tweets which aren’t inspired by the need to brag or compete or present an image.
I’ve heard a story about a bird who flew. I don’t know anything about that. However, as I was driving down a back road the other a barely distinguishable animal scurrying across it forced me to come to a complete stop in order to avoid hitting it. Upon closer examination I realized what kind of animal it was. I do not know why the chicken crossed the road, but I can wholeheartedly assure you that it did.
I see the ranks of homing pigeons swoop and soar,
There’s gotta be a flocking thousand of ’em or more,
Wheeling o’erhead, hovering high above the low building I let,
Leasing the ‘penthouse’ out too cheap is one deep abiding regret.
I was glad to sign the lease for that seedy top floor-
A two-year ironclad deal’s what a landlord prays for,
But concern is building due to his installing a pigeon coop aloft,
It’s not the constant cooing from on high, more the elevated waft.
The whirring of the wings above is impossible to ignore,
The sourness of signing off on a bad deal sticks in my craw,
As birds keep landing on my landing my dim view’s turning dark,
Its not all their swooping but their pooping that’s leaving its mark.
Jim Pale stood back. This was a joke. Some teen’s trick. Or one of those TV shows making a fool of him.
‘I’m neither a trick nor spoof TV.’ The crow sounded quite put out.
‘Did you read my mind?’
‘More your expression. It helps us survive to know what predators think.’
‘I’m not a predator.’
‘Not now you’ve got Lidl and a taste for cottage pie, but it’s not that long ago you ate my ancestors. A millennium is nothing in the life of a crow.’
‘You’re not one thousand years old.’
The crow grunted. ‘All I’m saying is I have to be desperate to speak to a human.’
Jim stepped back. ‘Why aren’t you flying?’
The crow sighed. ‘At bloody last. The “why” question.’
‘Look. If you want help, sarcasm is hardly going to encourage it.’
‘It’s in the name, moron. “crow”. It’s what we do. We could have been called sneers or eye-rolls but we stuck with crow as the name. It’s suggestive of superiority.’
Jim began to turn away.
‘Oh all right. I’m sorry. Okay? Does that make it better? You’re the dominant bloody species and I’m a sodding bird yet your skin is as thin as an anaemic slug.’
Jim coloured. ‘Sorry. How come you’re…? Actually, what are you doing? Hovering? Floating?’
‘I’m stuck. Frozen. Rendered immobile.’
‘Does that happen often?’
‘Really? You need to ask that? Geez, are you really as stupid as you look?’
‘No, hang on.’
‘Why should I? You’re a foul-mouthed…’
‘Are you saying I look like a chicken?’
‘Now who’s a numpty? Foul, with a “u”.’
‘It was a joke? Of course I don’t have a chicken’s mouth.’
Jim checked his watch. ‘I need to get on.’
‘All right. Bloody hell. Look, one minute I’m swooping down for that burger crust there, the next I’m here, in mid-beat like one of those ridiculous porcelain ducks you love to stick above your fireplaces.’
‘No one has flying ducks anymore.’
‘You looked in number seventy-two recently? She even has antimacassars. Can we stop this redundant intimacy? You said you were busy. Just see what’s stopping me flying, will you?’
Jim stepped forward. He looked around the suspended crow. ‘It looks like you have two strings holding you in place.’
Jim peered hard. ‘Actually there are more than two.’
‘Is it some sort of net?’
‘Noooo, more like puppet strings.’
‘I’m no one’s bloody puppet.’
Jim reached up and tugged at one. The crow’s left wing beat slowly.
‘Hey, stop that! Bloody cheek.’
‘You’re trussed up like a ch…’
‘Don’t say it. Don’t you dare say it! Just cut me down and I’ll be on my way.’
‘How do I know I should? I mean I don’t know who you belong to, do I?’
‘Oh that’s great. I’ve just undermined your whole belief system by talking and showing you I can mind-read…’
‘Stop bloody quibbling. And now you question if I’m someone’s pet.’
Jim nodded. ‘Yes. Fair point.’ He reached up and touched the nearest wing.
The crow jerked away. ‘That tickles. Be firm, will you?’
‘You are touchy, aren’t you?’
‘Do you really need an answer to that?’
‘No, I suppose not. Here,’ he unhooked a string. Then another. After less than a minute the crow stood by Jim’s feet. ‘Better?’
‘I just want to know who did this. Bloody nerve. Right. I’d better be off.’ The crow turned and stretched its wings.
