“Christ has no body on earth but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours.”
~St. Therese of Avila
Two nights before he pissed off Givins Design’s most valued client, Parrot Weathers discovered how his snow figures kept being destroyed. Twice he’d helped the kids in Prairie Crossings build them. And twice, the figures were torn apart.
But this time he’d taught Will, April, Bud, and the others that you can mold snow into many shapes. Not just spheres.
Parrot put his feet on the cans of paint under his window—Harbor Brothers called it “Vital Green.” Squares, rectangles, trapezoids, parallelograms. The snow figures, encased in a wedge of streetlight, looked good down there. Clean, and pure. Even flexible, somehow.
He picked up his tie, stuck his Minnesota Apogee pin into it. Right through the Hident logo. What do you think of that, Givins?
Parrot studied his sketch of his third (and by far best) option for Budron Cove Elementary School: that curving entry wall. He flipped his marker. As it revolved, its metallic green cap glinted. He caught it. The board members had to pick that option. He would convince them. This wall? It inoculated the school against the dull design of so many others. He flipped the marker, then caught it again.
Parrot took his Apogee jacket from the closet, then set it on the couch. Now that was a green jacket. When you saw it, you thought of your elementary school science fair. Or maybe undiscovered planets. The Budron Cove wall would look just as green; almost as shiny. Next week he’d convince that board. That green—PovShield Metal called it “Thrive”—would draw students in. The board would go for it. Hopefully.
Snow veins hovered over Holdner Lane, toward the light wedge. Why hadn’t Parrot tried triangles with the snow figures? He thought of Tinger, tinging his triangle at the Terrat City Zoo aviary. What was that about?
The board. The boring board. He could hear it: “It’s just... too much” and “We should go for something less aesthetic.” He snapped the rubber band on his wrist.
Parrot tapped his mouse. The lesser green broadbill bloomed on his monitor. Street sign green. No, greener. The Lesser Green Broadbill. The LGB. The green of trees after a storm. Gleam green. Gream. And one day, he’d paint his walls LGB gream—at least one. The paint was right beneath his feet. One flip, two flips. Yes!
A Lexus sped past the snow figures. Probably some Strykeland Court jerk shooting through to avoid traffic. Parrot snapped the rubber band. You have to honor the stormmakers, right?
The green wall. They’d want to know what it means. What it represents. Snap. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s just cool. It’s gream. He flipped the marker. One flip two flips three ooch. Dropped the thing. Screw it. He’d tell them the wall represents a wing. It suggests soaring, potential. Something like that.
With that green, you’d think the LGB would really bang out. But no. Last weekend Parrot spent fifteen minutes scouring the aviary, listening to Tinger’s triangle, and that annoying wave from the speakers, and never saw the LGB. He’d try again Saturday.
The phone rang. Givins.
“Parrot. Two things. Real quick.” He made his classic squeak. “First, mbf mbf, you have that tie on? Yes?”
Parrot dangled the tie, flicked the Apogee pin. “Hident. Yep.” He fished a paper clip from his Apogee thermos.
“Yyyaa, careful with that. I’m assuming you fellows aren’t connoisseurs of contemporary art. Yes?” Another squeak. It sounded like a girl screaming underwater.
Parrot separated the paper clip’s inner and outer hooks, then took the rubber band off his wrist.
“Sorry Parrot. I just got this painting and these, mbf, the word is imbeciles, they’re hanging it.”
The phone hissed. Givins didn’t know about art. Parrot asked what the painting was about.
“It’s this huge... silver... for lack of a better word, thing. Almost like a big wave? You can kind of see your reflection in it.”
Givins’s wet sand odor echoed in Parrot’s nostrils. He pulled the larger paper clip hook back on the rubber band. “Why did you get it?”
“Generally speaking, to honor the stormmakers. You know Steve Lernmar, yes? The artist happens to be his wife. So next time I have a party. And she’s there? What do you know, Parrot? We have our next big project.” His cackle sounded like branches cracking.
'Cheap' Steve Lernmar. He’d put his students in cardboard boxes if he could save taxpayers money. But he never hesitated to bring up his Mercedes. Two of them, actually. Parrot launched the projectile. It thunked into his Lamar Bolthouse dartboard.
“Second thing, real quick. Tomorrow...” The hissing drowned out Givins.
“Rich, I can’t hear you.”
“Ohhhhhaaaww. I’m out on my balcony, here. In shorts and a tanktop. It’s—what’s the word?—you should try it.”
Nut. It must be ten degrees out there. “I’ve got that design camp Monday. At Mount Hopeman? I don’t want to get those kids sick.”
“I do have a h . . . a hat on, of course.”
Nailed Bolthouse right in the forehead this time. Good.
“This cold... naaah... this pain... it’s...” He squeaked. “When I’m, generally speaking, in an uncomfortable situation, I’ll just think about this, and I can deal with...”
