Funny Happy Fiction


By Andrew Paul Grell

Yellow perch this morning. Fun game. Sam and Janice teach. Corner of porch, no can see from road. Wait humans on two-wheels. Say “Hey, you got a flat.” Human stop, no see me, no see nobody, get off wheels, look. Sam, Janice, laugh. I laugh same back at them. Give oil palm fruit, yum. Give cracker, yum yum. Love Sam Janice, love Sam Janice house. Better than Skipper on boat. Boat smell bad, Skipper talk smell bad, smell rotten fruit. Get six on two-wheels today, Sam Janice happy. Ice happy. Say Janice “Brrrr.” Janice take inside, warmer. Watch glass box. Watch little animals in glass box, no can smell, what animals not smell? Nap.

“Sam, Ice got five cyclists and a motorcycle heading to the beach. Shouldn’t he be on Idiotgram or Farcebook or one of those socialist medium things?”

“What, and risk having him kidnapped?” Sam and Janice Knight were a true love story. Janice, an Econ major at Hofstra, was interning that summer as an EMT. She was the one who patched up Sam when he got jammed on the fire escape carrying his next-door neighbor’s kid from what turned out to be just a grease fire. Sam returned the favor, after a few months of dating, maneuvering her out of a rip current at Fort Tilden Beach. She was underwater for six minutes; Sam did the CPR exactly how she had taught him to, with a little help from whatever medical knowledge he had as a biologist. They were married the next week; never separated, never on a beach with no lifeguards. For years, he religiously did the exercises with her—mainly playing Husker Du and Battleship—to get her brain back on the rails. They got her math and economist chops online in fairly short order, but the occasional spoonerism and aphasia were stubbornly holding on. Years later, after the kids launched, having a parrot, a handsome African Grey, helped enormously in getting her words spoken back to her.

“Husband mine, I am quite certain that Ice would peck the balls out of anyone who tried to steal him. Sorry. Eyeballs, not, um, testicles. But either way is good, you know? Chop chop, let’s get ready for the festivities. I did a Niner, a Pinto, and a Santa Clausia. They’re in the sewing room. Be a love and set them up on the lawn. Janice’s family was from Madrid and Sam’s mom was Italian. The lovebirds would flip a coin every year for whether the Columbus Day party would be Italian or Spanish themed. This year’s event of the post-season would feature antipasto, five different things parmigiana, lobster ravioli with marinara sauce, and Caesar salad with plenty of anchovies despite it being a La Nina year, all washed down with grappa, or, for the tame, Sangria.

Janice cranked the mesh “aviary dome” over the trees on the back lot, the part of the property they didn’t need, but had to buy to get their beautiful stucco house, and then decided to just keep it for fun and not sell it. After Ice came into their lives, they planted  a couple of Baobob and Fever trees, and set up the dome so Ice could feel a little bit like home and get to fly around.

People come. People come wear more skins. People drink like Skipper on boat, try to mate, then eat, then talk. Janice bring into little sky. I do Immelmanns, barrels, dives, loops. People happy. Climb up tree, get treat Sam leave. People happy. Sam, Janice happy.

“Jan, dear, what a marvelous bird. But dear, if he can fly, why does he climb the trees to get the treats?” The widow Liza Dooley, AKA Dear Liza, was always invited to any event in East Atlantic Beach, Long Island. It wasn’t just her cultural connections or her late husband’s ties to the boards of several universities. When Dear Liza was around, a party was protected from inebriation-fueled disaster, unlike parties to the east, in Long Beach, where anything might happen.

“It takes less energy to climb than to fly, dear. And Ice loves to show off his full bag of tricks. I think he’s coming to do one now.” Everyone clearly heard the bird utter ‘brrrr, brrr.’

“He’s cold.  That’s his way of telling us, going ‘brrr, brrrr’.” Sam went into the “airlock,” put the bird’s tether on, and brought him to the warm house. When he came back out, Judy Dembitzer saved Janice from an extended Dear Liza by asking about Ice’s story.

“We were on a four-day cruise around the Cape Verde Islands. War had been unkind to the skipper, a cashiered Navy Lieutenant Senior Grade. In a SEAL operation, he lost an eye, a hand, and a foot. This is him telling the story. He figured he might as well go whole hog, and got the gold hoop earing and, here it comes, the parrot for his shoulder. Cocktail hour started literally when the sun was over the yardarm and lasted considerably longer than an hour. It always started with the Skipper dipping a piece of bread in wine and feeding it to the bird, who would then do goofy stuff. Sam, do you want to take over?”