Jim said, ‘Are you going to say thank you or anything? Show your appreciation?’
The crow twisted its head and held Jim’s gaze for a moment. Then he took to the air and flew in a wide arc. As his flight path crossed where Jim stood he emptied his bowels in a white stream of avian faeces that hit Jim slap on the forehead.
Jim staggered back, stunned. ‘What was that for?’
The crow curved away cackling. ‘I thought you lot considered that to be lucky? Well, be lucky, Jim Pale. I hope it’ll mean you’ll have something to crow about.’
Blimey what are those birds doing
Oh it’s such seedy x-rated viewing
Really, on our back garden fence as well
Is it not behaviour best saved for a seedy motel
Surely they are spoiling our gorgeous farmland view
Interrupting our peaceful world with something so taboo
Spending every day exchanging birdie pleasantries
Always trying to make so many more feathered babies
Fooling around as if there is no tomorrow
Oh having such fun and never showing any sorrow
One overriding thought about those feathered huggers
Lashings of rummy pumpy, those lucky little buggers
Some birds we exalt, poeticize their flight
Romanticize both hawk and dove
Recognize in each their might
See in them what we most love.
Feathered birds with mythos, we heartily imbue
But hungry folk give a flying f***
When flights of fancy wheel towards food
Which fowl they might come to pluck.
Any bird, perched ‘pon the plate
In that bald, unfeathered state
In such a foul state we find ourselves
All together all alone
Even those with well stocked shelves
Might choke on eagle bones.
A bird flew in my mouth.
I gulped in horror.
If it were a mozzie,
But a bird
A wattlebird at that.
It panicked in the echo chamber of my mouth.
I wrestled it with both hands
Trying to pry it loose.
Suddenly it plopped out like a fish.
It staggered in the air.
I staggered along the path.
A bird in the mouth is worth two in the bush.
My friend quipped.
So how was it? He asked.
Surreal, I clucked. Surreal
A bird shat on our window pane,
Freshly washed, it took careful aim,
Streaking down the shiny glass
Jettisoned from its feathered a**,
Hubs was not impressed at all
The bloody thing having such gall,
‘Next time’, he said, ‘I’ll see you shot
As you’ll fit nicely in the pot!’
Thank you for entering!! Come back tomorrow for next week’s prompt. I intend to try a caption contest for that one.
Ellen: Here’s my brand-new badge you can post as the winner:
Farewell, farewell, to our old friend, the Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest! You had a good run. You may have given someone a good run… Once the world became as jaded and grim as my mind-corners, I decided the sarcasm of terribility was not the best approach. Instead, I opted for a new angle: humor.
-Not that our terrible poems weren’t funny. This is just an acknowledgement that happiness and laughter are the direction we wish to intentionally head.
Write a short story, poem, song, or really long sentence about Birds.
Don’t make it too long. We’ve got real life to get back to.
The goal is to make me, the judge LAUGH ALOUD. Whoever tickles my funny bone the best will be crowned champion.
As a tip, I generally think and live in a G-rated world. I don’t find crude or profane things very humorous.
You have till 10:00 a.m. MDT next Friday (May 8) to enter.
Use the form, below, if you want. Leave a comment if you roll that way. Definitely leave a comment if your pingback doesn’t show up in a day or your entry doesn’t get listed when the contest is over -seriously, I just went back through my e-mails and found a few, poor, terrible poems lost in the shuffle.
“Martin Luther King, Jr.,” read the boy at the head of the room. Although class had been in session for ten minutes; his audience yawned, fidgeted, dozed, or daydreamed.
Equally glassy-eyed, Wil blinked. Her eyes fixed on the white board behind the boy –Lucas? Most of her thoughts were miles away.
Lucas took the top paper of the pile he gripped and stuffed it, crinkling, to the back. He sighed and continued in a monotone, “Martin Luther King, Jr., original name Michael King, Jr., born January 15, 1929, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.—died April 4, 1968, Memphis, Tennessee…”
Wil’s head drooped. She longed for her book, nestled back home in her covers without her. She frowned in thought. No, she wished to be with her book in her bed.
“…Baptist minister and social activist who led the civil rights movement in the United States from the mid-1950s until his death by assassination in 1968…”
In the pause he took to breathe, Mrs. Riles piped up. In unison, she and Lucas recited, “His leadership was fundamental to that movement’s success in ending the legal segregation of African Americans in the South and other parts of the United States…”
Their impromptu act awakened a few students. A few tittered, realizing what Mrs. R. was doing. The laughter, more than his teacher’s synchronized recital, caused Lucas to stop and look up. Mrs. R.’s expression when he did so caused him to swallow. Hard.