And that damn Swurge logo on Bolthouse’s shirt. A crown of lightning. Swurge. As if everything could be reduced to a stupid slogan: Reign Hard.
“One more thing, real quick. You have those concepts done, yes?”
“Just finished the third option. I think the zinc panels will look—”
“Heyrff. I understand you fellows come from some place where everything’s sunny and cheery so you probably don’t appreciate this painting. But...”
Bolthouse. That son of a bitch was supposed to show up at a fundraiser in a bad school in the inner city. Then the squabbling with the Torrent Management started. Forty-one million wasn’t enough. Too bad kids. Your hero? The big strong football player...
Givins squeaked. “Mary Jo Branditch is stopping by Monday morning. She’s the new Budron Cove board president.”
Parrot went to the district’s home page.
“Mmmbff. Huge stormmaker. They call her the Concrete Hurricane. Her husband, Joe Branditch? He’s a V.P. at Kiddon Slab.”
Parrot found her profile: a wrecking ball of a head burst forth from the screen. And that gray hair. It reared up and struck at you. She was the Concrete Hurricane.
“You’ll present the concepts, yes?”
The way she looked at you. Entirely unimpressed. “All right. If you don’t mind, I’d like to show you the one tonight. The one with the metal panels?”
“And I want you to wear—amigos, let’s be careful, yes? One of my clients has much love for that vase—wear your Hident tie; Joe Branditch wears Hident...”
A Tyfin in all its four-wheel drive-grandeur surged along the shoulder of Holdner then stopped. Its bright lights indicted the snow figures. Its swooping shape. Unmistakable, ferocious. Probably another Strykeland Court creep.
“...so she’ll probably push concrete.” Another squeak stretched defeatedly. “I’ve already implied that we’d choose Kiddon Slab. The word is compliance, Parrot. So just listen to her. Yes? Whatever she says, just mmmlisten and take it.”
All Tyfins came in that oppressive gray. The gray skyscrapers hurl at you when you approach the city on November mornings.
“...and when she gets in I want to be ready.”
“This green? On the panels? PovShield calls it ‘Thrive’ and I got it on—”
“Amigo, hey amigo. Watch that vase, amigos. Parrot, Irving’s on winter break. So I had him do a little covert work for us.”
Parrot snapped the rubber band on his wrist. Irving Givins: twice the flatterer his father was. The Tyfin backed out of sight. “His new student union? It’s got these stainless steel shingles. They appear to change color throughout the day. Orange, purple, green. How’s he like those?”
“Not as much as the Blizzy Gentlemen’s Club certificate I gave him for following Branditch.” His cackle snapped through the receiver. The Tyfin logo: a cut gemstone opening to a tornado. And what was the slogan? Vanquish something. “...mmph there’s a Styrian Imports in Pine Haven, yes?”
Styrian Imports, SI, was the big box bastard that refused to stock student artwork for the high school’s fine arts program. “I think so.”
“I want you to pick up some Count Plush coffee-eeee from your Styrian Imports, yes? Count Plush. That’s what Irving saw her buy there.” A grunt dwindled into a squeak. “Probably runs fifteen bucks for a small bag. Generally speaking, Parrot...” Vanquish Sumptuously. That was the Tyfin slogan. “...several flavors, and bring the Styrian Imports bag. I want her to see that. You’ll do that, yes?”
“Actually I...” Slowly more light rolled over the snow figures. “If you...” The Tyfin plowed into view. Its lights clutched the snow figures. It jounced and it spurted snow, trounced the snow figures and snow spattered around it. “What? I guess.” The Tyfin climbed back onto Holdner, then, indifferent to its massacre, rolled out of site.
“That’s the Parrot.” Givins squeaked. “Mmmm-aye-ya, glory be to the stormmakers, yes?”
The light wedge shone somberly on the snow figures’ remains. Parrot and those kids spent three hours heaving and packing and sculpting to build them. And the Tyfin trounced them. In three seconds. Who the hell was it? Nobody in Prairie Crossings would have been able to afford a Tyfin.
“By the way, I’m having Kelly Waterbury pick you up.”
“I don’t mind driving.”
“Mmbh. Generally speaking, if any clients see you, you might make a better impression (silver beemer) if you show up with Kelly, yes? Did I mention she drives a silver BMW?” He cackled.
“My Omni’s silver.”
“Hiiii’d just prefer it if clients naahohhh. Amigos, I am your rain. I rain, and you eat. Understand? Careful with that vase. So Kelly should be there in aaaagh f-f-fifteen minutes.”
“I don’t know if...”
“Parrot, Parrot? I have to go. Got a client on the other line. You’ll wear that Hident tie, yes?”
Spectrally, puffs of snow swayed over the remains of the snow figures. “All right.”
