I’m wearing a balaclava, a black roll-neck sweater, black Levis and black Doc Martens, my hands are covered with boot polish – it looks like I’ve been wanking off a Black and White minstrel. It’s just before 8pm on a cool spring night; a group of Chinese people (how the fuck did they get in?) are t’ai chi-ing somewhere behind me; and I’m poised with my wire cutters by the fence of the zoo’s ostrich compound.
Clip-clip snap-snap and I’m in. Ostriches are big fuckers but they’re stupid, so I have the advantage. I can see two but I’m sure there’s a third somewhere. One of them is asleep – or pretending to be – it looks like a border collie with the head of an aquatic dinosaur; the other is pecking at some grass. There’s a noise behind me and I jump. It’s OK. It’s OK. It’s only the giant anteater that shares the paddock. What’s it gonna do, lick me to death? Still no sign of the third. Right. I creep behind the one that’s sitting down – lazy sucker. On your marks, get set, go: and I’m on its back. I whip the carrier bag from beneath my sweater and pull it over the ostrich’s head. It rears up and takes me with it but I clamp my thighs around its middle and pull it over sideways. I take out the small axe I bought from the hardware store earlier today and I swing at the ostrich’s neck, which is surprisingly muscular and even more surprisingly naked. It’s a good connection and the head – with about 10 inches of neck – comes off cleanly. It’s already in the bag and I crawl out from beneath the heavy body dodging the spurts of arterial blood as I do so. The second ostrich looks at me and garps, swallows, and then gets down to some serious grass eating as if nothing has happened; still no sign of the third.
I’m over the fence and away. The Chinese are all in slo-mo, doing seagull-eating-broken-beer-bottle or something. Across the road without waiting for the green light, over the bridge, past the curry house and I’m home. I slam the door behind me; lean against it and pant heavily as I’ve seen actors do in films. I take off my balaclava and go to the bathroom to wash my hands.
The red light is flashing on my phone. I dial and listen.
‘Never take me out…’ Blah-blah-blah. ‘Never listen…’ Blah-blah. ‘Never want to have sex…’ BLAH! ‘I’m coming over.’ Bluh.’
It’s Leticia, Queen of the Aquaphibians. Fuck her.
I put the ostrich head in the fridge and take out my toolbox from under the sink. I take a screwdriver and take off the back of my television set. There are a lot of circuit boards and other junk. I rip it all out. I run my hand up and down, back and forth behind the goldfish-shit coloured screen, and look into it from the front. Can’t see my hand. Hmm. Oh, well. I take out the screen, so all I have is the frame. I get some Saran wrap from the kitchen and stretch it tight across the frame so it at least looks like glass. I take the ostrich head from the fridge and a sewing kit from the cupboard. The neck’s too long and the head is flopping about like a planet on a liquorice stick. I cut off another six inches and think about boiling it up later with some carrots and cabbage, maybe some mustard and butter. I thread some beige cotton onto a heavy needle and thread it through an eyelid and again so that it makes a loop. I do the same with the other eyelid. The beak is trickier as it’s gunked with blood. I get a sponge, soap it up, and wipe the beak, rubbing my fingers on the horny rim until it opens. I make two holes with a bradawl through the tough upper part of the beak and thread the cotton through. I take a whole packet of Blu-tack, make a mound behind the television screen, and jam the stubby neck into it. I unravel the cotton, loop the ends on my thumbs and forefingers, and run the cotton over the top of the set. The ostrich looks kinda dopey but also kinda cute. There. Done.
I strip down to my underwear and sit on the floor in front of the screen as I would if I were kicking prime computer butt on the Playstation.
I hear the front door slam, wait for the nervous cough, hear the keys in the door, and move my arms in the air like a conductor.
‘I’ve come to pick up my…’
I can’t see her face but I know she’s impressed.
Ostrich mouth open. ‘Good evening and welcome to the news,’ the ostrich says – wink-wink. ‘Leticia, Queen of the Aquaphibians, was dumped today…’ Wink. ‘…by her boyfriend, Hans, Lord Puppet Master of Osterreich.’ Mouth closed.
I hear the door slam and there’s an undertow like the moon dragged out of orbit but I won’t let it take me. I dig my heels into the pile of the carpet and feel them burn among her hair and dead and flaked skin.
Mouth open. ‘And in other news today…’ Wink.
[Forever after at http://eyeshot.net/finbowlast.html]
B R A V E S O U L S R E C E I V E
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