by R. A. Bolden
“Our kid’s going raving,” the parrot said.
“Shut it!” Tony said.
“No money for the rent,” said the parrot. “Spent all me housing benefit on Es.”
Tony got up, walked over to the cage and put some food in the bird’s tray. “For Christ’s sake, will you shut it?” He rubbed his eyes and looked out the window. The bird broke open the seeds as Tony covered his mouth to yawn. Tony’s tattooed hands had “hate” written across the fingers of one and ‘love’ scrolled across the back of the other. The bony segment of a knuckle separated each letter. Each knuckle was attached to long slender fingers that added to the slight of the eye he used so well as a street magician.
“Hey Geezer,” said Baz. “Get ready Tony, the tourists will be cruising the pier. We’ve got to catch them before they go to dinner.” Baz was tall like Tony. Many people mistook them for brothers. Tony and Baz had long-dark Rastafarian hair; green eyes and rock star good looks, which provided glamour for their brand of street theatre. They were both the product of European-African marriages so their skin was the color of cafe-au-lait.
“Fanks,” Tony said to the man in the white linen suit and fedora who, for the third time, placed a twenty-pound note in their collection box. Baz was playing guitar while Tony got ready for his next set of magic tricks.
“Three Es and a bottle of pop,” the parrot said, as the man in the white linen suit approached.
“What a charming bird. Is it for sale?”
“Scouser’s not for sale,” Tony told him.
“Everything’s for sale,” the man said.
“Why don’t you get on your bike?” said Tony. “Know what I mean?”
“Tony,” whispered Baz. “We’ve got to be nice to the punters. They’re our bread and butter.” The man in the fedora was still standing there. Baz spoke to him: “Listen, Tony has had that bird for a long time and they’re mates.”
“I’d like to talk with you about something,” the man said. “Please come have a drink with me when you’re finished. Here’s my card.”
“I’m not interested,” Tony said, coming forward.
“You usually finish here around ten. I’ll see you then.” The man in the white linen suit disappeared into the crowd.
“No way,” Tony shouted after him.
“Why?” asked Baz. “At least we can go talk to him.”
“Did you see his eyes? The man’s either a killer or a pervert,” said Tony. “I should know. I’ve spent enough time in prison.”
“Forget about prison,” said Baz. “He was a good customer.”
“I’m sorry, but I can never forget about prison,” said Tony. “Besides, what does he want Scouser for?”
“He’s probably a bird lover.”
“I think he’s a pervert.”
“Look Geezer, “ said Baz. “It won’t hurt to talk. Maybe he’s got a little work for us.”
“Work?” Tony asked.
Baz countered, “You’re being unreasonable.”
“All right, but if anything goes wrong I’m holding you responsible.”
“Let’s take our gear back to the apartment,” said Baz. “We’ll leave Scouser there, then nothing can go wrong.”
It was one of those warm summer nights. Tony and Baz looked at the man’s card checked the address and rang the bell.
“Please come in,” the man in the white linen suit said. “Call me, Silvio. Can I get you some champagne?” He wore his dark hair slicked back with plenty of gel. It added a certain authority to his extremely muscular build. He moved with the grace of a cat for a man of his size. Silvio’s face was handsome but rugged. There was a long scar on his left cheek that touched the corner of his mouth, which showed perfect teeth.
“What’ve we got to celebrate? Baz asked.
“I’m just very glad to meet you,” said Silvio. “Where’s your mate?”
“Scouser belongs to Tony,” explained Baz. “We left him at the apartment. It’s past his bedtime.”
“After we’ve had our little toast, I’ll explain everything to you,” Silvio said.
Downing his drink in one gulp Tony asked, “What’s all this about?”
“I’m an ornithologist,” said Silvio, seeing the blank look on their faces he explained, “ I study birds.”
“What’s that got to do with Scouser?” Tony asked.
“I travel looking for rare specimens and I’m curious as to how you came to own such an incredible example of the breed.”
“I was doing a gig in a bar on the docks in Liverpool,” said Tony. “The Old Bill raided the place and took the owner off to jail. I confiscated the bird as payment. Scouser’s been with me ever since.”
“And hence the colorful speech,” said Silvio. “I’ve searched the jungles of West Africa for ten years and I believe that you have the last male left alive on the planet.”
Tony and Baz looked at each other in skeptical disbelief.
“I own one of the few females in captivity and I’d like to mate them,” said Silvio. “Zoos will pay handsomely for their offspring. That’s why we’re drinking champagne, to celebrate my business proposition.”
“Where would this mating take place?” Tony asked.