Parrot unfastened the Apogee pin. That Tyfin. Probably trampled their work those other two times as well.
Parrot stood, whispered, “Shit shit shit,” and took off his Apogee gloves. He put the Bolthouse poster behind the refrigerator.
A female voice: “Parrot Weathers, the snow and the ice are beckoning us.”
“Kelly, hey.” Parrot grabbed the Apogee cup, looked around. “I’m just...” He shoved the cup into a boot. “Just a sec.” He grabbed the tie and yelped, then, grimacing, looked at the dab of blood on his thumb.
From the door: “Parrots don’t like snow, do they?”
He pulled the pin out of the tie. He jammed the Apogee gloves and jacket into the closet, then yanked out a gray jacket. “Not when it gets... I mean... ”
“Not when it freezes your wings?”
A red splotch now marked his Hident tie.
Damp gray hair extended three inches beyond a woman’s forehead. Her cheeks shook. “So just get one of your minions to do it.” She laughed, yet her lips barely parted, and her face showed no expression. Five people in business wear stood around her. They laughed.
Behind the group, a gray wall, topped with windows that displayed a gray sky, rose twenty feet over a studio. Billowing metal partitions carved out niches in which individuals stared at monitors, investigated floor plans on granite tabletops.
The woman hid her hand in her sweater’s sleeve and looked at a gray football jersey encased in glass. “Joe predicted we’d win by twenty-one. And we would have, if they didn’t try that flashy play in the first period.”
A man tapped a tablet. “This guy, the sports writer? He said it was a noble attempt in the first quarter. It would’ve been great if they pulled it off.”
“Know what Joe says about newspapers?” The gray-haired woman spun her sleeve, which made a clicking sound. “He says that the guy who has no education is better off than the guy who gets his education from a newspaper.” The gray-haired woman’s cell phone produced the sound of thunder. She puffed her cheeks, then blew into it. “What? Unf—why? I want to know why.” More spinning and clicking. “This is... unfathomable. It’s not like she’s missing math or science. Beethoven... Beethoven’s... your daughter misses one recital, Beethoven won’t rise from the dead to punish you.”
A young man with a stiff gait approached the group. A man with a sweaty face pulled him aside. “Parrot, where’s that tie? I told you to wear that tie.”
“I got something on it. I told you at the fundraiser.”
The woman, still on the phone, remained, with a face without expression, and raised her voice: “I’m concerned. This is common sense. You say you’re going to get his shirts cleaned today, you do it. It’s common sense.”
The sweaty man, emitting a closed-mouth squeak, showed Parrot a magazine in which a man leaned on a concrete slab. Headline: “The King of Common Sense.” Callout: “‘In the whirlwind that is the building process, concrete remains the material with the biggest whomp—Joe Branditch, President/CEO, Kiddon Slab.’” Joe Branditch’s shirt bore the white swirl. His crossed arms concealed his hands, and exposed a bracelet with four gray squares.
A crown of lightning bolts branded the sweaty man’s glasses. He dipped them in a glass of water and then, squeaking, tapped the photograph. “Now I thought I told you to wear that tie.”
“I... I've got to have it cleaned.”
“Tell me you got the coffee. Yes?”
Parrot nodded, then snapped the rubber band on his wrist as he shuffled off.
He returned with a canvas tote that said “Pine Haven Foods,” in rainbow colors. He pulled out a package labeled Count Plush Coffee, then flipped it. “All right, Rich. We've got Sumptuous Cinnamon Caramel Swirl. We've got—”
“Bwh-whoa, whoa-ah.” Rich fluttered his handkerchief near the tote. “What’s that? I said Styrian Imports.”
“I got it cheaper here. And they do this thing. ‘Shop for the Show?’”
“Generally speaking, you should generally... do…”
“The high school gets a percentage of what you pay. The theater program? It’s ‘Shop for the Show.’”
“Now, I understand you’re a great patron of the arts. And I appreciate Pine Haven’s support of tomorrow’s Oscar recipients, but let’s be... the word is sensible.” Rich squeaked, and waved the handkerchief toward the woman, still on the phone. “Let’s think about this.”
The woman’s cheeks swelled. “Well the receipts are wrong then. Trust me. If my hus—my husband... my husband—said it’s supposed to be ready today, then it is.”
The conference room’s windows showed a light snow, and buildings that rose into a sky as gray as the room’s walls. Parrot brought in three boards. The gray-haired woman grumbled and expanded her cheeks. “He doesn’t look like a Parrot.”
Rich flourished his handkerchief. “You are absolutely right, Mary Jo.”
A young woman entered. She wore a bright green and orange sweater with a Snowman pin. She had two funnel-shaped coffee cups, and a plastic bottle filled with dark green liquid. “Happy Monday, everyone. Mr. Givins, you get Luxurious Deluge. And House Twist for you, Ms. Branditch.”
