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Christmas Funny

Harry stared. The bird stared back. Merry effin' Christmas, Harry.

Staring was more or less all Harry could think of doing. Because A, doing anything else would acknowledge that yes, there was a bird sitting in the back of his dining room chair staring back at him. And B, acknowledging that meant having to do something with the bird. And exactly what did you do with it?

Harry grew up without pets. His parents were what his grandparents called "damn hippies". Pets were animal prisoners, they said, and they would not oppress another soul. Nana protested many times, but they won, mostly because they moved half a country away. Which he did in turn at the first chance he could. But still no pet.

And then... the bird.

The bird had come in a box that got placed by the delivery lady early that morning. She had clearly ignored the "live animal" sticker on the side of the box. It was addressed to him but no sender was visible. He took it inside, and the bird exploded out as soon as he sort of opened the flaps. That was ten minutes ago, and they were still in the staring part of their relationship.

About the size of a crow, this bird was a dark chocolate brown, with huge --and yes, staring-- eyes. The tail ended in two long golden curved feathers with black specks, and a whole bunch of strings in the middle. Harry, not even a fan of nature shows, had never seen a bird like this in his life.

--G'day mate-- the bird crooned.

Oh. It speaks.

It made a sound reminiscent of a car alarm then, jumped into some pretty beautiful warbling, then said "G'day mate" again.

Harry watched and heard all this in silent, stoic shock. It wasn't until the bird jumped on the table and squirted a rather large stream of guano on the table. He snapped out of the trance and got up to do... something.

--Nodeindabawx--the bird crooned.

--What?-- Harry asked. --Oh c'mon, it's not like--

--Nodeindabawx-- the bird repeated, and then whistled like a factory whistle, followed by a chainsaw, followed by more warbles, followed by "Git on now, git on".

The confusion pile grew another level. There were clearly words coming out of this bird's mouth, er, beak, which Harry thought only happened in parrots. A bird that someone sent him. And two days before Christmas? What is going on?

--Nodeindabawx, nodeindabawx-- the bird chimed again, and a doorbell came out so perfectly that Harry actually looked at his door.

--Note... note in the box?-- Harry asked.

--Noadeindabawx-- the bird said.

Harry looked at the bird, and back at the box. He peered inside, and yes, there was a note. A guano-stained note, but a note still. And it said in print, "To Harry Rodríguez".

Well, shit.

--Git on now, go-- the bird crooned.

--I'm going, I'm going-- Harry replied. Guess we're past the staring now.

He bent over the box and tentatively took out the note. The bird poop was dry and flaky but still disgusting because, well, poop. He opened it and let out a groan of despair. He recognized the handwriting at once.

Hola Papi. This is your sister speaking, all the way from sunny Chile. Love the summer here, don't you? Oh wait, it's like 30º where you are. Oops, sorry. 

More like 45º, but still. Fuck you, Amalia, Harry thought.

I know mom and dad never let us have pets or anything, but I can't stand thinking of you all alone in a city no one knows you--

That's part of the charm, and you know it, Harry thought again. But... was it? Yes, yes it was, shut up.

--and a dog isn't weird enough. So, meet Paul, he's a lyrebird, the only one in the United States. What can I say, I know a guy. Take good care of him. Feliz Navidad!

Harry reread the note, convinced he was still high on LSD. Yes, the one he took two days ago. He looked at the bird whom he now knows was a lyrebird, who was called Paul, who was exploring the cables behind his TV.

I'm going to kill her, he thought. Or maybe send Paul's feathers back.

Of course, he wouldn't do that. Mostly because he couldn't find his sister's actual address in Chile. Shut up.

--Paul...

The bird looked up. --G'day mate-- he crooned. Followed by a very long laugh, ending with another doorbell. --Gottameel?

A meal, it said. I don't have bird seed. What in God's name do--

And a cockroach came out under the couch. The first one Harry had seen in the week. And Paul yapped it up like a bullet finding a target. Oh, easy, now I just need a supply of cockroaches to keep him alive.

