Finch mumbled to himself as he inventoried items for the trip.
Polly touched his arm and tilted her head in a question.
He said, “Cooper said to get packed. Pack light, he says. This should be a quick trip. Plan to travel light. Half-way around the world? Pack light? Spackle? Pickle? Pecked?” Polly backed away. “Peck, peck, peck. Pecking is in order, sir.”
“Why don’t you take a break?” She returned to her desk.
Dove leaned over and whispered to her. “Don’t be hard on him, Pol. Cooper thinks he’s king of the roost. He said to travel light but…”
The outer door opened and Avi entered. The flurry of activity barely slowed. Polly and Dove exchanged glances as he appeared to float by. He greeted no one. He went directly to Cooper’s office.
Polly said, “Look at him strut in here, the cock of the walk.”
Dove smiled. “I admire him, though. Never gets ruffled.”
“Light weights. They really are ‘of a feather’.
Avi knocked before entering Cooper’s office. Bill and Cooper were finalizing details on the up-coming trip, the biggest event of the year. They smiled as Avi leaned in.
“Avi! What can I do for you, my fine feathered friend?”
“I can come back. Don’t want to interrupt.”
Cooper glanced at Bill who stood. “Do you mind?”
Bill clucked, “No, we can pick up where we left off. Avi can weigh in too.”
Avi said, “We won’t be long.”
Bill closed the door behind himself.
Cooper looked at Avi. “What’s up?”
“Coop, I won’t beat around the bush. I’m not making this trip.”
He squawked, “What?”
“I hate flying.”
“Avi, it’s your job. It’s what we do.”
“I know it’s short notice…”
“Short notice? We’re about to take off!”
“I can’t. I’m so over it, Coop.”
“Don’t be a dodo.”
“Please don’t make this personal…”
“I need you. This is a big deal. We’re not some fledgling operation. We’ve prepped for six months.”
“I know. But I’ve made up my mind.”
Cooper leaned on his desk. “Don’t gull me, Avi.”
“So, are you molting over some chick?”
“You know I’m not flighty. I’m straight as the crow flies.”
“What then? I’m flying blind.”
“It’s vertigo. Heights make me dizzy.”
Cooper shook his head. “You’re gonna freeze your tail off.”
Bill entered the larger office. The others tracked him to his cubicle at the far end of the room.
Finch shrugged. “Don’t look at me…”
Soon after, Avi exited Cooper’s office, continued through the larger office and out. His spirits were soaring. Dove almost called to him but balked. Their eyes met as he left. Flustered, she looked down.
The sounds of a tenuous melody rose from Bill’s cubicle.
Polly said, “What’s he humming about?”
Dove said, “I think it’s ‘Come Fly with Me’. But Bill’s singing makes it hard to…”
“Every bird loves their song.”
“Something’s up. I’ve never seen him so chipper. I’ve seen vultures less excited over their next meal.”
“Finch, he’s not a vulture.”
“Not saying he is. Just comparing.”
“Though he does eat like a bird.”
They flocked to Bill’s desk.
“Stop hovering. What do you want?”
Polly asked, “What’s up with Avi and Coop?”
“I should know? What would be happening?”
“We don’t know, Bill. But the way you looked down your beak at us when you came out... You need to share.”
“Look at you, mouths open, a clutch of chicks begging breakfast.”
“Spit it out, Bill. We’re busy.”
“Out with it.”
Bill paused for effect. “It should be no surprise. As the bird, so the nest.”
They looked at each other. Finch shrugged again.
Then, smiling, “I don’t know, but I think Avi laid an egg in there.”
Dove said, “Don’t be a turkey, Bill. What’s that mean?”
Bill milked it. “Maybe I’m winging it, but a little bird told me…”
Dove turned to Polly. “What’s he talking about?”
Finch said, “Did you see something on Twitter?”
Bill stared at them.
Polly murmured, “A bird which can sing but won’t, must be made to…”
Dove turned away. “He’s having too much fun. He’s got nothing.”
He reveled at the attention. “Alright. I can see you are not down with my little snipe hunt.”
Finch said, “Just tell us.”
“We’ll go ask Cooper.”
Bill sat up. “Don’t do that.”
“Okay,” He scanned their faces. “How can I put this?”
Polly exclaimed, “Arrgh!”
“Uh oh, Polly’s gone crackers. I’d better sing.”
She lunged at Bill.
Dove yelled, “Duck!”
Polly screamed, “You promised to stop saying that…”
Finch restrained her until she calmed.
Bill nodded. “You’re right. You deserve to know. I think that cagey bastard… You know, Avi, flew the coop.” He cackled at his clever joke.
“He’s our point man. He can’t.”
Bill settled. “Considering the chicken feed Coop pays us, I think those chickens finally came home.”
“He is cheap.”
Bill said, “So that’s it.”
“What about the trip?”
“Up to Cooper.”
Dove said, “But what’ll Avi do? This can’t be his swan song.”
“Or the loon’s.”
Polly said, “He never put all his eggs...”
Finch added, “He’s got a gig. Bet he’s a moving target at a driving range.”
Bill topped it with, “Or inspecting jet engines at the airport.”
Cooper’s door opened and the chattering stopped. Looking busy while standing around isn’t easy. He waddled their way.
Polly said, “Cooper! What’s up?”
“I’ve been rooked. What’s with the hen party?”
No one chirped.
Cooper looked cock-eyed at them.
Bill asked, “Having crow for lunch, Coop?”
“Don’t need to, Bill. But a flask of Old Crow would settle my gullet,” he said wryly.
“The trip still on?”
“We’re booked. Can’t put my head in the sand…”
“Don’t want you to croak.”
“I’m a Phoenix, guys. Can’t keep me down.” He nodded toward the door. “He got cocky. Needed his wings clipped.”
They nodded but no one believed him.
“There is one unanswered question, though.”
“You still my motley?”
They replied as one. “Yes!”
Cooper preened. “So, if you’re ready…”
“Early birds, all!”
“The wind’s at our tail.”
In the park, a little girl walked with her mother. A shadow passing over them drew her attention to the sky.
The girl pointed. “Mommy, look!”
Her mother looked and smiled at seeing the mass of migrating birds blocking the sun.
“They’re flying south for the winter!”