(Warning: some strong language.)
It was the third day before Christmas and my true love send to me… a grumpy guy making a delivery.
Actually, my true love didn’t send me anything. I just thought it made for a nice rhyme. Who am I kidding? It was a shitty rhyme! Also, I don’t have a girlfriend. I don’t have anyone. To be fair, that’s what happens when you’re a contract killer. Not a lot of people lining outside your door to apply for the best friend position.
And, well, the delivery part was actually true. The guy made such a sour face while dropping the parcel. This really got on my nerves. If he hadn’t run so fast, I might’ve killed him. I know, I know. He was one of Ruben’s men, but I didn’t give a shit. Lately, I’ve stopped giving a lot of shits. Both figuratively and literally. I’ve been kind of constipated. How could you not be? In these circumstances…
Fuckin’ lockdown! Messed up all my business. It’s kind of hard doing your job when there’s a curfew and you’re not even allowed outside of your municipality. Mine being that of a small Catalan village in the middle of nowhere. Unless someone hired me to kill Carles the butcher (on the one hand the meat he’s been selling has started to give off an increasingly “fishy” smell, but on the other hand all those cleavers make me somewhat uneasy around him), Pere the tobacco shop assistant (who never has my favorite cigarette brand, even if I’d asked him countless times to order some stock), or the old señora Esperanza (who is my landlady, and who’s actually pretty nice, but is quite deaf in one ear and the shouting is getting just too much). That’s right! It’s not hard to find legitimate reasons to kill someone. Even if it is just to keep me in shape. But I’m not stupid and I know how a murder in a village of some couple of hundred inhabitants would look like. After all, that’s why I live here – away from the crowds, away from suspicious eyes. But now I’m fucked. I’m totally, utterly, and unbelievably fucked!
At least there’s Ruben. He’s my contact from Barcelona’s underworld, the one who’s been giving me most of my assignments. He hasn’t given up on me, and tries to keep me busy any way he can. I had to stalk a few people online, get to their bank accounts, stuff like that… You know, nowadays it’s all about “work from home”. But it’s so impersonal. I miss the human touch. I miss squeezing my victim’s throat while he lets out his last breath. I miss the splatter of blood and brains on a wall when I bash someone’s head in. I even miss the sneaky jobs when I have to spike someone’s drink at a bar… Hell, I was never much of an outgoing guy, but now I miss bars too.
Now, let’s have a look at that parcel. I wonder what it is this time. Maybe he’d started to provide me with the materials for my home job? Was it folding brochures, knitting scarves, or sewing masks? Haha, I laughed at myself, I’m funny.
So, back to the box. Ha! The box is funny too. It’s covered in holes. How strange. Is Ruben trying to save money? Did he find it on a dumpster? It does smell a bit musky. This is where I remember to clean it with alcohol before opening. After all, we’re living in the middle of a pandemic.
OK, cleaning – done! On the plus side, the nasty smell is gone. But now everything reeks of disinfectant. Let’s get to the opening part. While I tear the tape with my long nails (Yeah, I’ve stopped clipping those regularly too. Seems kind of useful. Now I get all the fuss surrounding the long pinky nails of handymen), I suddenly hear a sneeze. What the fuck? No, it can’t be. Must be the sound of the tape breaking. After all I’m alone in my tiny village house. Then I hear it again. Don’t freak out! You’re a professional hard man! You can’t be scared of a sneeze.
I compose myself and soon enough the mystery is revealed. Staring back at me from the bottom of the box are two crazy eyes, belonging to the biggest colorful bird I’d ever seen. The bird stares. I stare. The bird stares. I stare. You get it… this goes on for a while. Finally, the bird seems to have lost patience and screams, “Get the note, idiot!”
I jump back and fall flat on my ass on the floor.
“Ha-Ha-HA!” I hear the screeching voice like an echo coming from the depths of some cave.
“Don’t you dare laugh at me, you stupid bird!” I shout at the box while I get up. “I’m going to twist your skinny throat! Just watch!”
As I reach into the box, the colorful pest pecks me with its long beak and flies out. It circles the room twice before landing on top of my kitchen cabinets.
I wave my fist back at it, “I’ll get you!”
“Get the note!” The annoying freak screeches again.
Fuckin’ hell! What’s the deal with this note now? I rummage through the box and find a small plastic container covered in scratch marks. The note’s inside, all right. OK, I get it. It had been tucked away so that the bird won’t eat the piece of paper. I unfold it and skim through the message: bla-bla… Silvio’s bird… bla-bla… my phone is being tapped… bla-bla… it knows the code to the safe… bla-bla… take care of it! R.
So, this monster belongs to Silvio, the Italian mobster that’s gotten into an open territorial war with my guy Ruben. I can see how things might escalate quickly when the drug market has also been affected by lockdown. But how has Ruben managed to get the bird? You know what? Not my problem. What’s important is that he wants me to “take care of it”.
I look up at the parrot (I figured this red-headed annoyance must be one, since it can talk) that is still perched atop the cabinets, and make a silent “cut throat” gesture with my index finger. The bird tilts its head to the right, blinks twice with its freakishly large eyes and belches, “Cornflakes!”
Cornflakes? I’ll give you cornflakes, you… I’ll bury you in a cereal box filled with cornflakes, all right! Your time has come! Ruben said to take care of you. You’re not human, but a kill’s a kill.