“Mrs. And where’s the stirrer? Did you leave room for cream?”
“I’m so sorry. Here, I’ll get you another.”
“No no no. This is fine.”
Parrot accepted the bottle, then placed his hand around its label. “Thanks Penny. Penny’s our administrative assistant... for now, because she just got done with finals.” Branditch grumbled.
“She’s studying to be an architect.”
Branditch, straight-faced, looked at the young lady’s yellow boots and released puffs of air. “Maybe before she becomes the next FLW she should take a course in common sense.”
As she backed out of the room, Penny, her lips contorted, stumbled. “Great I hope great day... your day’s great.”
“Now go play in the snow.”
Rich Givins squeaked. “Sometimes I think those bold colors? They kind of seep into her head.” He sipped his coffee. “Oh this is exquisite, yes? Parrot, this is the stuff I told you about. Count Plush? Have you ever had this, Mary Jo?”
Branditch stood, then walked to a photo of a building. Her gray hair touched the gray wall. “Who supplied the concrete for this?”
“I’m not even... they were—what’s the word? We just had a lot of problems with them. Never again.”
“You’ve learned from your mistake, then.” She stretched her hand over a cube-shaped gray candle. “Joe likes these. I gave him two.”
“Where did we get those? Sssss...” The handkerchief flapped. “Styrian? Styrian Imports, yes. Don’t they have common sense written all over them?”
“They’re on his desk. They’re from me.” Branditch returned to her seat, then pulled up her sleeve. Four concrete squares sat on her wrist. She touched the letters embedded in the squares. “B, budget. S, strength. Time. And appearance. These, I want to keep top-of-mind today.”
Parrot curled the bottle inward as he sipped.
“S-T-A-B. Stab. That’s the way to remember these principles.” She took two more bracelets out of her purse. “Now I want you two to wear these.”
Parrot snapped the rubber band on his wrist.
Givins held a bracelet in his steepled hands. “Absolutely. Let’s do it. It’ll keep us focused, yes Parrot? Help us think more concretely. Kh-kh-kh.”
“I’ll just... what if I just keep mine here?” Parrot set his down next to his drink.
Branditch’s cheeks swelled. “What did your minion give you to drink there?”
“Yeah, it’s called Green Indeed. A puree. It’s got lots of vitamins, it tastes good. And it’s super healthy.”
“Sounds what I’d call playful.”
“You want one?”
“No no no. But I bet our daughter, she’d like it. She’s in third grade.”
“There’s apple in here, and grape. Even some veggies. I suppose... she’d like it.” Parrot set the bottle behind a framed “Silver Award” from the Illinois Concrete Institute.
Branditch, puffing her cheeks, touched her bracelet and stared at Parrot. “Joe, my husband Joe? He says that people who reject these things? They reject common sense. Do you reject common sense?”
Givins traced the swirl on his tie. “Ahhh... Parrot’s... he’s a sensible designer, yes Parrot? Like, budget-conscious sensible? Like timely sensible?”
“Well, yeah yeah. Noted.” Parrot put on the bracelet.
While Parrot presented the first two concepts, Givins often commented where the S-T-A-B principles were evidenced. When Parrot responded to Branditch’s questions, she remained without expression, though her cheeks swelled occasionally. She also answered calls. Two during which she repeatedly mentioned Mr. Kidwell, and one that ended with her saying, “I’ll tell you what. You failed. You failed to have it done on time, so you, you or one of your minions, will deliver it to him. And you will do it free of charge. That only makes sense.”
Snow swirled outside the windows. Parrot set the third concept board on the easel, then gave Branditch a paper copy. “Now this one. It’s all about the kids. Truly. I think they’ll like it.”
Givins wiped his cheek. “If I can? Just real quick, Mary Jo. This is strong, aesthetically, it’s got this oomph, whoomph. No whomp, I mean. Whomp, with its aesthetic appearance? Yet it’s still strong.”
Parrot jiggled his bracelet. “It’s mostly precast concrete. But this one’s also got this feature wall. Here. I’m thinking metal panels for this. Zinc, maybe. With this color, and the kids—”
“I’m concerned.” Branditch leaned forward until her hair covered the children in a sketch on the table. “We’ve got a tight tight schedule. I’m concerned about this slowing things down.”
“These things, these panels? They go up quick. Quicker than concrete, actually. You just snap them right on.” Parrot used a green marker to write “Thrive” on a flip chart. “This green? They call this ‘Thrive’ green.”
“But what’s its function?”
“It’s really for the kids. It’s inspiring. A fun entry statement.”
Givins steepled his hands beneath his chin and nodded. “Inspiring, aesthetically, and time-sensitive.”