Any other man would have simply called Amalia to curse her off and ask for help. Or called Animal Services to get rid of Paul. But Amalia knew Harry, and that's what pissed him so much about her. Calling Amalia would mean defeat, would mean admitting she won. No, he would make sure Paul would outlive both of them. His dying wish would be that his younger sister would care for his beloved lyrebird till one of them croaked.

Paul croaked like a bullfrog behind him, adding "Yummy roach, yummy".

Wikipedia opened like the treasure trove of questionable information Harry appreciated it. Lyrebird, Menura novahollasomething. One of two species of large passeri--- passeri--- shit, songbirds from Australia. "A variety of invertebrate prey is taken..." Oh shit.

Harry lived a clean life. He was not exactly swimming in roaches. He barely saw moths and some ants. When a roach found its way to his house, it was dealt with swiftly, as was any leftover food that might attract them. Spiders were carefully plucked and taken outside. Paul would need at least ten of the roaches he had found in the next ten minutes. Harry didn't want to do that math to figure out how Paul --whose species could live up to thirty years-- would outlive the both of them.

--Goddanuthermeel?-- Paul asked, breaking Harry's heart. Goddamn you, Amalia.

He grabbed a jacket, a grocery bag, and gloves. He dreaded how covered in shit his apartment would be when he came back, but he figured that would be easy enough to clean.

--Gimme a minute, Paul, I'll be back.

--Git on, then, go on-- he answered, along with a knock and a whistle.

And Harry, against his better judgment but driven by a desire to prove his sister wrong --no, really-- headed to the dumpster.

He came back an hour later, stinking more than the word itself, covered in dirt, but with a wriggling bag that would have felt like fortune cookies if anyone dared to touch it. Paul looked up from the bathroom door with a "G'day mate" and ambled up to Harry with curious determination. Harry looked around frantically where he could empty the bag, which Paul started to peck. "No!", Harry whisper-screamed, fearing a deluge of cockroaches over his living room. He saw the box where Paul traveled and quickly dumped its contents. We can't imagine how much Harry worked to get that amount of cockroaches in the house, but he did. The box suddenly seemed alive and writhing. Paul jumped over and started picking the brave few that got up, and then he jumped on the ones in the bottom.

Harry collapsed in a corner, exhausted already. He almost nonchalantly stepped on a roach that got away, which Paul slurped up. He felt good, as we all feel when we have dealt with a troublesome task. He of course sent Amalia a mental F.U., a serves her right. Eighteen-year-old him would be thrilled.

But thirty-year-old? The smile faded. He looked around at his apartment. It was neat but tiny. And now splattered with bird poop here and there. He had to clean that. He would also need to find out where he would get food for Paul that involved less showering and fewer risks to his own health. That involved money. And time. He had very little of either. And there was a whole lot of Paul.

--Crunchy mate-- Paul said, as if on cue, after swallowing a particularly crunchy roach.

Harry got back to staring. He hadn't really looked at Paul as anything but a crazy nuisance. Now he truly looked at him. The colors weren't shiny like a parrot, but he was a beautiful animal nonetheless. And when he finished eating the roaches, he started singing --really singing, not the weird sound effects he had been making so far. On the Wikipedia post, it said that lyrebirds were the best imitators in the bird world, but also had beautiful songs of their own. Paul had certainly proved both true.

And now he was his responsibility.

But you know what? So be it.

Harry pushed himself up and tried to ignore his own stench. He walked back to the laptop, ready for a night of research on lyrebird care and raising. Paul would live out his years with him and Amalia will have to admit defeat. You'll see about that. You'll---

Hmvvvvv. Hmvvvvv. Hmvvvvvv....

His phone vibrated on the coffee table in his living room. He stopped, briefly tried to ignore it, knew he wouldn't. It vibrated again, with a sense of urgency. Oh I know that tone it's not giving, Harry thought.

It wasn't the first time it seemed like his sister knew when he was thinking about her, but it was always annoying when it happened. And right now? Even worse.

He briefly thought of ignoring her. It wasn't the first time. Nor the second. Ok, not even the third. Or fourth. A pang of guilt increased his annoyance but knew he had to pick up this Facetime.

