This is a story I promised a friend of mine. I decided to publish it here rather than give him a hard copy. I like to think it is worth sharing.
I have been writing as Jason Dowls™ since I was thirteen. This story was written for a writer’s group called Parakeets of Doom™. This group started out on a forum, Writers Write Forum. WritersWrite.com still exists but I don’t believe there is a forum attached to it any more.
OFF A WOOING DADDY
I’m not into fathers. I’m not into my own father let alone anyone else’s. I’m certainly not into meeting them, although I more or less had to meet my own father. Sort of an inevitable part of the process: You get born, doctor slaps your butt, “That’s Mommy. Here’s Daddy.”
Meeting her father was not on my list of priorities, it was on hers. When you have a girlfriend her list of priorities somehow becomes yours as well. An inevitable part of the girlfriend process: Meet girl, kiss girl, “Here’s your list of new priorities.”
It wasn’t to be a simple affair where you walked up, shook hands, and answered stupid questions you had lain awake all night rehearsing stupid answers to. Like, “What are your intentions toward my daughter.” You can’t reply “Well I thought we’d start by getting naked and cuddling a lot.” you have to say something beguiling like, “Get married and name our first grandchild after you, sir.” Gently skip over the concept that somewhere along the line you would have to get naked and cuddle a lot.
To make it worse her father was one of these big macho mid western types with big hairy hands and a grizzly bear growl for a voice who had seriously thought about becoming a pro boxer at one point in his life. The most macho thing I had ever done in my life was when a guy like him looked at me cross-eyed: I ran.
Our meeting was to be a day long event: we were to go pheasant hunting together. Great. I’m so well versed in this area of masculinity I had to be told you use a shot-gun for this. I was trying to borrow a friend’s twenty-two. Like this information would make a real difference. I was lucky to know the stock goes against the shoulder and the barrel points away from you. I’d be lucky not to shoot myself in the foot. In fact going hunting with me as a partner should be listed as attempted suicide. I’d rather go hunting with a known serial killer than myself. At least I would know he was trying to kill me. There wouldn’t be the anguish of uncertainty. Only I had to be very careful. He was after all her father and I didn’t want to have to explain to her that I shot at what I thought was a pheasant mating call before I realized it was her father breaking wind.
The thought crossed my mind that hunting accidents do happen and that it might be the perfect way to get rid of an unacceptable potential son-in-law. When I mentioned this to my friend who loaned me the shot-gun his only advice was, “Don’t get between him and what he is shooting at.”
“What if he is shooting at me?” That elicited no reply.
To make it worse that was the night she decided to offer me her virginity, or whatever she had left of it. After two months of trying to get her to spend the night with me how could I tell her this was the one thing I did not want to do on the night before meeting her father. I wanted to meet him with a virgin face, so to speak.
At any rate the next morning just before daylight when we met him in the cabin for breakfast she fairly glowed. I felt like crawling under a rock and hiding. My cheeks felt like they were on fire. I wondered if he could tell. If he noticed he gave no sign of it aside from one speculative look he gave his daughter.
When he shook my hand I felt the bones on my newly designated trigger finger slowly separate. People with hands that big and strong should have them registered as lethal weapons and should not be allowed to use them on others in any form. Not even a handshake.
I suffered this minor assault and we headed out to hunt. The three of us set out. I had not expected her to come along as well.
We had not gone far when he had spotted a bird. It was sitting on a tree limb and it was not a pheasant. I could tell. I had looked at a big book of pictures of birds. Not the Playboy kind either. The real feathered variety. Further I had been instructed to watch small bushes as these were the chief hiding places of pheasants. It was in fact a parakeet. I could tell because its picture was in the same book.
He shot it anyway.
It fell off the tree limb. I rushed over too it. “Stop,” I cried. “That could be somebody’s pet.” When I reached the tiny bird it was still alive. It did not look as though it had been hurt seriously, just stunned. I scooped it up.
“Give it here,” he growled. He held out a huge hand, palm up. I was surprised to note his palms did not have hair on them, as well as the backs. Perhaps he had been a very good boy as a child, though I somehow doubted it.
“You can’t hurt a parakeet,” I said. “They are just innocent household pets. It may belong to some little kid.”
“They are evil creatures,” he growled. “That is not just any parakeet. That is an unnatural being that should never exist. We have to kill it quickly.”
“Daddy use to be a preacher,” she said. “He knows about such things.”
I looked from father to daughter and saw the same fanatic light shine in both of their eyes. “Oh, my God,” I thought. “What have I stumbled into? Some kind of a cult of bird haters?” They both held shotguns, angled slightly away from me, but generally pointed in my direction.
