Monday, September 26, 2011

Birds of a Feather

I never thought I’d meet someone who made the parrot lady look normal. That woman used to come into the store with 2 parrots, one perched on her shoulder pirate-style and the other in a filthy old baby carriage. They were huge tropical creatures with meter long tail feathers, beaks like the Kraken and evil tempers to match. Once, in all innocence I asked her if her birds performed any tricks and she answered of course they did. She placed one of them on the floor and said, “poop Reginald, poop, poop”, and beamed proudly when the wretched beast crapped on my floor. Good trick!

But this morning, Madame Parrot met her match. A lady came into the store murmuring quietly to herself and holding a bag to her chest and as she moved down the aisle I thought I heard a muted shriek of distress. Now, I’m deaf in one ear so I can’t tell where the sound is coming from. It might be that damn feral cat caught in the basement again or the elderly painting class next door having another gin-and paint party, so I get up to investigate and I hear the sound again, but this time it sounds like a bird gurgling. A very sad gurgle. Whatever was in the woman’s bag started to coo and bloody gurgle with each breath and finally I said, lady, do you have a bird in your bag? She said yes, yes, my dove. I tried to smile but I’m not sure what kind of facial expression I formed. She turned away and began saying things like, “there, there, we’re going home soon, momma’s almost finished, is baby tired?” I had a terrible thought. What if there was no bird! What if she was in the terminal stages of Organic Crazy Person Syndrome? I had to know, so I walked over and said, can I see your bird? Now if you ask that question of a person that isn’t carrying around a bird, you risk assault, but I’m relieved to report that there was indeed a bird in her bag. A comfortable looking, clean white dove in a bed of fresh green grass.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Yes, I really said that...

The secret to a long happy marriage is never saying “I told you so”. I was doing lawn work with Donna the other day and she said that she would mow the front lawn and I said be careful because the lawn has a steep slope and she said, yeah yeah whatever. Five minutes later she strolls up to me and says, ‘for some reason the lawnmower is flipped over on its back’. I did not say ‘I told you so’, I just righted the machine and pulled the start-cord and suddenly clouds of black smoke billowed out but that was the least of my worries because when I yanked the cord I elbowed Donna, bam in the nose, and she was crabbing away from me with her hands to her face and I’m wondering, should I say I’m sorry even though it’s her fault for standing in the wrong place? Well, the second secret to a long marriage is the man must always apologise for everything his wife does.

So this couple come into the store with their 8 year-old daughter and I suspect they’re Mennonites or something and the woman puts a few books on the counter and whispers, I’m not from here and I can’t help noticing there are an awful lot of immigrants around. Well, I said, I’m all for immigration because without them we would be depopulating. Look at your situation, I said, is this little sweetheart your only child? Do you really consider yourself fecund? Well maybe I should have said “fertile” instead of “fecund” though really either word in retrospect is look-away awkward and what the hell was I thinking. You may have guessed that there is no politically correct way to pronounce “fecund”, it just tumbles out sounding like a dirty Irish word. She clamped her hands over her daughter’s ears and gave me one of those familiar are you crazy looks. I stuttered, realising the word was unknown to her but the pronunciation was disturbing so I said, what I mean is, if you were more fruitful and had more children you might stop complaining about other people’s kiddies. Her eyes went poppy-like and I couldn’t believe what I just said and her husband looked like he was going to take a swing at me but instead they just marched out and I figure they might say bad things about the store to their friends.

The ambient weirdness of the neighbourhood has been rising recently. Yesterday a very elderly man leaning on a pencil thin cane stood outside the store and stared at me for so long that I started to get very creeped out so I went out and asked him if he was OK and he started screaming at me for not carrying German books. Damn, I thought, another case of Organic Crazy Person Syndrome. So I asked, trying to calm him, are you German? No, he screamed, but the buggers are everywhere. OK, I thought, he might be ancient but he’s clearly dangerous so I started to close the door and he darted out and stopped the door with his foot. This was distressing to me in an Edgar Allen Poe kind of way but fortunately Nestor was visiting and was in the back of the store so I called out, we got a live one here, I need help, but he took one look and fled out the back. He’ll pay for that.

Some people ask me if my stories are true. They are. It’s true that I may be encouraging things a little by my store display. I can’t help it. Current titles include “How To Embalm Your Mother-in-Law”, “The Case For Flogging”, “Eros On Crutches”, and “Improper Advances, Heterosexual Conflict in Ontario, 1880-1929”. These titles are not available at that other book store, you know, the one with the name that rhymes with Rapters (don’t bring your pets) or Captors (don’t bring your kids).