Feathered, Giving the Bird – Jade Ramsey
When Frank sits the garbage out in the hallway overnight, the rank odor wafts like grape skins on teeth. His neighbor, Bette, calmly wraps the parakeet she’s been saving in silver gift wrap and a pink ribbon and scribbles FRANK on an attached card. She sets the present next to the now leaking trash. Frank finds the colorful bird, feeds it, and cleans out the cage. He decides that a parakeet is too nice a bird for Bette so he drives to the pet store and purchases a few cockatoos. He sets one twittering gift outside Bette’s place. The others he delivers to several of his neighbors (including the one that refuses to keep the same parking space in the lot, causing Frank to move everywhere too). Of course they feel they should return the favor, and the next day Frank finds at least fourteen fowl outside his door squawking and tweeting in reds and greens and plumy atonal chords all demanding nourishment and care. The smell of feces is worse than the original trash. He realizes that there are birds from other people who were just friends with his naughty neighbors and at least three are from Bette. Frank glares at the closed doors with golden numbers nailed above the peepholes behind which he knows they watch. He strolls over to the pet store and can’t understand the commotion at first. There are people everywhere buying birds. The shop has no more. He drives to another. No birds. No birds. He chases after a pigeon. No luck. He settles on ordering Hitchcock’s The Birds and tapes copies in front of the spy circles under the gleaming numerals of his neighbors’ doors. He flips on the television to find that the bird frenzy has spread like a flu epidemic over the city. The craze billows through the country. He spends everything he has on birds to give to his friends and his neighbors, and of course to take care of the ones he’s been given. He pawns all of his furniture to get more money for more elaborate birds depending on the person. A white owl for his ex father-in-law, three hummingbirds for his illegitimate children, a hawk for his ex wife and a crow for her mother; he sends mp3s of the song “Rockin’ Robin” to his co-workers, and they all return the favors. His home reeks with the odor of hate. He finally hears that the president has sent a pink flamingo to someone in Iraq and thus the bird war begins. The Fed-Ex planes are feathers and feces. Seed prices soar.
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Jade Ramsey is a native Texan who currently resides in Ohio while she earns an MFA from Bowling Green State University. She has decided that winter should be limited to Thursday, Friday, and Saturday as opposed to November through February. She can usually be found reading (or trapped) on her fire escape, where she is soothed by the sounds of traffic. Her work has appeared in ShelfLife Magazine and Jellyfish Magazine.