“I’m a pretty girl,” The small ball of warm feathers chirped in my hand.
He reached out to grab the bird out of my hand. I drew it back. He started to bring the barrel of the shotgun up. I did what I have always done when faced with dangerous situations, especially those that boded extreme violence upon my person: I turned tail and ran.
A shot rang out over my head. I think I acquired a new part in my hair. Leaves fell from the tree above me.
“Daddy, he is my boyfriend,” she screamed.
“He’s a damned parakeet lover,” her father screamed back.
Somehow I was under the impression that my attempt to convince him I would be a great match for his daughter had gone dreadfully wrong. I had gone into this hoping to convince him I was worthy of protecting his daughter from dragons if the case need arise. Somehow I had wound up trying to protect a stupid little bird — from him.
And we had only been at this for an hour. No telling what I could accomplish if I spent the whole day with him.
The parakeet in my hand attempted to spread its wings and fly. It was a wasted effort. Its left wing was obviously broken and after it uttered a pained sound it collapsed in my hand.
I couldn’t turn this helpless little feathered thing over to him to be killed for no reason.
The voices of father and daughter were behind me arguing. At one point he shouted, “Death to all Parakeets of Doom and all who harbor them.” The sentence did not make a lot of sense but it sounded ominous enough to encourage me to run even faster.
I shoved the semiconscious bird into my coat pocket. It poked its head out and announced, “I’m a pretty girl,” in its squeaky little bird voice.
Mimicking its high-pitched voice I replied with full honesty, “I’m a scared boy.”
I could hear brush crashing behind me.
It occurred to me he knew the woods better than I did and I had no idea where I was headed. To keep running around out here was to either run head long into him or to be headed off by him.
I quickly climbed a tree. Taking the bird out of my pocket I put it in the crook of two limbs. The bird appeared to be barely conscious and I rated its chances of surviving as almost nil. It seemed stupid to jeopardize my future love life… Hell, what was I thinking of. Jeopardize my life. My life. Over a bird I didn’t even know and would die anyway.
This had not been one of my most brilliant mornings.
The crashing was louder. They were closer. I was trying to think of something to do. Anything. When from nowhere a flock of parakeets appeared over head. It was as though they looked at me. Looked at their injured comrade, then looked back at me.
I jumped out of the tree just as they attacked. They reached the ground just as I did, a black, thick cloud of birds, darting and pecking indiscriminately. Somehow these blasted birds thought I had hurt their friend and they were after revenge in the worst way.
I screamed like a little girl. An act for which I make no apology. I needed a big strong daddy to come and rescue me.
What I got was a shotgun blast in my direction.
“Daddy, he is in there.”
“Better dead than feathered.” was his oblique reply.
Somehow things had gone terribly, terribly wrong. I was no longer sure just how it had happened. I had somehow gone from trying to woo her father to being the primary target in a hunt from hell.
I did the only thing a sane person could do in a world gone mad. I ran.
Above and behind me flew an unholy flock of parakeets with the apparent objective of killing me. Behind them ran my girlfriend and her father firing volleys of shotgun pellets in my direction with what seemed to be the same objective.
We must have made a pretty strange sight to any normal hunters out looking for pheasant.
I made it to the river bank and dived in. It seemed like the only safe place to go. The problem was it was only safe so long as I could hold my breath. Sooner or later I would have to come up.
I put that prospect off as long as possible. I swam as far downstream and toward the far bank as possible.
When I surfaced parakeets were swarming everywhere. To the north I heard shotguns firing in a steady rhythm. I wasn’t sure what they were shooting at or what their intentions were but it was not doing me any good. I was a goner. I had to get my breath before I could go back under water safely and they could prevent that easily.
They seemed to be expressing their opinion of me in a rather direct, if crude manner. The cloud of feathered demons above me was suddenly raining bird poop.
I recognized one bird as it dive bombed me and landed with a heavy thud upon my head. It was the one I had attempted to rescue. It spread its wings out above my head as best it was able and began making noises to the flock above. Shortly they dispersed. They may have headed back north but I did not hear any more shotgun fire.
I climbed out of the water, freezing cold and dripping wet with the parakeet sitting upon my finger in front of my face.
“Looks like my other plans have been canceled. Guess you are going to be my date for tonight.”
It pecked me lightly on the nose with its beak. “I’m a pretty girl,” it said. Then it rubbed the top of its little feathered head on my nose in a birdly imitation of an Eskimo kiss.
With a sigh I put the little parakeet in my jacket pocket. Hell, I’d had other dates that had begun less auspiciously than that. So long as she doesn’t insist I meet her dad.
Copyright 2004 by Michael Berryman, all rights reserved.