Fiction · 09/16/2015

Too Easy To Touch

I’m at a cafe with my friend Lara, having a biscuit and coffee, and I’m telling her about it.

“So here’s what happened. I rescue a little blue parakeet near the park coming home from work. I can tell it’s tame, the way it’s just looking around. And it’s too easy to touch. It lets me touch it. It’s just standing there, looking confused, near a pretzel stand. So, I pick it up off the sidewalk and wrap it up in my scarf. People are watching, telling me good job. Stuff like that.”

Lara’s eating her biscuit by pulling it apart and sticking pieces on her tongue. She’s on a diet.

“You’ve seen when someone saves an animal Lara? You know the kind of thing. People were telling me ‘good job’. ‘Good for you.’ But, when I get home, Kurt is irritated and hungry. We were going out. You know the place with the peanut noodles on Broadway up by us?”

“Yep,” Lara says.

“I tell him that I have a bird with me, and it’s probably been through a lot, some asshole just let it fly out a window.

“Huh,” Lara says. She seems bored and is looking at her phone, but I can’t tell what she sees because she’s not looking up, keeps tapping at her phone with her finger.

I continue…

At least he wasn’t smashed by a fucking car! I say to Kurt, Lara, because I have to let him know what kind of miracle this is. Lara this is now my bird! And the bird is light blue. Lara, you’d die… yellow fluff on its head and a tiny bit of red on the tip of its wings.”

Lara looks at me and sorta grins. She likes fluff.

“I wonder, you know, if Kurt can be jealous that I’m really excited about something other than him?

Because, he goes, Well, I’m not going to keep a rat or a bird, they’re carriers of disease, I don’t want a bird. They depress me.

The bird’s still rolled up in my scarf like a burrito. Kurt hasn’t even seen it so why is he like this… Maybe he knows the bird has made a mess? He goes for a smoke on the fire escape… says he needs to cool down.

I decide to name my bird Mr. Jerkins.

Lara, I get a box from the bathroom closet, dump all the dead roaches from it into the trash… unwind my scarf, it’s smelly and gross – and the bird is stiff and still.”

“This is giving me a bad stomach,” Lara says, glaring at her biscuit crumbs. Her ruby-red lipstick looks clownish these days and she is just recently no longer pretty.

“I scream, He’s dead!

Kurt rushes in… all fireman-like and he touches the bird with his sleeve.

Naw, he says. He’s doing what birds do. Fakin’.

Huh? I say. By then… I’m a mess. I’m losing it. Crying and my eyeliner is running and I can tell I look like dog-shit.

He says no honey, don’t worry, the birdie isn’t dead, the birdie is pretending. He pulls me to him and tells me that I am more spicy than Chinese noodles. I feel stuck. Because I’m worried Mr. Jerkins is dead. It may be the first time I don’t want to fuck.

Have you felt that way, Lara?

I tell him, This is serious. This animal is mine!

I do, you know, the quickest thing for Kurt… you know what I mean Lara, and thank God… cause after that he’s all good again. A different person.”

“Swell,” Lara says.

“So I go out to the only all-night pet store, it’s way, way downtown… and I buy a little cage and a bell and a perch and some seeds and a mirror. He’s really doing okay, Mr. Jerkins. But I’m not sure I am.”

“One sec,” Lara says, looking at her phone.

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Meg Pokrass is the author of “Damn Sure Right” (Press 53, 2011) “Bird Envy” (Harvard Bookstore) and a novella-in-flash “Here, Where We Live”, one of five novellas-in-flash in the award -winning anthology “My Very End of the Universe – Five Novellas-in-Flash and a Study of the Form” (Rose Metal Press, 2014). Her new, full flash collection “The Dog Looks Happy Upside Down” is forthcoming from Etruscan Press (Spring, 2016). Meg’s flash fiction has been widely and internationally anthologized, most recently in the new Norton anthology “Flash Fiction International. Meg currently divides her time equally between San Francisco and London.