Friendship Fiction Funny

“Houston, we have a problem.”

“It’s not funny. It’s never been funny.”

“Come on, Houston.”

“I know you’re upset, but it wasn’t your fault.”

They looked down. On the bottom of a custom-built perch was a beautiful, dead parrot.

“Do you think my boss is going to care? I was supposed to take care of Apollo. I had one job.”

“Technically, two.”

“If we don’t figure this out, I’m going to have no job. Please just focus, Eric.”

“I’m focused,” Eric said. He laughed but tried to cover it with a cough.

“I’m going to lose my job and you’re laughing.”

“Come on, Dr. Shepard. You’re not going to get fired. It wasn’t your fault.” Eric grinned. Houston glared at him.

“I can’t help it.” Eric started laughing again.

A smile crept onto Houston’s face. “So unreal.”

“That’s better,” Eric said. “Now let’s figure out how to get the thing out of here and what we’re going to do to keep your job.”

“There’s a file box in my office. We can smuggle it out in that.”

“What if security looks in the box?”

“We can tuck some files over him. They won’t notice.”

“Dr. Full-of-Himself won’t be back for two days. We’ve done more with less,” Eric said.

Houston gently placed the dead bird in the box, covering him with files. Eric led the way out of the building. They managed to make it to Eric’s car without anyone looking too closely at the contents of the box. Houston set it on the backseat then got into the car.

“I thought working at NASA would be a dream come true,” Houston said.

“With your name it was a dream for me too.”


“Alright, alright. Best thing we can do is go out and get a replacement for poor Apollo.”

“You can’t just replace him.”

“Why not? They did it in that one movie.”

“Oh good, now we’re basing my future on fiction.”

“You have a better idea?”

Houston groaned. She glanced back at the file box. “No.”

“Okay,” Eric said. He clapped his hands together and started the car. “Where to?”

“No idea.”

Eric’s smile slipped. “Don’t you know where Full-of-Himself got Apollo?”

“That place closed years ago and it’s not like Apollo is a gold fish. Do you have any idea how hard it’s going to be to replace him. He was trained and everything.”

“Worry about training later. Let’s see if Google can help.”

“I cannot believe that I earned my PhD, only to be reduced to asking Google where to get a parrot.”

“Here,” Eric said ignoring Houston. “African Grey’s for sale near me. Holy shit, three thousand dollars?”

“That’s not the right subspecies,” Houston said glancing at the phone.

“Well, what is then? I hope a cheaper species.”

“Timneh African Grey. They’re smaller. We need it to be at least a few years old, not a hatchling.”

Eric snorted, “Did you seriously say hatchling?”

“Just look before I lose my shit completely.”

Eric sighed and entered the information. He let out a whistle. “How can they be smaller but cost more?”

“Special subspecies. We need one that’s been genetically sexed.”

Eric burst out laughing. Houston punched him.

“Get it together.”

“Come on, Houston. Just tell your boss the thing keeled over.”

“He can and he will. Remember what happened to the intern that killed his precious orchid.”

“I forgot about that.”

“Exactly. What do you think he’s going to do when he finds out Apollo is dead?”

“Right, okay. They have to be genetically sexed why?”

“Because they’re small and it’s hard to tell which is which.”

Eric’s lips twitched. Houston gave him a warning look.

“There’s one,” Houston said grabbing the phone out of Eric’s hand.

“This lady only wants twenty-seven hundred, it’s male.”

“Genetically sexed?” Eric asked with a smile.

“But she’s in Michigan.”


“That’s what I said. Zeeland, Michigan.”

“Sounds fake.”

“I’m looking at it on the map. I need to call her.”

“It’s ten o’clock. She might not answer.”

Houston dialed the number. The line rang four times, then an old fashioned answering machine picked up. Houston left her name and number on the machine.

“I didn’t know they still made those,” Eric said. “What do you want to do?”

Houston scrolled through the ads. “Let’s head that way. It’s about five hours away and there’s another one in Wisconsin if she’s sold this one.”

“Why not call the one in Wisconsin?” Eric asked as he pulled the car out of the lot heading for the interstate.