“I’m not convinced. I’m talking about its building function. My hus—function. Form following function: that only makes sense.”
Parrot snapped the rubber band. “I think, to create an inspiring educational environment today? Form and function go hand in hand.” He flipped his green marker, then caught it. “It’s a strong entry statement. And it’s just cool.”
Branditch released a smileless laugh. “I can tell you this. I can tell you metal’s not as strong as concrete.”
“I suppose not technically. I’m talking about appearance here.”
“They didn’t build the Colosseum with metal panels.”
Givins tapped his glasses, and while the snow snicked against the window, released a quiet squeak.
Branditch pulled her sleeves over her hands. “Trust me. You can get that same look much cheaper with concrete.”
“There’s a tiny cost difference, and the metal’s got this gream—gleam, I mean. Gleam.”
“You can’t convince... my husband likes to say, ‘Durable trumps flashy.’”
“The panels are durable.” Parrot flipped the marker higher, then caught it.
“As board president, I’m concerned about this. What about the sun? Now, I can see that color fading. Then there’s water. The rain and snow...”
“If you’re worried about...”
“Rain and snow...”
“...have these special coatings.”
“Rain and snow...”
“The rain and snow hit that? I’m concerned about rust.”
Parrot sipped the Green Indeed. “I understand your concern. But they’ve done studies, this stuff’s coated with resins that protect against humidity, temperature, UV rays, etc.”
Branditch’s sleeve lashed the sketch. “These kids... are gonna scratch it up. Durable trumps flashy.”
“Well, Zinc is self-healing. Over time, any scratches will just blend in.” Parrot looked at his drink. “Besides, I think if the design respects them, they’ll respect it.”
“I’ll tell you what. Kids, I know. Kids will not respect it. Kids... you cannot convince me otherwise.”
Givins tapped his bracelet. “Parrot, let’s put this into perspective real quick, yes? Generally speaking, kids are, for lack of a better word, wild.”
“This stuff, it holds up. I can show you examples. With weathering. And in rough communities. I think the kids—”
A bang beneath the table by Branditch. “I’m gonna tell you, it looks expensive. As board president, I have to concern myself with taxpayers' expectations. That just makes sense. Taxpayers. What do you think taxpayers will say when they see your... wall?”
Parrot, stretching his hand over the bottle’s label, took a sip. “I suppose... I just wanted to design it for the kids. It’s not that expensive, and it’s durable.”
“It looks expensive.”
“There’s something inspiring. When kids see it...”
The sound of thunder from Branditch’s phone cut off Parrot. She exhaled into it. “Where’s Mr. Kidwell? I want to talk to Mr. Kidwell.”
Givins stuck a finger in his coffee, then rubbed it on his forehead. Parrot mouthed one second to Givins, then walked out.
“Now I’ll tell you what my husband said, when our son comes home with... comes home with a slip asking for permission to attend some—musical? There’s cause for concern there.”
Parrot returned with a magazine.
“As board... as board... I want to talk to Mr. Kidwell and I want to talk to Mr. Kidwell now.” Branditch ended the conversation, then pushed the phone into her hair. She grumbled and gripped her keys.
Parrot set the magazine on the table. “Here. You can see the artificial weathering here. It’s like twenty years old here and still looks new.” He flipped the marker—it nearly hit the ceiling this time—then caught it.
“You know the kinds of schools my husband and I attended? Tiny brick... tiny little buildings, with none of this these extras. Just bare bones.”
Soloff tapped his glasses and bowed toward Branditch, “Sounds like my school.”
She struck at the air with her keys. “No flashy walls, none of these flashy colors.”
“I suppose...” Parrot picked the bottle’s label. “But today. With baby boomers?”
“There’s this call...”
“...more attractive inspiring stuff.”
“Today, my husband is a principal at a successful company. He’s in charge of over three-hundred people.”
Parrot snapped the rubber band.
“This is a school, not the Gugglenhein [sic]. Trust me. As board president, I’m out there. I talk to these Budron Cove people. What they want is bare bones. Form following function.”
“But when Sullivan said that? That ‘Form follows function?’ I think he meant the facility—the way it looks?—should reflect its purpose. For a school it’s about inspiration.”
Givins flapped the handkerchief. “Actually, it kind of reminds me of a UFO.” The “kh-kh-kh” laugh. “Really. Nobody wants their kids going to school in a spaceship. Yes?”
Parrot held the other two boards, up next to the one on the easel. “Here. If you were a kid, which would you like the best?”
Branditch plunked the keys on the sketch and remained straight-faced. “Unfathomable... I’m not a kid. I have something called common sense. Now maybe with your Sullivan and your little green drink you don’t understand that. As board president? I’m responsible. And I’m concerned.” Her key chain was a gem shape topping a curving funnel.
