Let’s take a break from the A to Z poetry and have a story, shall we? Welcome to Sucky Story Sunday, where my goal is to prove Ray Bradbury wrong and write 52 bad stories.
If there are dog days of summer, this one was a Great Dane. Heat radiated from the concrete and drifted up the skyscrapers. The sky was its usual gray-blue. Rick Mason continued briskly down W. 34th Street. All around him, people scurried down the sidewalk, like water drops on a hot skillet. The whole city hurries, Rick thought. Life was much slower back on the islands. Sweat began to run down his back. He remembered that the ocean breeze kept things cooler, too.
The phone jarred him awake at 6:13 that morning. He didn’t recognize the cartoonish voice. “9:15. Starbucks at Macy’s Herald Square.”
“Hello? Hello? The Macy’s on 34th?” Rick asked. Nothing but dial tone. He called the front desk, maybe they would know who it was who called. The concierge suggested Rick hire a secretary if he wanted someone to screen his calls. Rick decided to be civil, after all, he still wanted Yankees tickets for the evening. He showered, dressed, and left the hotel.
A jewelry store clock hung over the sidewalk. Rick noticed that his fellow pedestrians looked at the clock, then checked their own wrists as they walked past it. Even the woman in the tank top who had no wristwatch glanced down at her arm. The clock read 9:04. Rick weaved around a pair of dog walkers. He would not be late for the first meeting.
He stopped at a crosswalk, waiting for the walk signal. A flash of green and orange flew past his face. Shaking his head, he looked around. A tall man yelled into his cell phone. The woman accompanying him rolled her eyes. Two suited men stood staring at the traffic signal as if willing it to change. Nothing was flying around. Must have been bad Scotch last night, Rick thought. He crossed the street with the crowd. As he reached the middle of the next block, he heard the voice again. “9:15. Starbucks at Macy’s Herald Square.”
He looked around to find the source. To his right, a large green parrot perched on top of a phone booth.
–Excuse me? A phone booth?
Well, Rick, do you have a better term?
–Anything would be better than a phone booth. Makes me think of Superman, and I am not about to change into tights and fly away.
You sound pretty sure about that.
–Of course I’m sure. I’m the hero of this story and I should know what I’m doing. Who are you anyway?
I’m the narrator.
–Not a very good one. You started with the weather. Aren’t there rules about that kind of thing? And you’re lucky the ASPCA doesn’t come after you for abusing that Great Dane.
I don’t make it up, I just tell, uh, I mean, show.
–Ah, yes, that all-knowing, bodiless voice that follows me and relates every thought and action. I have some bad news for you, pal. The new literary gurus prefer the first person now. I should get to tell my own story. You can go back to the dark ages and renew acquaintances with your old friend, Jane Austen.
And a good friend she was. Her characters would never give me such a hard time. Can we get back to the parrot now? Ahem,
The magnificent green bird perched on the phone booth, watching the people pass under it. He cocked his head as his round eye spotted Rick. As Rick drew near, he spread out his wings. Rick hadn’t seen such a beautiful bird since his trip to Hawaii fifteen years ago.
–Hey, uh, narrator? Let’s not mention that Hawaii trip.
You think I care about your opinion?
–You ought to, I’m the hero. I’m the one the reader cares about. I’d hate to ruin the reader’s good opinion of me with the business in Hawaii.
I’m the one the reader trusts. Frankly, I think the reader would be quite amused by the Hawaiian incident. Most people understand that goats and luaus don’t mix. The grass skirts were too tempting …
–Could I just tell this story myself? I do first person very well. I saw the parrot, perched on the fire alarm box. It was very green. I looked around to see if anyone else noticed it. Most passers-by walked on, as if every fire alarm box had a parrot on top.
Stop, you have no sense of style or rhythm. You’re even boring me. May I please continue?
–No. You’re not telling it right. There are some thoughts I would prefer to keep to myself.
Well, I didn’t mention what you thought when you passed that woman in the brown suede mini skirt and tank top three blocks back.
–Now there’s a story. Tell you what, Mr. Narrator, let’s ax the parrot and go back to her. Shoot, let’s not make her a story, she could star in an epic novel. Maybe we’ll let her have a pet parrot if you can’t live without a bird.
See, you don’t even know the story! And you want to tell it? Please, spare us.
–You know the entire story? You still think there are phone booths in New York City. I’m appealing to a higher authority. Maybe I could take a website poll at MSNBC.Com. That Jane Pauly chick at Dateline would plead my case.
There is only one authority that could make that decision.
–You’re not the writer?
No, I told you, I’m the narrator. I can be the voice of the writer, but I still follow orders. Better than you do at any rate.
–Oh, yeah the writer. Kind of like God, only with an inferiority complex. Yeah, let’s go ask the writer. No skin off my back. We’ll ask the writer; then you delete the parrot and Hawaii. I’ll go back to the suede miniskirt and be a hero.
You’ll have one problem.
The writer has a soft spot for the parrot.
–Get real. I am the hero. The whole plot revolves around me. Not you, not the city, and certainly not some stinking parrot.
Believe what you want. I’m betting on the parrot.
— Of course, you’ll side with the parrot, parrots need narration. But I am the story. I can solve the mystery and rescue the girl. Let’s see your parrot try that.
If there are dog days of summer, this one was a Great Dane. Heat radiated from the concrete and drifted upwards along the sides of the skyscrapers. The sky, between the buildings, was its usual gray-blue. Percy the Parrot sat atop a phone booth, waiting…