“Sure. On day three, the Skipper had apparently run out of wine. I saw him dip the bread in beer instead. I practically broad-jumped to the bird’s side, shouting ‘Stop, stop!’ He stopped, and I said ‘Skipper, I will give you two thousand dollars for that bird right this very minute.’ It was all I could think of to say to get the beer away from the bird.  ‘Birds can’t burp or fart, he’ll die if you give him anything carbonated.’ He took the deal. But I got snookered. I had been a biologist for more than ten years then, and I thought it was established that birds don’t belch or fart. It’s not actually true. They just don’t make a big production out of it. But the Skipper knew I was a biologist. A lot of people think they can’t eliminate gas. I wonder how many parrots got ‘rescued’ from that guy…” That story got a laugh out of the crowd.

Skipper smell bad,” Ice parroted. Or commented. Who could tell the difference?

“So, are you two doing the snowbird thing this year?” Frank and Judy had done it a few times. Their last time, it was just one Wolfie’s early bird special too much and one crawling-along driver too far. 

“Yes, but central Florida. Change of pace. We might have something special for Ice. And you folks?”

“We got a Ski B&B for a month. We both used to ski, maybe we can rekindle some old skills,” Frank alluded, putting down his Pauli Girl just in time to avoid Judy’s elbow to the ribs.

“And you, Liza,” Judy inquired

“I’ll be doing the Grand Tour this year.”

“Europe,” Asked Janice.

“Oh, no, dear. The Grandparent tour. Six of them in three states.

“Sam, look! Ice is tapping at the window. I think he knows it’s too chilly for us. Coffee inside, folks?”

# # #

The next morning, chilly enough for everyone to be happy they were heading south, Judy got the tarp off the Airflyte trailer while Sam scavenged for their KOA passport. Papers in order, Judy tethered Ice to the mailbox while Sam coupled the trailer to the Honda CRV. He got into the driver’s seat and started testing the coupled lights. Centering Ice in the outrigger mirror, he went through the sequence. Brake lights, Ice let out a ‘Fiat Lux.’ Turn signal conformation needed a little work. Sam depressed the turn signal arm, and was heralded with “it works, it doesn’t work, it works, it doesn’t work.” Sam always had a sneaking suspicion that Janice taught him that on the sly, just to giver her husband a little zetz.

Going South. Going to warm. See ToTo house.

“ToTo. ToTo.”

“Judy, I think Ice knows where we’re going. He wants to stop off at Dorothy’s. He keeps saying ‘ToTo.’ Dorothy was their eldest and ToTo was her dog. Ice and ToTo cohabited for a few years before Dorothy left the nest. Ice would fly around on his tether getting sticks for little ToTo to catch. Dorothy knew the spots were Ice might have an itch he couldn’t scratch, and sometimes had an extra biscuit when her parents weren’t looking.

“That’s fine with me. I’ll call her up and see if she’s got the lanyard in ship enough shape to park a trailer. Her kid and Bob’s two kids, you never know what type of Revelation warns the traveler, and what kind of Har Megiddo awaits the visitor.” Judy called her daughter and Sam called KOA to see what flexibility there was for moving a reservation to from North Carolina to Georgia and making it a day later. They were in no rush, they would be camped in Florida for three months, and it would be good to stay a night and day with family. The outcomes of both calls were positive. The Revelation from Dorothy was that nine-year-old Max was going through a phase, most likely harmless. Sam did a final tire pressure check on the ten tires and also on the bike and motorcycle tires.  Judy would take the first leg. Sam said what he always did when he set out on a journey. “B’wanna, gung ho!” An unfortunate and sloppy mash-up of cultural appropriations.

Gas. Gas means go, we go. Hear people. Go ToTo. Go Dorothy.

New Jersey was kind to the travelers, likewise Delaware, with its exorbitant toll for the five miles they would be in the state.  Maryland still bore traces of the culture of the TV show “The Wire,” as well as the traces of the Satanic industry of Annapolis. Just for good luck, they waited till past Leesburg, Virginia, with the giant sign displaying the turn to make to get to Miami. How many snowbirds must have gotten lost navigating the diabolical intersection? It was the sign pointing to the farthest destination of any such sign in the United States.

