Fiction Contest Runner-Up

Nikki Moustaki

Big Blue

Ren Holloway wanted the presidency of the South Florida Parrot Society so badly he wasn’t beyond poisoning John and Judy Conure’s birds. John was the current acting president of the club, but Ren planned a sweep as January elections approached. He had already begun a smear campaign. He told Molly O’Connell, the club’s past secretary, that John’s flock was infected with Psittacine Beak-and-Feather Disease. He told Ozzie Gonzalez that he witnessed John pouring bleach into Dr. Duran’s lovebirds’ water at the spring bird competition and expo in Sarasota.

Accusations like these often buzzed through the membership of the SFPS, but never about John. He and his wife, Judy, the acting treasurer, were the most respected members of the club. They offered their home for the club’s annual holiday party and donated bird toys to the monthly raffle. Judy made them herself from coconut halves, plastic pacifiers, rawhide, and sisal twine. John had been president for five years and always ran unopposed.

But this wasn’t why the members of the SFPS respected the Conures. The club members respected the couple because John and Judy owned a hyacinth macaw. Most people in the bird club had only seen this rare species in the local zoo, a ten-thousand-dollar parrot, more than most of their annual mortgage payments. The giant, iridescent blue parrot stood on John’s shoulder through every club meeting, preening John’s hair and eyebrows. The bird had fleshy yellow rings around its eyes and at the corners of its mouth, and its shiny black beak could exert enough pressure to crush someone’s finger right off her hand, but the bird was gentle, a result of John’s love and careful upbringing. Judy bred lovebirds, but the macaw was John’s baby.

The one bird that garnered more respect was a black palm cockatoo, but the only private individual who owned one within a thousand miles was Mr. Carl Lipman, a paranoid recluse who owned a dozen McDonald’s restaurants. He allowed club members to visit his vast bird collection once a year, after passing through two barbed-wire-crowned gates and past four guards armed with Uzi submachine guns.

Ren headed to Kinko’s to make 300 copies of his campaign flyer. The monthly meeting was in a few hours, and he planned to let the air out of John’s high-flying balloon. Among the points why he should be president, or rather, why John shouldn’t, included the following:

  1. Since last year, membership has dropped from 303 members to 294 (not including children under 12).
  2. In April of this year, President Conure allowed rabbits on the seller’s table. The SFPS’s bylaws strictly state that mammals will not be sold in any month but November.
  3. At the SFPS’s yearly show, President Conure’s orange-faced double-recessive pied lovebird took high honors. The judge, one Mr. Ira Stern, is Mr. Conure’s barber.
  4. President Conure was late in his dues by four days in this calendar year.
  5. The embroidered jacket awarded to President Conure last Christmas for his leadership was bought with club funds by one Mrs. Judy Conure. The receipt was handwritten and highly suspect.
  6. The bylaws strictly state that visitors are allowed to attend three free meetings before they must pay dues. President Conure allowed his former neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Keppler, to attend four meetings before paying dues. (Feb-May) The club lost $5.00 as a result of this “oversight.”
  7. Last month, a child of one of the members was bitten by a blue mutation Indian ringnecked parakeet, which was left unattended. President Conure was standing five feet from said incident and claimed not to have seen that the bird was alone while the “here-nameless” member used the toilet.
  8. The coffee has gotten worse this year, as have the cookies.

He copied half the flyers on light blue paper and the other half on light green, stacked them on the counter, and placed them into a manila folder. He couldn’t afford a ten-thousand-dollar hyacinth macaw, sure, but he’d run that club with his little African red-bellied parrot on his shoulder, and he’d do it better than John ever could.

The flyers were phase one. In phase two, he’d put ant poison into John’s birds’ water. It would make John and Judy wish they never got into birds in the first place, and they’d have no reason to come back to the club.

The hyacinth macaw, Big Blue, lived in the Conure’s living room. He would be the easiest target. Everyone petted and smooched and fed the bird at the holiday party, and Ren would do the same, then add a packet of powder to the water during Secret Santa, when no one was looking.

The lovebirds, a hundred or so of them, lived on the screened patio. Judy bred them for show, and she owned rare colors that no one else in the club had, like white-faced violets and par-yellow black-eyed masked pieds. But Ren didn’t respect her for it. He didn’t ooh and ahh at the shows like the others. She bought those birds from breeders out of state. She didn’t use complicated genetic formulas and selective pairings to develop the fancy mutations the way he did. She didn’t line-breed and agonize over each clutch of babies. He was a master at lovebird genetics. Still, he couldn’t place more than third at the circuit shows when the Conures were in attendance. But that would change once he took office.

He didn’t want to poison Judy’s lovebirds, but he felt a burning in his gut every time he saw her take home another blue ribbon. He hated Judy’s smug humility when she talked about her lovebirds, or brought hatchlings to the meetings to show them off. He suffered an ocular migraine and lost his appetite when he thought about how Judy emblazoned all of John’s t-shirts, neckties, and ball caps with the image of Big Blue, the bird a badge of superiority in puff paint and acrylic. The other thing that made his stomach ache was that he was in love with Judy. He didn’t want to be, but he was. She had wings in his dreams and could fly like a hummingbird.

Judy had gone to high school with Ren and graduated one class ahead of him. She wasn’t a cheerleader or the prom queen. She wore horn-rimmed glasses, and had a fine, pointed nose, and flitted to her seat in the cafeteria wearing long, dark peasant skirts. Ren selected the locker under hers so he could accidentally touch her arm each morning and afternoon as he reached for his lock. Judy was a polite teenager, quiet, and she always looked a little worried, like she was afraid of turn