The Scribbler returns! A new flash fiction: “Feathered Friends”.

After a short, but necessary, break, I am back at my writing spot. I have fulfilled my filial duties to my mother, and my sociable duties to far-flung friends, and have been busy preparing a new piece of flash fiction for the blog. And for your perusal.

This week it’s parrots. If you’ve ever been to San Francisco, or are lucky enough to reside there, you probably know all about the city’s resident parrots. They are a thrilling sight (and sound) if you’re not expecting them. I encountered them amongst the art deco buildings near Telegraph Hill where they played in the palm trees. I had written a much longer story using the birds as inspiration, but was never happy with it. However, I still wanted to include them in my writing, and this story occurred to me, as they do.

If stories reflect moods, I’ve no idea what was going on with me yesterday when I wrote this.

By the way, if you think you might not get the chance to visit San Francisco, there is a flock of parrots residing in the vicinity of Heathrow Airport. I saw them flying down the Northern Perimeter Road one day. I kid you not.


Feathered Friends

That first afternoon when the parrot landed on his open window ledge, Peter took no time at all in naming him. It seemed the obvious choice, and if others thought it clichéd and lacking in imagination, well, that was their problem. Percy just sounded right for him, decided Peter, as he watched his new friend preening his bright green feathers. Peter and Percy. Percy and Peter. Whichever way you said it, it was perfect; like brothers; or twins.

Percy spent his first visit nibbling the snacks that Peter laid out for him on the window ledge whilst Peter went about his own business inside. After a while, Percy flew back up to the top of Telegraph Hill to join the rest of his flock.

The next day, when Peter lay down on his bed, Percy flew in to the bedroom and perched on the lampshade. He rocked impatiently from claw to claw for a while before finally jumping down onto the pillow. Once there, Percy began gently nibbling Peter’s ear. It tickled a bit, but as Percy appeared to enjoy it, he let him carry on. Having satisfied his nibbling urge, Percy flew out of the bedroom to spend the rest of the day roosting and squawking; as parrots are wont to do.

When he made his now regular appearance the day after, Peter had left some treats outside the window and was already on his bed. Percy perused the tidbits, selecting a couple of choice morsels, and then flew straight over to the pillow. He wobbled awkwardly to Peter’s ear and lent forward.

‘I want to show you something,’ he said, ‘come on.’

Peter got up from the bed and followed Percy to the window. He watched as the parrot spread his wings and swooped down towards the courtyard.

‘Come on!’ shouted Percy as he soared back up to the bedroom, ‘what are you waiting for?’

Peter climbed out onto the window ledge and sat down.

‘Last one to Alcatraz loses!’ yelled Percy, already some distance away.

Peter pushed himself off the ledge and followed his friend out towards the Bay. As he flew, he felt the rush of the air. His shirt billowed around him like a sail turned into the wind and as they zoomed low over the waves, fine spray coated his face in a salty veil.

The island fortress loomed rapidly ahead, and just as Peter thought they would smash into its razor sharp rocks, Percy led him up and over and away into the sky above.

‘Not tired yet are you?’ shouted Percy, veering away towards the bridge, ‘you’ll love this!’

Soon, they were weaving their way at speed through the bridge’s supports, like two bobbins pulling invisible threads. Peter glanced at the cars below and wondered whether their drivers could see him as he flew.

‘Time to go!’ squawked Percy, ‘fog’s rolling in.’

The next day, Percy showed him the majestic peaks of the Sierra Nevada, and they learned to soar on the thermals with the eagles. In the following days they flew ever further and ever faster, southwards towards Percy’s ancestral lands in the tropics, then northwards over the freezing wilderness of Alaska. They traced the winding serpent of the Colorado through its bottomless canyons and dodged the fluking tails of humpbacks far out in the ocean.

Throughout it all Peter followed the green flash of the parrot’s feathers faithfully, always certain of a new vision under wide skies. He lived for these hours, spending his nights dreaming of the day’s adventures; each one a leap of faith into the unknown.

One day, Percy didn’t appear at the window at his usual time. Peter waited for a while; even laid out some extra treats which he knew to be some of Percy’s favourites. He peered out as a large flock of parrots flew past, hopeful of seeing Percy peel away and head towards the window. But he didn’t.

Towards dusk, Peter became impatient, so lay down and found a vein. Before long he’d made up his mind to try flying solo.