Givins dabbed his forehead. “I can see where you’re coming from, Mary Jo, it’s a bit... what’s the word? Indulgent. Or feisty. It's too feisty.”
The rubber band snapped. “Here. These are like wings. The Budron Cove falcon? It’s a wing, see? It’s inspiring... and soaring... and... potential.”
“I’m board president, and I’ll tell you what. These people... you use the word ‘inspiring,’ they’ll think your head’s in the clouds. Maybe you’re flying too high, Parrot.”
Parrot peeled off the bottle’s label.
“Tell me. When people come to me asking why their school looks like a... spaceship... what should I tell them?”
Sounds of wind and sleet.
“I’d like you to convince me. When these people... common sense people... who paid for this school... complain because it looks too expensive... then, what should I, as board president, tell them?”
While Parrot took a sip, Givins’s squeak joined the hisses and gusts. Then Parrot flipped the marker. “Tell them it’s about exploration.” The marker hit the ceiling. Parrot toppled the bottle as he lunged for the marker. The marker bonced off his hand and hit Branditch’s sleeve.
A green puddle expanded on the table, and on the sleeve that covered Branditch’s hand was a green dot approximately three millimeters in diameter.
Parrot’s Apogee pin snarls green from the gray of his coat. Hopefully it won’t put off the wrong person.
The fit, brisk ting of Tinger’s triangle rallies with the shrieks, squawks, and chirps that fill the Terrat City Zoo aviary.
Two women in overcoats and heels emerge from the “Perils and Predators” display. Perfume avalanches over Parrot. He scratches his neck, makes sure his arm blocks the pin.
One of the women wields a snow-glossed Rupt-Angle purse. “Eh, this is just... gish, a corporate party here? Hokey, it’s a hokey primitive place.”
“Yeah. Glenda’s—I just saw her—her husband? His firm?” This other one ripples her fingers toward a learning station where a girl and boy peruse the touch screen. “He installed all the technology here.”
“Maybe he cheated his way to the top too.”
So far, while ambling along the paths that wind through the aviary’s upper-level, “Rainforest” area, Parrot has seen lots of birds. And plenty of green. But no LGB.
“Gish, the smell. It smells so earthy here.” The Rupt-Angle logo. Its blizzard of gray blocks slams into the aviary’s curves and colors. Branditch’s bracelet. Parrot had surrendered, let the bulky thing leash him. He snaps his rubber band.
“Here comes Glenda. And I think... yeah, that’s her husband.”
Rupt-Angle approaches the learning station. “Here, look out kids, I have to use this. You’re just fooling around, I need to use this now. Go on now.”
The boy looks like someone dumped ice down his back. He takes the girl’s hand then they retreat into the artificial “Rainforest.”
The triangle tings twice before the “Rampaging Seas’” splash sound overpowers it. Parrot imagines the Hident logo winding around him, its white spiral tightening.
Parrot advances along the aviary’s main loop, passing the arctic display, then tries the “Rainforest” a second time. On the other side of a foliage cluster: a Torrent jacket. With grooved leather sleeves.
Parrot grasps his shoulder—got to hide that Apogee pin—and bends one of the paper clips in his pocket. A pin, and paper clips, in tribute to his defeated metal wall concept.
The owner of the Torrent jacket appears. His hair falls over one side of the head, all the way to the shoulder. Smell of damp leather. The school bus with its synthetic seat covers smelled like that the day Parrot got his nickname.
The triangle tings in laughter. Over by the swamp display, Tinger holds a giant, multicolored umbrella over his tour group.
Something crackles within the foliage. Sounds like Givins’s laugh. Torrent Jacket pulls out his cell phone.
Parrot couldn’t even see whatever that green marker did when he missed it. But Branditch leaned forward, and he felt like her cantilevered hair would slam into him... unfathomable. This is what you’re going to do: you’re going to eliminate that metal wall option.
Torrent Jacket speaks. “Plounce, are you ready?” He flips his hairfall. “Hell yeah. Let’s do it.”
Parrot passes the desert and prairie displays. The “Rampaging Seas’” splash intensifies. But beneath the splash, there’s another sound, a snapping.
Tinger’s voice rings out. “...because they... well, frankly, they rebel. Against the cold? Everything’s so gray and gloomy now, but look at these here. They’re rebels.” A ting, brisk as “Thrive” green, flits through the aviary.
That green metal entry wall. It would have given those kids a jolt. Every morning. Another wave crashes. Givins, with his squeaking, and his Swurge glasses, and his sweaty face. Absolutely, Mary Jo. We’ll nix that option, yes Parrot?
“...got blue jays here. Now Terrat City? We have some cruel cruel winters. But these ones hang in there because...” Another wave.
A cardinal, perched on a swing set outside, trudges its red through the aviary’s glass wall, hurls it at snow that infiltrates the “Birds in Your Backyard” display out there. There’s the jay, marching sapphire periwinkle from the pitched roof of a birdhouse. These must be Tinger’s “rebels.”