Sam took over for the ride to Fayetteville, a nice easy stretch; it was practically a glide to Dorothy’s house, a whimsical Tudor just east of the Cape Fear River. Dorothy had helpfully put up a sign before the turn to Middle Road declaring “OZ ½ MILE.” Equally helpful, she laid out cones for per parents to back the trailer up on the lawn. Max’s “phase “was immediately apparent. He was busy making an actual Har Megiddo, Armageddon, a hill of skulls.

“Watcha got goin’ there, Max,” Sam ventured, man to man.  “Getting ready for Halloween?”

“Hi, Grandpa! Not Halloween. Getting ready for the Apocalypse.” The kid was saying it with a straight face, dead serious. “Can’t have an Apocalypse without a Hill of Skulls. Army Airborne is just across the river. Who else has a Hill of Skulls, huh? We could have a front row seat to the end of the world.”

Janice came over to take a look at her grandson’s handiwork. She started examining the actual skulls.

“These look like last year’s leftover skulls,” she ventured, regretting it immediately. She got a frown from her grandson.

“Now there’s a good few skulls.” Sam had joined the archaeological dig. “Squirrel, woodchuck, cat.” Helpful being a biologist if you have a nine -year-old grandchild. Sam stopped at a skull a few down from the top. Definitely human. “Maxy, tell me about this one.”

“Completely on the up and up, Grandpa. They were done with it. It was broken, they let me have the pieces.” Sam saw the fine traces of epoxy holding the cranium together. Kid did a good job. Of course.

“Who let you have the pieces?”

“My friend Darla has a brother at Methodist. She knew I was collecting skulls; when somebody dropped it, her brother picked up the pieces. It’s registered research material. Technically, I’m doing a science project on open-air ossuary decay.” Smart kid. Of course.

Janice got Ice’s perch set up, got the bird out of his carrier, and waited for the kids to come over. ToTo, naturally, got there first.

ToTo. ToTo here. Smell ToTo.

Ice saw the dog and said it out loud, “ToTo! ToTo!” He climbed up a tree and stole a stick from a squirrel’s nest and brought it down to his old friend, then flew around the pooch’s head while ToTo barked up a storm. The kids finally caught up. Janice handed Ice a cracker. The magnificent bird pecked Max’s shoe three times and said, “Max good boy, Max good boy.” Sam was watching this time. His beloved wife gave Ice a pink cookie. Max pecked the little girl’s shoe three times and said “Sarah Good girl, Sarah good girl.”   Then a piece of a blue biscuit. “Arthur good boy, Arthur good boy!”

Sam looked at Janice and asked her, “Is it time to call Noam Chomsky?”

“No, just desecration to the job, willowing to put in the work.”

Everyone agreed that never had three distinct species had so much fun together. Before they left the next morning, Ice caught two cyclists with the flat tire trick, even without a blind.

The Knights had never been to the Georgia campground, and they didn’t know anybody there. It was a friendly kind of place, though, and Janice was able to find a poker game. When they woke the morrow morn, Janice had $2,000 from a “friendly” game, and Sam had a wicked beer hangover. Janice did the driving to Florida. Sam fell victim to one more behavior Janice, or someone, taught Ice. “Turnpike! Turnpike! Not Ninety Five!”

The Knights made it to Mary & John’s Marvelous & Jocular campsite. The bought that y took two days to say “Howdy” to their friends, level the camper, set up their stuff, do some local supply shopping. With all of the required jobs taken care of, it was finally el momento de veridad. They put Ice in his carrier and headed down the road to a famous roadside attraction, Pirate Pete’s Parrot Playground.

“So, wuz you the folks on the SS Mary Lou recued that bird from that crazy Skipper?”

“That’s us, and this is Ice.”

Pete went into an enclosure and came back with a bird, could have been Ice’s nestmate, but a little smaller.

“And this here’s Calliope. Same deal, the beer trick. The folks who ‘bought’ her couldn’t keep her, so I gave her a home.

The two birds pecked each other and started, possibly talking. All the humans heard might as well have been Yabba Dabba Dabba, and the two of them might have been calling for the big baboon one night in June to marry them.

“Mister Pete. I will give you $2,000 for that bird.” She handed him a pile of bills, some with barbecue sauce or Cheez-Wiz on them.

“Save your money, little lady, or send it to pet rescue. I can tell true love when I see it.”

October 16, 2020 04:33

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