As he fell, his foot brushed a green feather from the ledge which caught on a breeze and gently floated away.

© flyingscribbler 2011


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31 comments on “The Scribbler returns! A new flash fiction: “Feathered Friends”.

  1. John Wiswell says:

    I’d leave flight to the feathered. I read a sad ending into this – but maybe he did achieve some take-off in his solitude.

    Welcome back to #fridayflash, Scribbler!

  2. FARfetched says:

    Somber… flying solo w/o wings is a recipe for disaster.

    “found a vein”? Was Peter a druggie, then?

    • Indeed he was. The story started off as being about the parrot just visiting, but it needed something else. Then the idea of a talking bird came up, but one that only talked to Peter. It seemed natural to make it a result of his drug-taking.

  3. Deanna Schrayer says:

    It is a sad ending, but what beautiful language in this Justin, I love it!

  4. Helen says:

    So Peter may well have been with Lucy in the sky with diamonds eh? It’s a sad ending indeed and yet that need to grasp what he had so real.

    Btw I have parrots wild in my back yard, rainbow lorikeets, crimson rosellas, one of the perks of living in Oz.

    • Thanks Helen. I wanted to convey his desperate need to cling to this experience, so maybe that worked. Lucky you with your exotic (not to you) flying fauna. My sparrows have their own charms. In a brown kind of way.

  5. sara says:

    Hello, I guess flying solo can be hard, as Peter found out. I enjoyed the imagery, and could really feel a sense of loneliness for (from?) Peter. I wonder if anyone found the green feather.

  6. Craig Smith says:

    Very vivid! Peter seemed to have cut life short, but it seemed like he enjoyed his last few days.

  7. Laurita says:

    There is desperation there, and sadness. But the freedom…ahhh. YOu can feel that too.

  8. Sonia Lal says:

    The ending is so sad! But maybe he found something in the end.

  9. laradunning says:

    I love the parfots in San Fran. One time we stayed at the Hostel near Fisherman’s Wharf. They were everywhere and woke us up each morning. They are loud and beautiful. That he fell at the end made his journey’s all the more magical. Nice combo of both.

  10. Aidan Fritz says:

    You capture multiple shades of sadness with this. Nicely done. One of those was dashing my dreams of this beautiful world where parrots talk and men fly. I had an image of peter pan when he first flew out to Alcatraz. (Flying to the jail as their first destination seems strangely appropriate.)

  11. henriettamaddox says:

    Loved your use of language to show and not tell what was going on. And your descriptions, such as “like two bobbins pulling invisible threads”.

    Was very confused until the end how this guy was flying. Then it reminded me a bit of that Nirvana song, Polly.

  12. adampb says:

    We all have that dream of flying *searches for Pink Floyd music* and the image of bobbins pulling thread was perfect.
    Adam B @revhappiness

  13. Icy Sedgwick says:

    I have a telepathic parrot in my pirate stories! I got the feeling there must be something amiss with Peter – the line about the vein cemented that. It’s quite a sad story, but bittersweet since Peter seemed to really enjoy his “time” with Percy.

  14. KjM says:

    Oh dear me, I imagined this might not end well, but you took it a lot deeper than I had thought. The story flowed really well, from its bright and almost ordinary beginning to its dark ending.

    Very well done.

  15. Mari Juniper says:

    Welcome back to #FridayFlash!

    I really liked how subtly you explain Peter’s flights. They sound liberating and I’m sorry he lost touch with reality so much that he forgot about his lack of wings. Druggies do that.

  16. Stephen says:

    At first, I thought the guy was dead, but then I saw the reference to the vein and knew he was just as good as dead, and may very well be such by now. A well-written piece of flash here. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Chuck Allen says:

    I agree with everyone else. The pace with which the story moved into the friendship with Percy to the flights to the tragic ending was perfect.

  18. Certainly an odd one this but I enjoyed it none the less! Oddly I also have the habit of instantly naming animals – people sometimes disagree with my choices but they’re wrong.

    Also, regarding parrots near Heathrow – Britain actually have a very high population of escaped parakeets, so much so that they’re starting to have an adverse affect on the native birds.

  19. Hi there Justin — never knew about those parrots in the UK. Makes me want to get down there with binoculars, or even ‘a selection of treats’. Especially if there’s potential for magical flight. Really liked your daily flying montage — a really solid feel of time passing and many things happening. Ooh, but it’s dark at the end. 🙂 St.

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