“They want five thousand.”

“Good call. Can I have my phone back?”

Houston handed the phone over to Eric, who adjusted the GPS. “Road trip?”

“Let’s do this,” Houston said.

Eric clapped her on the shoulder. “We’ve been friends forever. I can’t let my buddy down.”

Houston glanced back at the box again. “I hope they look similar.”

“They all look alike online.”

“Apollo had a white patch under one wing. They’ve got to be close, or Falstaff will notice for sure.”

“One problem at a time, Houston.”

Seven hours and three construction zones from hell later, Eric pulled into a gas station on the edge of Zeeland, Michigan. Houston was asleep forehead pressed against the window. As Eric turned off the ignition Houston stirred and opened her eyes.

“What time is it?” She asked.

“Six thirty on the dot. The old lady called an hour ago. We’re going to meet her at eight.”

Houston sat up, “Does she have the bird?”

“She does, and I have her address,” Eric said. “Coffee?”


They sipped their coffee, stopped at a diner for breakfast, then followed the GPS through the small town and back out again. When they reached the final turn Eric hesitated. A narrow dirt road trailed off into the woods.

“This feels a lot like that other movie,” he said craning his neck to see down the road.

“Which one? Cows Gone Wild?”

“Ha, ha. No, I’m talking about the one with banjos.”

“Could be worse.”


“At least it’s not a corn field.”

“Comforting,” Eric said.

“Go on. We came this far. We get the bird, find a hotel and sleep a few hours, then get back to Cleveland before Falstaff.”

“Okay, but if you hear banjos…”

           The dirt road curved and twisted through the woods. The car bumped along, seeming to bounce off every rock in the forest. Eric kept a firm grip on the wheel.

           “I’m going to need new shocks after this.”

           The road took another turn the car lurching over a large tree root. The trees thinned as they drove into a clearing. A little white house sat in the middle. Most of the front lawn was taken up by a vegetable garden. Rose bushes ringed the house, while butterflies flitted around the garden.

           “This isn’t bad,” Houston said opening the car door and stepping out. She stretched. “And you were worried.”

           “Pretty sure I wasn’t the only one,” Eric said.

           A white-haired lady with a cane shuffled onto the porch and waved to them.

           “Come on in,” she called.

           “Seems friendly,” Houston said shutting the car door.

           “They always do right before they eat your liver.”

           Houston rolled her eyes. They followed a stone path to the front door. Houston knocked lightly as she pushed the door open.

           “This way dears,” the woman said.

           The living room glowed in the morning sunshine. Knick knacks on the shelves caught the light and a bookcase filled to the brim stood against one wall. A rocker sat next to the bookcase, and a couch that looked straight out of the seventies sat on the opposite wall.

           “Please, sit,” the woman said indicating the couch with her cane. She took a seat in the rocker. Houston noticed a large silver case next to the rocker. Bigger than a suitcase, the thing had to be three feet tall. It looked modern and out of place.

           Eric nudged Houston forward. Houston elbowed him but stepped to the couch. They sat, sinking into the cushions.

           “I’m so glad you came and such a long way. Texas did you say?”

           “No, Miss, um”

           “Burton, but you can call me Grace.”

           “Miss Burton, I mean Grace, we actually came from Ohio and we’re very grateful that you could meet us on such short notice,” Houston said.

           “Ohio, my goodness. This is the first time I’ve had anyone from out of state make a purchase. I usually sell locally. You must have heard how good they are.”

           “We saw your ad and it sounded like exactly what we need.”

           “I’m so glad I can help you. I love helping couples.”

           “Oh, we’re not together, together,” Houston said.

           “Just great friends,” Eric added.

           “Really?” Grace said a puzzled look on her face.

           “Yep,” Eric said “Houston shared her snack with me in kindergarten and we’ve been friends ever since.”

           “That’s lovely,” Grace said. “I think I see now. You’re exploring, looking for a bit of adventure without all the commitments.”

           Houston and Eric exchanged looks.

           “I guess you could say it turned into an adventure, yes,” Houston said. “We’re actually not buying for us.”