“I thought Scouser could move into my aviary to see how he and Gina get along,” Silvio said.
“What about our act?” Tony asked.
“I thought about that. Could you get along without Scouser for a month?”
“I don’t know,” Tony said, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
“If I were to give you a cash deposit, would that be acceptable.”
“It’s not the money,” said Tony. “It’s knowing that he’d be well cared for. I’m with him all day. We talk to each other. He needs attention.”
“I know. I know,” said Silvio. “My Gina is the same way. I was so happy for her when I saw your Scouser that I stayed to talk with you. She’d be happy if she had a man and Scouser’ would be happy if he had wife.”
“It sounds good, but there are a lot of little details, we’ve got to work out first,” said Tony. “Maybe we could talk again in the morning.”
“What details?” Silvio asked, nervously. He fumbled with his cigarette case.
“Like I want some questions answered,” said Tony. “Why didn’t you ask me instead of trying to buy Scouser?”
“If I buy Scouser, it simplifies matters,” said Silvio. “But that’s not possible so I’m here with you trying to negotiate the arrangements.”
“I have real fears about letting Scouser out of my sight,” said Tony. “Know what I mean?”
“I can give you certain guarantees like bank references,” said Silvio. “And a sufficient amount of cash as a down payment on Scouser’s stud fee.”
“It’s all happened so suddenly,” said Tony. “I feel I need some time to think about it. Right now it’s late and I’ve had a lot to drink and I don’t want to make such an important decision in this state of mind. Could we meet tomorrow?”
“I was hoping to work this out tonight,” said Silvio. “I’m supposed to leave for Italy in the morning.”
“I wouldn’t feel good about it,” Tony said. “We’ll come by and talk to you in the morning.”
Tony helped Baz out of the car. They’d enjoyed Silvio’s hospitality.
“The last of the species,” mumbled Baz. “It’s like being a hero or something, saving a creature from extinction.”
“Let’s go give Scouser the news,” said Tony. “He’s going to get laid.”
Their door had been forced. Instinctively, they crouched low looking for burglars but nothing had been turned over.
“Where’s Scouser?” Tony asked.
They both spoke at once, “Silvio.”
“We’ll go to his house,” Baz said, sobering up as he ran down the stairs after Tony. “He’s not getting away with this.”
In the pale moonlight they could see the house. It was set back off the road. Tony rang the bell. Eventually, a light came on. A tall elderly gentleman, dressed in a silk dressing gown answered the door.
“We’re looking for Silvio,” said Tony. “We met him here tonight.”
“Are you drunk?” asked the gentleman. “I’ve never seen you before in my life. If you don’t leave immediately, I’ll call the Police.”
Tony stuck his foot in the door. “I know he lives here.”
“Wait Geez,” said Baz. “Don’t you see, we’ve been done. While we were here having drinks, they were there burgling our flat.” Baz pulled Tony away and the man slammed the door. They walked back to the car.
Baz looked at Tony and reasoned, “If we rush the house they’ll call the Old Bill and we’ll both go back to prison because we can’t prove who owns the bird. In court, it’ll be our word against theirs. And you know how that will turn out. We could get lifed off if one of them gets hurt or the old guy dies of a heart attack. I don’t think a bird is worth it.”
“The garage door is opening,” said Tony. “This may be our chance.”
“Look,” said Baz. “Don’t do anything stupid. Think about spending the next ten years in prison.”
“If he’s got Scouser,” said Tony. “I’m getting him back.”
The car pulled into the deserted street. The driver saw Tony standing in front of him holding a piece of pipe. Their eyes met. Tony thought about the pipe flying through the air and how the noise would wake the neighbors who’d see two Rastas running down the street with a birdcage. The car jerked and accelerated. Tony jumped out of the way. As the car sped by they heard: “Got me Giro. Got me Giro. Three Es and a bottle of pop.”
“Scouser,” Tony cried.
Tony and Baz watched as Silvio drove off into the night.
“Why didn’t you throw it through the windscreen?” Baz asked, referring to the pipe Tony was holding.
“I thought how stupid I’d feel being back in prison. They would have won,” said Tony. “Know what I mean?”
RAUF BOLDEN is an American born in Colorado. He studied languages at University where he became a polyglot speaking German, French and Dutch. As a yacht master, he spent twenty years sailing more than 100,000 nautical miles while circumnavigating the planet with his wife Jeannette Dean, an internationally known sailor and writer. They plan to sail around the world again being very much in love while continuing to write fiction and feature articles. Their motto for life is, "Never Ever Give Up.”