He grabbed the phone and opened the call. He had to choke on the flurry of Venezuelan cussin' he wanted to blurt out because it wasn't just his sister's face who showed up.

--Hola, Mami, bendición-- he greeted.

--G'day mate-- chimed Paul from behind. He saw a roach that tried to make a run for the kitchen from under the box, chased it, caught it, and swallowed it. He then ruffled his feathers happily and settled on Harry's head.

--Dios te bendiga, mijoAy Dios mío, is that the pajarraco you told me you got him?-- his mother asked Amalia, who had this big stupid grin on her face.

--Yup. I know a guy that can find any animal you want. Hola Papi!

Harry just brooded while Paul started to preen him.

--You need a haircut, mijo, see, even the bird knows.

--Amalia, you want to explain what the f... what were you thinking?!

--What, you're all alone, in another country, Mom couldn't make it over there, so I thought I'd get you a pet.

--I don't approve of an animal like that in a house, Amalia-- her mother added--. They're like prisoners.

--Ay mami, and Harry isn't? At least he gets to share the cell.

Paul pulled a hair a little too much, and Harry shook his head, sending the bird flying. But for the first time tonight, the bird was far from his priorities. --Do you really think it's funny, coño?

--Language!-- his mother said, shocked. But here was a first: Harry ignored her.

--I spent the last hour in the building dumpster catching cockroaches to feed him. He doesn't eat seeds, Amalia, so I can't just go to Petsmart and buy birdseed for him. And did you see his size? What made you think I have the time, or the money, or the energy, to take care of a bird like this?! Of any animal? And I can't just dump him in the forest outside, this is a living being... that poops a whole fricking lot!

--Ay Amalia...-- his mother started. Amalia was just bent over, trying to contain laughter.

Mom started to reprimand her in Spanish, something about how could you get that poor boy all worked up like that, he was so busy. Harry started feeling embarrassed to have his mother say what he couldn't say, and just when he was about to say something, Amalia lifted her head and looked straight into his eyes. And she wasn't laughing.

She was crying.

--I know you can't keep Paul, Harry. I know it's too much of a responsibility. But then again, it's the same as watching over your little sister, or your mom.

--Amalia!-- Mom shrieked. Harry was stunned silent.

--Oh stop it, Mom-- she said--. When was the last time Harry called, or texted, or anything? When did he ever send anything in that care package he sends every two months that showed he really cares? I know, it's not like he's swimming in dough, but all I'd ask for is something that makes him feel closer. Something that proves to me that I didn't treat him like shit for him to push me out of his life. That whatever issue he might have with you and Dad he might not take it out on me. So I sent that bird so he can remember me, because I'm tired of it being the other way around. Maybe that way, if he does the right thing for a stupid bird, he might do the right thing for his sister. And work out whatever he needed with you guys. Merry stupid Christmas, you dick. I love you.

And she turned off the call.

Harry stared at the screen and at his own reflection for a long, long moment. He wasn't sure what he should feel first. A single tear crept out of his left eye. Paul stood next to him, crooned "Get well, mate" and whistled.

Growing up, he felt how Amalia looked up to him. How she sought him for protection. And he also remembered how he wanted to drift away, how he couldn't stand the pressure of being the older child. He always thought Amalia was too strong-headed to care. Sucks to be this wrong, Harry.

He looked at Paul. Beautiful. Unique. And absolutely not meant for a tiny apartment.

He had work to do in the morning.

And he would call his sister later.

December 26, 2020 04:06

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3 comments

E. Jude
11:35 Jan 01, 2021

Nice! I really enjoyed the flamboyant humor and nature of this story. The first line really drew me to it, and I'm glad I read it all the way through! It would be really helpful if you could check out one of my stories! E.

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Bonnie Clarkson
22:48 Dec 30, 2020

I thought you did a good writing, although I am not a fan of cusswords (there are better ways to express yourself). Amalia's reaction came out of the blue though. I don't know how you could have put hints in.

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03:36 Dec 31, 2020

True about alts to cussing, and I only use it when I feel they fit. It's true, maybe some backstory next time. I appreciate the feedback!

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