Patriotic Flamingos

patriotic flamingos

a very short story

The fading sun on a warm New Hampshire summer day, a man confronts the lay of the land and the condition in which his life lies

Herm whizzed the weed whacker closer and closer to the edge of the ridge at the front of the lawn. It was the piece that jutted out beyond the croquet set Sylvie insisted on buying at the City Sports in Manchester. A close out. It was the piece of lawn closest to the highway and he always got a little careless in this area, forgetting where the turf gave out to exposed tree roots, with no earth sticking to them at all. Then, just as he got distracted, listening through his earphones to a particularly sultry phrase of Linda Ronstadt singing, “I’m a Fool to Want You,” it happened. The weed whacker was whacking air, in fact it was huffing air, spinning out of his hands as he fell, ass over tea kettle, right into the flock of little red flamingos assembled by the shoulder of Route 25, inches from the asphalt.

Each little bird carried an American flag, or at least at this point most of them did, after weeks of rain in a late spring, and the wind storm last week. It was a miracle he wasn’t impaled on a bed of pointed flag staffs. But there he lay, nevertheless, surrounded by Old Glory, dazed and sore, and pissed beyond belief. “Well, fuck me,” he thought, and “What the fuck?,” as his mind re-engaged, thoughts coming one-on-one. “Time and time again I said I’d leave you,” Linda sang inside his head. “Time and time again I went away.” And as the music swelled and subsided, Herm took an inventory, moving each limb and appendage. He grimaced in apprehension with each finger and toe as he spread and flexed it.

Then he got to his feet, knocking over a bird or two and felling a flag. They were the cheap kind you could practically see through, printed like a book, not sewn or woven. Probably made in China. Jesus she bought some strange shit. The flamingos, part of an odd lot that got colored wrong—a deep scarlet, instead of the usual Flamingo pink—were really cheap at The Christmas Tree Shop in the Nashua Mall. And these were really tiny, maybe like baby flamingos. She made him drill a hole in each one, where a wing would be, to take the flag shaft. Oh crap, look at this. Streaks of grass and earth on every part of his pants, his new Dockers, damn it, every part he could see. The only part of him that was really sore was his ass. So he walked the long way round, skirting the road, rather then try to climb the embankment. No traffic this time of day, the sun high, and sifting through the branches, dappling the pavement, the lawn, those silly damn flamingos.

As he trudged up the driveway, he brushed at himself, his legs, his torso. working out the shock of the fall. Suddenly he swiped at his head, as if brushing at no-see-’ems and whipped the two white earbuds out of his ear canals, just as Linda’s voice dropped half an octave for the final, “Without you.”

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