           “It’s for a friend,” Eric said.

           “You are good to come all this way for a friend,” Grace said. She frowned a little. “It can be a little difficult to say which is best when the person isn’t here, but if you know them well we can probably manage.”

           “We know exactly what we are looking for.”

           “Wonderful.” Grace leaned over to the case. She struggled a moment with the top latch but managed to unhook it. She undid two other latches on the side of the case and opened it. Houston looked at Eric her eyebrow raised. Eric shook his head. When they looked back Grace had the case open. Inside were several rows of dildos and vibrators of every size and color.

           “You just tell me what your friend wants and we’ll get it wrapped up for you.”

           “Oh my God, no Miss Burton, we’re not here for that. We’re here for the bird.”

           Eric broke into a fit of laughter, tears started to roll down his cheeks.

           “Bird dear? I don’t have one called the Bird. This one,” Grace said pulling out a hot pink vibrator, “is called the Rabbit.”

           Eric slid to the floor clutching his chest. Houston smacked him, “The parrot, we’re here for the Timneh African Grey.”

           “Oh, the parrot. How silly of me. I thought you were the Tinsley’s. This way dear.”

           Leaving Eric on the floor the women stepped through a short hall into a dining room kitchen area. Grace shuffled up to the refrigerator and pulled open the freezer door.

           “There he is. Take a look.”

           Houston took a hesitant step forward. The bird lay feet up, wings spread on top of a frozen meatloaf dinner.

           “Grace, I’m sorry to tell you this, but your bird is dead.”

           Grace looked from the bird to Houston and back again. “Well, of course he is dear.”

           “I need a live bird.”

           “I’m sorry. Your friend didn’t mention you needed him to be alive.”

           “I do,” Houston said her shoulders slumping. “Is this the only bird you have?”

           “I’m afraid so. I thought someone might want to stuff him, you know. He’s such a lovely bird and I thought it might be exotic.”

           “Right,” Houston said stepping away from the freezer. “I’m sorry we wasted your time.”

           “No bother dear. Are you sure you wouldn’t like one of the rabbits?”

           Houston shook her head. Back in the living room Eric and Houston said goodbye and headed for the car.

           “Where’s the bird?” Eric asked.


           “Another one? I’m starting to think maybe it’s you Houston.”

           “Shut up and get in the car. We’ve got to get to Wisconsin.”

           Grace waved goodbye as they turned the car around and headed back down the dirt road. As they bumped along, Houston called the man in Wisconsin confirming that he had the bird and it was alive.

           “Five thousand,” Eric said when Houston finished reprogramming the GPS.

           “Look, I just got traumatized by an old lady and her case full of sex toys. We are getting that bird, I don’t care what it costs.”

           Eric let out a yawn as he turned onto the main road.

           “Eric, do you want me to drive?”

           “You can drive on the way back. You know we’re going to cut this close Houston.”

           “I know, I’m trying not to think about it.”

           “Let’s hope this guy really has a bird. Although, Falstaff might have enjoyed a rabbit.”

           They managed to get to the house in under three hours. Both the house and lawn looked neglected. Shrubs were overgrown and the single tree drooping in the yard needed trimmed. The chain-link fence looked like a rhino had punched a hole through it. Eric parked the car in the gravel drive. A short bald man with an impressive mustache opened the door.


           “Mister Vizier? We called about the bird,” Eric said.

           “George,” the man grunted. “Well come in before they get out.”

           They smelled the birds before they saw them. Dozens of parakeets flew around the house. One nearly made it out the door before George slammed it shut. Newspaper lined the floor covered in droppings.

           “There,” George said pointing to a small cage. George picked up a can from a tv tray, wiped something off the rim, and chugged. In the cage a scrawny parrot looked out at Houston.

           “Look Eric, it has white on the wing.”

           “The right one?”


           George watched the two examining the bird.

           “Bit scraggly,” Eric whispered.

           “If you don’t like him, don’t buy him.” George said slamming the can down.

           “No, he’s fine, just a bit thinner than we thought.”

           “Are you buying or not? I’ve got things to do.”