“Miss -Mrs. Riles?” he stuttered. His peers watched, now alert.
His interrogator and their mutual instructor appeared amused, like a python enjoying a joke. “Would you like to tell me how I was able to read your report, word-for-word, from my phone?”
The snake’s victim shook his head and dropped his eyes to his pages; which, in turn, he dropped to rest against his legs. One sneakered foot brushed the other, and back.
“I think you’d better sit down. We can talk some more about this after class.”
Lucas nodded and shuffled back to his seat.
“Right,” Mrs. R. said in a brighter tone. “So… who’s next?”
Wil and her father hadn’t time nor thought for conversation. The old Winters sedan sped along at a rate Wil worried over, given its age. Not until a few blocks from school did she realize the tire wasn’t flat anymore.
“You fixed the car!” she exclaimed.
Rob grunted. Wil remembered that her father preferred one task at a time. He also preferred that task to never be talking. Still, she wanted to cheer him up some. “Good work,” she ventured, stealing a peripheral glance. His profile softened and the half-mouth she could see almost smiled.
They rode the final street in their former silence. Wil’s school loomed out of the morning grey. Rob tore toward its curb and parked next to an old patch of slush. Besides a few straggling teenagers arriving in similar fashion to Wil’s; the muddy, uphill patch of dead grass to the doors was empty.
“‘Bye, Dad!” She stole a kiss on her father’s cheek, caught her pullover on her seatbelt, and forgot to pull the door latch to open it. She was too busy extricating herself from belt and car to see her father’s quick, swallowed smile.
The door slammed behind her as he answered, “‘Bye, Mina.” She raced up the slippery lawn. Rob watched in tired bemusement before pulling away; he needed to get to work.
Not until Wil entered the school itself and made for her locker did she notice she’d forgotten her bag. Doing a quick about-face, she thanked whatever Being lived above that Mr. Saltz hardly cared if anyone even showed up to his class. English would be the only difficulty; they needed to bring their novel to read aloud.
“It’s not like half the class can read anyway…” she muttered. She stomped down the hall, preoccupied. Her left boot wheezed a soft *Eeeee* as she walked. Upstairs, left, straight she walked. Maybe Miss Riles will loan me a book. Formulating a future conversation in her mind, she turned and walked into the Math classroom.
And straight into her teacher. “Oh!” Mr. S. said, surprised.
Wil stopped dead. All eyes were on her and all the faces showed equal surprise to the teacher’s, but not for long. A snicker started somewhere and it soon spread to the rest of her peers.
Mr. S. appeared at a loss. He’d been interrupted mid-lecture by a student, and the other students seemed diverted. Wil took advantage of his distraction and made for the nearest empty spot. She sat and faced forward; every inch an attentive, responsible pupil.
Their teacher cleared his throat. He glanced back at his notes on the white board; unfortunately, he hadn’t written anything there yet. “Hmmm,” he said. His eyes fell on his packet on the desk. “Ah! Exponents!”
The lecture resumed; allowing the rest of the class to return to their usual, inattentive behaviors. Wil hoped she could manage the remainder of the day without drawing attention to herself. Given her experience, she doubted it.
Smoky, slatted sunlight lay in lines across the staring face. Soon, only a muted glowing shone there as the associated hand pulled the blinds closed again. *Snap*
He’d said he’d be different; for one more day. That had been a gigantic step, vocalizing. Into the dark of night and mind he’d stood and whispered, “Tomorrow, I go out.”
A laugh escaped the lips. Whose, he did not know; but then, he did. A distant memory of non-lined sunlight views and happier company than his own filtered to recollection.
Then; he was sure he’d laughed. Then; she had, too.
What came to me for Carrot Ranch‘s prompt this week: for one day.
July 25, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes the phrase “for one day.” The words single out a special occurrence. What is the emotion and vibe, where does it take place and why? Go where the prompt leads!
Respond by July 30, 2019. Use the comment section below to share, read, and be social. You may leave a link, pingback, or story in the comments. If you want to be published in the weekly collection, please use the form. Rules & Guidelines.
At first quite nervous, Wil found a surprising level of obscurity behind the words of her story. Her audience helped as well; gasping at Carl’s stupidity, glaring at the incompetent office secretary, leaning forward when she told of reading the internet story, then bursting out in laughter at poor Carl’s panic and intentional pants-dropping.