I pull out the biggest kitchen knife I can find and start walking slowly towards the bird. Suddenly, I remember something and stop. Why hasn’t he taken care of you himself though? Wait! Where’s that note?
I leave the knife and go back to read through Ruben’s message. Shit! He doesn’t want me to get rid of the bird; he wants me to take care of it for real. What was that about a code? Oh, right! So, now I’m supposed to make a bird talk in order to spill the code to Silvio’s safe.
The parrot doesn’t seem to have problem talking. It flies down and lands on the kitchen table, right on top of the knife. “Banana!” it screams to my face. This motherfucker seems too smart to be true. I can bet that it somehow knows that I’m not allowed to kill it.
“Banana! Cornflakes! Nutjob!” It starts repeating the words like a broken record.
I think I got the point. Stupid bird wants to be fed. OK! OK! I take a deep breath. A job’s a job. Let’s see if it would be willing to share this secret code after its stomach is full.
I offer it a kiwi and open a fresh packet of muesli (Don’t look at me so judgingly. Being locked-up at your house for months makes you fat. I had to start a diet and increase my daily fiber intake…).
The parrot picks through both of them, but ultimately decides for the muesli, which it starts to devour, chewing loudly and making sounds like a broken typewriter. Soon there’s nothing left in the packet and the multicolored nightmare burps like a small bear. It seems happier, so I try with an impatient “What’s the code?”
“Dork! Dork!” it starts hopping up and down the table, and I somehow think that’s not the code.
“C’mon! What’s the code? What’s the code, you stupid bird! You know Silvio? Silvio’s safe?” I try to prompt it any way I can.
The idiot just stares blankly at me and then all of a sudden shouts again, “Gin! Vodka! Bourbon!”
You must be kidding me! I’m supposed to get it a drink? Am I a waitress or something? However, I think about it for a second, and decide that maybe it’s not such a bad idea. People tend to loosen their tongue when they get drunk. Might work on birds too.
Luckily, I happen to have a whole box of gin (pandemic and all that; they say ginger is good for you, and they didn’t mention in what form…), so one gin and tonic on its way for you, bird!
Wow! The little fucker does seem to enjoy it! Why am I surprised? That’s a mob bird; who knows what kind of things it’s used to. I just hope it doesn’t ask me for some “coca” next. Although, I might get away with it. After all, in Catalonia “coca” is also a pretty popular pastry. Don’t believe me? Google it!
Meanwhile, I’ve also poured myself a gin and tonic and now I’m trying to have a heart-to-heart conversation with the tipsy parrot.
“The C-O-D-E! What’s the code, mate?”
It just spits out, “Nipple… Feet… Toes!”
Now, I really hope this one is not some kind of pervert too, because the best I could offer it is old señora Esperanza.
The bird continues, “Arm… Elbow… Chest… Nose…”
Some relief settles in; seems it’s just listing random body parts.
I’m getting tired, so I venture into some new territory – the ‘being nice’ approach. “Dear bird, c’mon, loosen up a little,” I bring out my soft voice used only on potential
romantic sex interests. “I know you want to tell me everything. We’re friends now, right? That muesli was good, wasn’t it? And I know for a fact that I make killer cocktails. Oops, I didn’t mean it like that, I meant the good kind (although I’m no stranger to Molotov either.) Cheers, buddy! Wanna tell daddy the code?”
“All in! He’s bluffing! All in!” the parrot shouts in between a couple of hiccups.
That’s one mobster parrot, if I ever saw one. I could try playing poker with it, I guess, but what’s the point. Nothing seems to work.
Just as I’m getting desperate, I hear a soft knock on the door. Who could that be? Maybe someone had followed Ruben’s courier and is now coming for the bird? Clutching the knife behind my back, I slowly approach the door. “Yes? Who’s this?” I ask cautiously, but there’s no reply on the other side. I prepare to open the door and strike the unwanted visitor. Luckily, I’m shattered by señora Esperanza’s high pitched voice just in time, “Are you there, dear?” Of course! She couldn’t possibly hear me through the door.
I hide the knife and greet my landlady, “Good afternoon, Esperanza! What’s bringing you here? I thought I’d paid this month’s rent already, didn’t I?”
I have to shout a bit, but she eventually gets me, “Yes, yes, dear. It’s fine. I just thought, with the holidays coming and all that… Poor boy’s gonna spend Christmas alone. I’ve made cookies and thought I’d bring you some. Here.”
As she starts handing me a tray of freshly baked cookies, I feel a sudden gush of wind from behind and in a matter of seconds the parrot is perched on my shoulder, looking curiously at the old lady.
“Oh, I didn’t know you had company. So, you won’t be alone after all!” She gets closer and scratches the parrot’s neck as if it’s a cat. “Aren’t you a pretty bird? Ye-e-s, you are a very pretty bird! Do you like cookies? I bet you do! Who doesn’t like cookies? Open wide…” I start to feel really uncomfortable while señora Esperanza is getting overly familiar with the bird, treating it like a small child.
“Gaaa!” it screams back at the deaf woman and starts munching happily on a cookie. Once it swallows the last piece, it burps, clears its throat and out of nowhere it starts singing, “Three-five-oh-five-five-nine…”
NO-O-O! I can’t believe it! This actually did the trick!
Pandemic or no pandemic, I grab the old lady by the shoulders and give her a big kiss on the cheek.
“I love you, señora Esperanza! Thank you, thank you! And Merry Christmas to you too!” I shout at her ecstatic while I rush inside to find some pen and paper…