           “He’s been genetically sexed? Do you have the paperwork on him?” Houston asked.

           George hesitated, “Sure, but I don’t know where the paperwork is.”

           Houston looked at Eric, who shrugged. “It’s your call Houston.”

           “Alright, we’ll take him,” Houston said. She lifted the cage free from the stand.

           “Hold on, the cage is extra.”

           “Extra,” Eric said. “The bird is five thousand.”

           George grunted, “And the cage is extra.”

           “Fine,” Houston said pulling out her phone. “How much for the cage?”

           “I’d say another five hundred should do it.”

           “Five hundred,” Houston said, “I can buy ten cages for that.”

           “So go buy them, but I’m not holding the bird. I’ve got someone else coming. Take him now or not at all.”

           “Unbelievable,” Houston said. She Venmo’d the money to George.

           “Thank you very much,” George said.

           Houston handed the cage to Eric. “You take the bird, I’m driving.”

           “That was a complete rip off, Houston. We’ll be lucky if this bird stays alive to get back to Cleveland. What’s Falstaff going to say about how thin it is?”

           “I can say it wouldn’t eat while he was gone. Falstaff will believe that. Let’s get out of this dump and get home.”

           They managed to make it back in seven hours. Houston gave the original Apollo an unceremonious burial at a rest stop in Indiana consisting of a Walmart bag and a trash can behind the women’s bathroom. Deciding it would be better to enter the building late at night, they rested until midnight then headed for the research center. They hid the cage containing Apollo 2 in the file box to pass through security. Houston used her key card to Dr. Falstaff’s office.

           “Open the cage. See if you can get him to come out,” Houston said.

           Eric opened the small door. The bird hesitated for a moment, then took flight zooming around the room, clearly glad to be free of its tiny prison.

           “We’ll have to clip his feathers,” Houston said. “We catch him, you hold him, and I’ll trim.”

           It took thirty minutes to finally get Apollo 2 cornered. Eric got a bad bite, but they got Apollo’s wings clipped. Houston set the bird on the perch. Apollo 2 flapped his wings several times hopped along one branch and put his back to them.

           “He seems okay,” Eric said. “I’m beat, Houston. Let’s get out of here.”

           “Okay.” Houston said as she looked back at the new Apollo settling in. “Thank you again for doing all this.”

           “Any time you have a problem Houston, you know who to call.”

           Dr. Falstaff walked into his office a day later. He’d been asked to stay on to give an additional lecture. When he saw Apollo, he slammed his briefcase onto the desk causing the bird to squawk.

           “Dr. Shepard, get in here now.”

           Houston stepped into the office, “Yes, Dr. Falstaff. Welcome back sir.”

           “Don’t give me that. Look at Apollo. I can’t believe you allowed him to get into such a state. You hold a PhD, but you can’t take care of a bird?”

           “He missed you sir. He refused to eat. He even started pulling out his feathers.”

           Dr. Falstaff regarded Houston then the bird. “That’s never happened before.”

           Eric knocked on the office door. “Dr. Falstaff welcome back.”

           “Dr. Walker,” Falstaff said not looking at him.

           “Glad you’re back sir, Apollo was pining after you. Houston thought the poor thing would go bald before you got back.”

           “Hmm. What do you want Eric? Houston we’ll talk later.”

           Three months later one of Houston’s colleagues caught up with her at lunch.

           “Did you hear Dr. Falstaff on the phone this morning? I guess he was trying to get ahold of the people that sold him Apollo.”

           Houston set her sandwich down, “Why’s that?”

           “Apparently, when he came into the office today, Apollo had laid a clutch of eggs right on his inbox tray.” The woman laughed. Houston tried to laugh too. She saw Eric coming toward her.

           “Houston,” he said.

           “Don’t you dare say it.”

           Eric smiled, “We have a problem.”

February 10, 2023 03:28

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Laurel Hanson
22:59 Feb 14, 2023

This is super. I admire your restraint in not saying the dead parrot was pining for the fjords. It is nicely crafted and very funny. Well done and welcome to reedsy!


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Unknown User
22:53 Feb 13, 2023

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