by Raji Singh
In honor of our other-than-human friends who add so much to our lives and National Pet Appreciation Week, a piece from the Fiction House archives:
My wife Tenille asks quietly from the next room, “Has Captain Polly arrived?”
“Yes.” I answer.
“Good, the children will want to play with her after dinner.”
I know Tenille’s smiling. Captain Polly’s been close in her, my, and our children’s time of need. She’s always there. For everyone.
Captain Polly dozes – slight “peh, peh, peh” snores. She sways lightly on her perch beside my desk.
I’m busy archiving, archeo-apologizing Fiction House Publishing manuscripts that date to the 1850’s. I pet her.
She sighs, content: Deservedly so – after over 20 decades of high-flying living. Ever young is Captain Polly. Feathers are the vibrant yellow, blue, orange of when she was in her 20’s: Just some frays about the edges. Sunflower seeds, a worm, grub, or bug here and there, gives her vim; keeps her trim. Vision’s sharp. Probably 20-20. One eye’s askew. That’s how she sleeps.
Still, I can’t help thinking she’s somehow fact-checking notes I’m making about she and my great-great granduncle, author William ‘Golden Boy’ Golden – and their abolitionist exploits.
In this writing, he’s tending to tracts about the Underground Railroad to garner support by sympathetic, yet apathetic mid 19th century readers. He ‘tells-embellishes’ how various message delivery birds played a vital part in the abolitionist cause.
–Raji Singh, Publisher, Fiction House
Captain Polly’s mistaken for a ‘do-gooder’ Jawhawk by pro-slave ‘border ruffians’ in anti-slave ‘Bleeding Kansas’. She feigns taking a bullet, and performs a dying swan into a pond – all for the sake of getting vital information delivered for the abolitionist cause.
HOW CAPTAIN POLLY CLIPPED THE INFORMER’S WINGS.
As the soaked parrot paddles quietly to shore her archenemy, Hawk, the pro-slaver’s air minion, swoops to intercept her. He grips the muddy bank with one claw. Raising the other for battle, he screeches. ‘I can take a Macaw with one claw tied behind my wing.’
~ ~ editor note: As in many wars throughout the centuries, hawks were trained to attack couriers of opponents – whether they were carrier pigeons; or humans on horseback, wagon, or ship. ~ ~
Hawk’s speed, swiftness, and brute strength while airborne are unmatched by Captain Polly. But Captain Polly is grounded – in cunning. In this, no other flyer is her equal. This is her reason for feigning being shot – to drop before Hawk attacked mid air.
Land advantage now – Captain Polly: At least in her mind. She shakes off water as she emerges from the pond. It slicks up the clay bank: Part of her scheme.
Hawk screeches as he motions with his beak. ‘Right here, taped to my leg, I have human words that tell just who your mistress Willamina is, Captain Polly. She is your Master, Golden Boy, a stinkin’ abolitioner is disguise. I plan to deliver this information soon as I finish parsimoniously dissecting the voice box of one way too talkative prairie parrot.’
Captain Polly inches nearer Hawk. Even from a few feet away his breath reeks carrion rot – from eating other flyers. Captain Polly despises any creature that eats its own kind.
She glares into the glassy ebony eyes. She knows the cunning eye flick hawks make before attacking their prey. When it comes, Captain Polly will be ready; will react instantly.
Frogs inch out of the pond. To savor the battle they sense is coming. Crickets and grasshoppers leap onto the greenback’s slick shoulders, to ‘givva gander’.
Closer, ever closer Captain Polly inches.
Hawk must remain in place to keep his claw firmly in the clay. He pulls his saber beak as far back as possible. One lightening lurch will fell the macaw. This is what Captain Polly knows he’s thinking, and she’s ready.
“No two-leg is my MASTER,” says Captain Polly. “No bird, animal or human is master to another.” Her words are clear as any humans. “You, HAWK, choose to do the bidding of evil humans who seek to enslave. In that, you willingly act their slave.”
‘Talk, talk, talk,’ chatters Hawk.
Closer, ever closer, comes Captain Polly. She hears Hawk’s feathers ruffling – at the thought of sky king being dressed down by a mere pretty bird. She sees his throat dryly heave at the contemplation of his mighty air throne challenged, with lowly, slimy pond creatures witnessing a forced abdication.
Pride goeth before a …
Hawk acts impetuously – just a moment too soon – just as Captain Polly was sure he would. He lurches.
Captain Polly bends, avoiding his saber beak.
Hawk teeters, having no parrot head to grasp to help keep his balance.
Captain Polly dives, not at Hawk’s throat, but at his leg. She seizes it in her gnarly beak. She vices, tighter, tighter.
“SCREE!” Hawk collapses. His talons can’t catch hold in the wetted clay. He slides like a ball, tethered by Captain Polly. Topsy-turvey, round-about. Saber beak gets nowhere near the ever moving parrot.
Frogs “ribbit” and crickets ‘whistle-screech’ hearty congratulations to Polly.
Captain Polly knows her next move must be swift, smooth, and flawless. NOW! She releases Hawk. She flies at his neck with talons outstretched, beak open wide. Instantly she’s on him.
“CRAA-CC-KK.” She snaps his neck. She claws away the implicating note on Hawk’s leg, and shreds it.
Hawk has one last laughing gasp in him: ‘There… is… one… other… who… knows…, Captain… Polly. The two-leg who wrote the note…’
COMING SOON: HOW TO WARN GOLDEN BOY, BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE.
©Raji Singh, 2012
(Join me every Sunday night at the Fiction House, your place for short story, lark, whimsy, and merriment. Meet the many residents as I archive their lives and centuries of adventures. You can read of their origins in my novel TALES OF THE FICTION HOUSE. They are completely different stories. My novel is available at Amazon, (Kindle and Trade Paperback) and Barnes and Noble.)
©2013, 2017 Raji Singh