Torrent Jacket’s voice rolls in behind Parrot. “Plounce, hey Plounce. He’ll be up there in like five minutes.”
Parrot turns. Rainforest foliage floods his peripheral vision. Rotate too much, and he exposes that pin.
“Birds in Your Backyard.” A woodpecker’s red head hammers at the gray that latches onto every tree and every building out there.
From farther back: “...nightingales... sounds almost like...” A fake wave smothers the rest of whatever Tinger says.
“He’s headed toward it now,” says Torrent Jacket. “‘Rampaging Seas’, dummy.” Kid will probably be Parrot’s boss someday.
A mallard’s green grinds into the darkness on which it floats. All of these backyard birds, not as vibrant as the LGB. But definitely vibrant. And here they are.
Parrot turns back around. Some of the foliage frames part of the Jacket, which is cement gray, covered by slate-colored slots. They’ll think your head’s in the clouds. The kid’s fooling with his cell phone.
Another ting, then laughter. Backyard birds. Red, blue, dark green. The colors of his raincoat that day. Edmund Masters, leaning over the bus seat. Hey everyone, we got a parrot, right here.
Parrot snaps his rubber band, and Torrent Jacket flicks his hair and says into his phone, “When he’s standing on the ledge. I want to get him when he falls in.”
That snapping sound penetrates Parrot’s nook in the rainforest area; on the other side of the screen, a tanager bandies between leaves.
Now Tinger’s voice reaches him: “Meet the eastern kingbird. This one... he’s a brave bird. Frankly he’ll do anything to protect his nest. He'll dive-bomb an eagle.”
Parrot’s knuckle offers a rousing scent.
Movement within the foliage. Someone in the next nook. Obviously another teenager, his back to Parrot. Half curls crest around his hood. Like the tail of Branditch’s key chain.
“...little fellow, here? He can survive almost anything mother nature throws at him.” The triangle tings twice before a wave—it’s much louder up here—stifles it. Branditch would have hated that triangle. She would probably want a concrete triangle. No, not a triangle. A concrete square. The snapping sound again.
The scent on his hands. Must be that soap from the bathroom. Looked like the green on his Apogee pin. Almost a “Thrive” green.
From behind him: “Mommy mommy, that’s a card nail mommy.”
“Right. Cardinal. That’s our state bird.”
“Well, it says here...”
The teenager mumbles into a cell phone.
“No... not yet. No, no I don’t.” Branditch didn’t destroy those snowmen. But she was part of that whole Tyfin mindset. Vanquish Sumptuously.
“Mommy that bird that... it sounds like a rubber band.” So it does. Parrot snaps his rubber band.
“...and here you have your gannet. He’ll slam into the water at ninety miles an hour. Do you know what he’s doing?”
If the sun hit it, that soap might even have been as green as the LGB.
“That’s right. Diving for fish.” Three tings.
The teenager’s arm appears within one of the gaps. Gray material, covered with darker slots. A wave crashes, and in one hand, the teen holds a miniature football. This must be Plounce.
When both teens are out of sight, Parrot steps out of the “Rainforest” onto the balcony that overlooks the “Great Lakes” display. To the right, the “Rampaging Seas’” plastic wave arches above the balcony, hangs menacingly over the birds floating on the miniature lake down there.
Parrot recognizes the exultantly white hair on the head that appears beneath him. Tinger—he wears fluorescent green, orange, and yellow shoes—walks with wide blatant strides toward the purple sign, whose curving metal was the seed of Parrot’s Budron Cove entry wall concept.
More heads follow. Some still wear hats, while clusters of damp hair roam from other heads. Tinger swipes the sign beneath the words “The Durable Purple Martin,” then turns around. The triangle glimmers, and his hair, sturdy and whimsical, slopes. “Here you have your purple martin. Not purple purple, per se. But these, they’re survivors.”
Now Torrent Jacket joins the group. He films Tinger; his sleeves glisten like wet ashes.
“...over three-thousand miles to get there. And sub-zero temperatures. Welcome to Canada.”
Torrent Jacket seems connected to the bleakness that congeals in the windows.
“...too cold to harbor the insects they eat. So they don’t have much food. They’re fighting with other birds for their homes. And its around negative... whatever. And these? These durable purple martins? They make it.” Again, the ting fills the aviary.
Parrot’s seen purple martins. Usually they don’t appear that purple. More black than anything. But if you look hard enough you can definitely see a chromatic shimmer.
Torrent Jacket turns around, flicks his hair. He glowers up. There, fifty feet from Parrot, poised before the plastic wave, is Plounce. He clutches the mini-football against his thigh.
Parrot pulls his rubber band way back, then lets it snap.
