Newcastle Herald short story competition finalist 2018: Squawk

WORTH 1000 WORDS: Each day we will publish a finalist in the Herald short story
competition. The winner will be announced on January 27. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
WORTH 1000 WORDS: Each day we will publish a finalist in the Herald short story competition. The winner will be announced on January 27. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

DAN hated birds. And birds hated Dan.  There wasn’t a mutual respect of two foes. Just pure hate.

Birds of the area knew not to fly into Dan’s yard, because if they did, they were punished beyond all recognition. Dan would tempt new birds to come into his yard. He would put out the tastiest seed and leave fresh fruit that he knew birds loved. The birds most caught out were migrating birds or birds that had just moved to the area because of the better schools. When they went into Dan’s yard they never left. They would be eating some delicious seed and then boom! Wing by wing, feather by feather, they were gone.

Dan was a tall, thin man. He worked in an office by day and at night he read the newspaper and watched his dreams slip by. He also liked gardening. His specialty was delicate fruit trees like figs and dates. Anything that birds would find sweet. Beside the loathing of birds, he was quite a reasonable man. He even donated to charities and took the lids off bottles before he recycled them.

Magpie, who was native to the area around Dan’s house, had had enough. He decided that the birds needed to fight back. In his words “no more birds were to be harmed”! Magpie talked at a local watering hole to some of his friends. He said that it was time to take a stand.

The other birds looked at him funny and asked if he’d been drinking pool water again. They flew away to sit in a tree where they could talk about the rising price of real estate and gossip about domestic chickens.

Parakeet came closer to Magpie and sat on the branch he was perched on. He explained to Magpie that he liked his idea and that he had had some similar ideas but hadn’t told anyone for fear of being called a revolutionary. Parakeet knew of a bird that would be more than interested in getting involved.

Parakeet knew of a bird that would be more than interested ...

Magpie made his way to a tree on the outskirts of town where he had agreed to meet Parakeet and his friend. When Magpie arrived, waiting for him was Parakeet and his friend, Toucan. The birds greeted each other in the usual way birds do and Toucan introduced himself. He had run with the infamous Calle gang of El Salvador and had a tattoo of Che Guevara on the inside of his wing. He had moved to this part of the word for the breezy air. But he missed the action of his past life, and wanted in on Magpie’s plan.

As they were sitting there a car pulled up not far from the tree. Without warning, when the couple got out of their car, Toucan swooped down and launched an attack. They swooshed and flapped and dived for cover in the car. Magpie and Parakeet thought this was hilarious. Toucan even grabbed a tuft of hair. Magpie knew he needed this bird on his side.

The three decided on a date for the attack. They got the word out on social media, which for birds is very direct. Birds aren’t interested in pictures of puppies or posting political opinion and acting as if it is fact. They said the truth about Dan’s torturous ways and added some other stories for effect. It made all the birds, everywhere, raving mad.

Finally, the day of reckoning arrived. Parakeet and Toucan flew up to Magpie and they exchanged steely glances. Dan was ready and waiting. He’d hired some local thugs and some out-of-work economists as his militia. He added vicious dogs. He had spades and shovels at the ready and set the sprinklers off around the house.

Magpie looked at the menagerie of birds that had assembled. He puffed out his chest and rallied the troops. He began, “A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking because its trust is not on the branch, but on its own wings”. Then he let out a mighty squawk. Each bird was ready, screaming.

The sky turned black with feathers, and wings and beaks and malice. There were ground troops of emus and cassowaries. The eagles and cormorants shot down at the enemy like F-18 jets. Even the smaller birds did their job by tormenting the dogs. The stalks turned the sprinklers on Dan and his posse. A few sniper-like robins snuck in and unchained the dogs. Afraid of so many birds, the dogs ran off down the street. The economists ended up being useless as they only argued about Keynesian Theory and, inspired by the birds, went to start their own utopian society. Toucan went straight for Dan. He didn’t hold back and made a mess. Dan didn’t stand a chance. He turned and ran and ran. He didn’t stop until he was far away.

After the battle, the birds took over Dan’s house and gave any tortured birds proper burials. Then they ate all the fruit off the trees and lounged on his sofa. They watched a documentary on penguins, which they were sure was filled with inconsistencies. Then all the birds left. Toucan, Magpie and Parakeet thanked each other, smiled approvingly and flew off in different directions.

Magpie was glad. He was sick of revolutionary talk. Now he just wanted to rest and talk about seeds.

Soon after, the council reclaimed Dan’s house and land as consolidated revenue, then redeveloped it as medium-density housing. Not one fruit tree was planted where Dan’s house had been. Many birds had left the area and nothing seemed the same.

Sometimes when Magpie sat on the tree across the road and looked at what was Dan’s house, he wondered if it was all worth it.

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