Even Hope giggled, a sweet chirping noise that Wil suspected Hope rarely voiced.
Not everyone laughed; to her side, Stephen appeared shocked. He almost looked as though he had been the one who spilled chemicals on half his group and then exposed himself in mistake.
Reagan noticed his discomfort. “Relax, Stevie,” she drawled. She wiped at her eyes.
“Stephen,” Stephen mumbled in correction as he glanced down at his chocolate cupcake wrapper.
She laughed a snort. “No shit, Sherlock.”
“Reagan,” Hope said.
The outspoken girl turned to the much smaller, meeker one. Their eyes met before Reagan lowered hers. “Sorry, Stephen.”
Wil nearly choked. Again.
“Thanks, Reagan,” Derek said. “Hope.” He smiled. Wil realized Derek smiled to help others calm down; she wished it had that effect on her.
“So…” Art began. Most shifted to face his direction. “Why’re we meeting today?”
All eyes flitted to Derek. “Welll,” their leader answered, “Stephen and I have been talking more about our group-‘
“And the name, I hope,” Reagan interjected.
“Sure,” Derek acknowledged, blinking. His confusion cleared, and he continued, “Um, so we’ve talked about why we got together as a group anyway….” His voice cracked a bit and he swallowed. His gaze shifted around the group. Reagan made a rude gesture, which startled him into a shocked expression, then a genuine smile. “Ha! Thanks, Reagan. Thing is, I think we ought to actually do something with this group.”
Stephen nodded but the others’ expressions ranged from wary to (in Wil’s case) blank.
“You mean….” his main heckler said, “…like the Girl Scouts?”
This time, even Stephen laughed.
“Actually, Reagan,” Derek said, “That’s not so far off…”
Wil glanced around the blue table’s occupants in confusion but realized none of them seemed upset. In fact, several were smiling. Art laughed outright. Compared to Reagan’s laugh of earlier, his sounded from a well of authentic joy. “Relax, Wil,” he said. “No one’s mad.”
Wil tried to relax, but Reagan looked the way she’d sounded: mad at her. To Reagan’s right, Hope still smiled kindly. To Hope‘s right, Derek also smiled. Wil felt something flutter inside her and glanced in the safer direction of her clutched tray of food.
“Sorry,” she mumbled. She couldn’t help it.
Art rose and headed to another table. “You’re fine.” He grabbed a yellow chair. Carrying it and setting it between his chair and Stephen’s, he turned to Reagan and mouthed, Knock it off! Reagan rolled her eyes in response and continued the serious study of consuming her sack lunch. To Wil, Art turned halfway and gestured for her to sit. She did, sliding her food carefully onto the crowded surface.
“Maybe we’ll send Hope next time,” Derek teased.
“You already had Hope deliver the note,” Stephen stated. His lunch was finished and he was in process of eating his dessert. Bits of chocolate cake clung to his fingertips and lip. “Did that fail?”
Reagan snorted again. “Didn’t you hear?”
“No. Hear what?”
The dramatic girl fixed him with a look. “About this morning?”
Stephen glanced around the table. The rest of his friends appeared bemused, though Wil appeared very interested in her chicken-like gravy. He shook his head in the negative, the gesture making him look like a nervous owl.
“Well!” Reagan began, in a tone of conspiracy, “This morning, right after Wil discovered her note, Ol’ Dr. L. decided to change things up in class.” She took a drink from her water bottle. Swallowed. She leaned forward a bit, then sat back up. “Actually, I think Wil should tell it.”
Wil gagged on her soggy green beans. Startled, Stephen observed Wil’s coughing and then smacked her on the back. Wil managed to wave him off and regain composure. “I…” she began, “I know Hope was there.”
The shy girl gave Wil a half-smile. “I was.” Wil sighed in relief. “But,” Hope added, “Dr. L. was in front of my view when I heard the yell.” Wil’s former optimism died.
“Yell?” Stephen asked. “Who yelled? Wil yelled?”
“No,” Wil said. “Well -maybe yes.” Everyone stared at her. She blushed. She didn’t know how she’d been talked into this but saw she couldn’t back out now. “Carl Hurn yelled. His frien- Harry yelled. That girl probably did, too.” She stirred at her stale rice with a bandaged hand. “You see: she’d just gotten our supplies from the closet and set them on her desk. Carl said something like, ‘I know what to do,’ before heading over and tripping or something and crashing right into her…”