The pathway cradles Parrot’s feet, and gives off a rubbery scent. The gaps in the foliage reveal, not more than ten feet from him, the gray hood and the football.
Behind Parrot shines the song of the LGB. But it’s not the LGB, it’s a learning station audio clip.
Plounce shifts. Chicago’s skyline clomps oppressively across the back of his hoodie, and the dark slots swarm over it. On the lower level, a couple of duck-like birds float atop the mini lake. That snapping bird, wherever it is, snaps.
“Here, mommy. Look it here. This bird’s green and I can make it sing. See?” Again the LGB song goes to work on Parrot; coagulates within him.
Down there, Tinger’s head appears a few inches below the top of the mini lake’s transparent wall. “...sanctuary... guide... per se.” A few of his words reach Parrot. The bright white strip that slants on his head is thin yet dense, like the protective foam within metal panels. Surely Plounce’s cohort is down there, waiting to film whatever’s about to happen.
Another reprise of the LGB song, and Parrot thumbs the smooth surface of the Apogee pin. So often the melodious songs flow from the nondescript birds while their colorful counterparts screech ruthlessly. But the LGB offers both visual vibrancy and the auditory beauty. But where is it?
Plounce pulls down his hood, unleashing dozens of mini-tornadoes. The wave sound crashes above Parrot, and the rubbery scent encases him. That day on the bus, the puff of the seats, the squeaking of shoes on the grooved rubber floor, Edmund Masters starting to spread it around that Parrot was held back in first grade.
Tinger climbs the fake rock formation next to the mini lake. Parrot decides he’ll make his next snow figure pyramidal.
Tinger, shoes beaming, triangle flickering, shuffles onto the mini lake’s edge. When he gets halfway across, he faces his audience and puts his back to the water.
Plounce raises the football to his chest, grips it with both hands. He’s going to throw it at Tinger. To try to knock him into the water.
“...so many dangers... protect their young,” as the bird snaps.
Parrot takes off his rubber band, fishes a paper clip from his pocket.
The LGB recording returns.
Plounce wipes his face in the crook of his arm.
Parrot snaps off the inner part of the paper clip.
“Do you know what mommy? It sounds like Joe Comet’s spaceship.”
“Wow. He is green. The lesser green broadbill. All that green’s good camouflage.”
“What’s camel fahj?”
Plounce’s elbow draws back and Parrot pulls back the paper clip, aims at the back of Plounce’s neck.
“It means it’s hard to see... it hides,” says the mother. “Here. It eats these fig things. See? And it spreads fig seeds, so more fig trees grow.”
And the whole bus chanted, “Par-rot failed!”
Parrot lets fly the paper clip.
The streetlight doesn’t do it justice, but still, the Apogee jacket fills Parrot with a triumphant feeling. That green is here. You can almost hear it.
Only a few units of his apartment complex are illuminated. He slaps the side of his snow pyramid and his Apogee glove catches the light.
After the football incident, Tinger, dry, had marched up to Parrot, and then pointed his triangle wand at the pin. “Excellent. A fellow fan. We’re in, we’re in.”
Headlights appear down Holdner Lane. Parrot heads to the nearest tree, then hides. The lights curl around the tree.
Tinger, who didn’t even notice Plounce’s yelp, slowly scratched his arm. “It’s not an instrument instrument, per se. The kids, it’s more of a signal. You learn something, you get a ring.” He struck it.
The lights fade as the car, something modest, glacks past the snow figures. Tomorrow, it will be nice out. Parrot will put on this Apogee jacket, go for a walk. Over to Strykeland Court.
He returns to the pyramid.
Parrot told Tinger that the Apogee pin reminded him of the LGB’s green.
Tinger smelled like pine. He scratched his arm, and it sounded like paint being rolled on. “It’s an elusive green, isn’t it? I mean, you have your painted bunting, or your parrots. But the lesser green broadbill... that green’s otherworldly and almost...”
Tinger nodded, struck the triangle, and as it reverberated, he twirled the gleaming wand. “We had a lesser green broadbill. A year ago, it passed away. But that green... yes.” He pointed at the pin again. “That’s it. You've got it.”
Parrot pushes his paint can, the top slightly opened, into the hole near the top of the pyramid, and then seals the hole. “Vital Green.”
Douglas J. Ogurek is a dink. Though it has been banned on Mars, his fiction appears in the British Fantasy Society Journal, The Literary Review, Gone Lawn, The Milo Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, and several anthologies. Ogurek is the communications manager of a Chicago-based architecture firm, where he has written over one hundred articles about facility planning and design. He lives on Earth with the woman whose husband he is. They are owned by a pit bull named Phlegmpus Bilesnot. Douglas J. Ogurek also reviews films at Theaker’s Quarterly Fiction. More at douglasjogurek.weebly.com.