Danielle walked blindly out her back door, one hand clasped tightly over her eyes and the other grasping the shoulder of her husband Andy as he led her through their scraggly back yard. “This better be a car,” she said, although why he would lead her into the back yard rather than the driveway to reenact one of those cheesy Christmas car commercials, she didn’t know. She’d rather be back inside with the tree, sipping cocoa and unwrapping something sparkly and overpriced.
“It’s not a car,” Andy said. “You’ll like this way better.”
“I don’t know. I would really like a new car.” Danielle thought of her rusty eight-year-old Honda with the stained seat and engine that was starting to make a strange rattling noise when she went over 30.
“Just wait until you see. We’re almost there.” His voice was full of excitement, and that was rarely a good sign.
Danielle stumbled over a dip in the yard, and her hand fell from her eyes. The glare of the sun momentarily blinded her, and when her eyes started to adjust, she couldn’t believe what she was seeing. It had to be a mirage.
A fenced-in pen had been erected in the corner of their yard, and a five-foot-tall, gangly bird stood staring at her. Its beady eyes and pointy beak looked menacing, and its brown and grey feathers rattled in aggravation. It bobbed its head jerkily as it studied her, its mouth slightly open as if tasting the air.
“Is that an emu?” Danielle asked in disbelief. A million questions ran through Danielle’s mind. What was an emu doing in her yard? How did Andy get this pen built without her noticing? Where in the HECK had Andy gotten this emu from? How much did this all cost? Once again, what was an emu doing in her yard?
“That, my dear, is our retirement plan.” Andy motioned with his arm like a game show presenter.
Danielle looked from the murderous bird to her husband and back, starting to plan her own murderous intentions. “Explain.”
“I got a great deal on her.”
So many of his explanations started this way. There was the time he was going to resell antique cookbooks, and then the time with the baseball cards, and then the Beanie Babies, and then the time with the turtles that lived in the bathtub for a week until Danielle convinced him to get rid of all but one that he had grown attached to and put it in a tank so that she could finally take a bath. It took months to get rid of the pond smell after that!
“Emus can be extremely profitable. People use just about everything from them: their feathers, eggs, oils, and even their meat.”
Danielle pinched the bridge of her nose. “And what are we going to do with it? We don’t know the first thing about taking care of emus. Do you even know how to oil an emu?”
“We can learn. I got a book, and the guy I got this little lady from said she’s as sweet as pie.” He reached toward the fence, and the emu lashed out with a peck. Andy yanked back his hand, narrowly missing the pointed beak.
“Sweet as pie, huh?” Danielle parroted sarcastically.
“She’s just nervous because this is a new environment. She'll get used to it, and it will be just like having a pet.”
They stood in silence and watched as the bird paced its 6-by-6 pen.
“What does she eat?” Danielle asked as the bird pecked at the ground like a giant chicken, a giant, scary chicken.
“Birdseed…” Andy said tentatively, “and… bugs?”
“You sound like you’re guessing.” Danielle folded her arms at her husband’s lack of knowledge, proving once again that he should not be trusted with money, living things, or any type of responsibility.
“I did a little research on Wikipedia,” he said as if Wikipedia held all the answers.
“The pen looks kind of small. Isn’t she going to be a little cooped up in there? And what about the neighbors?” She looked at the houses on either side of her own. They lived in a neighborhood, not out in the country.
“I’m going to get a leash and take her on walks. The neighbor kids will love her.”
“Okay, and do you know how to get the products you think you are going to sell and who you’re going to sell them to?”
She had him stumped. He stared at the bird trying to visualize how you would get lotions and such squeezed out of her. “I’ll collect the feathers as she molts, and I can sell them on the internet. And the eggs. I can sell those on the internet, too.”
“Does she need a boyfriend to lay eggs? What about the oil and the meat? Are you telling me that you’re going to…” Danielle trailed off and let the realization roll over him.
Andy teared up as he realized the implications of what he was wanting to do. He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t turn this beautiful bird into jerky.
He stepped to the fence and held his palm out to the emu. “Come here, Fluffy. Come here, girl,” he called.
“You named her Fluffy?” Danielle asked with disbelief.
He ignored her. The bird was looking at him and approaching slowly. “I’m going to have to send you back. I know I told you I was going to take care of you, but I don’t think we’re the right family for you. Don’t look at me like that. It just isn’t meant to be. Some other family will adopt you. Maybe I can come visit.”
Fluffy pecked again, causing Andy to jump back.
“Get rid of it,” Danielle said, turning to return to the house.
Andy pulled his phone from his pocket and hit redial. “Jasper, it’s Andy. We need to discuss Fluffy. I don’t think it is going to work out. I'm also going to have to cancel my order for the gators. That's also probably not a good idea.”