Authors: Gail Sattler
Tags: #Christian Fiction
Copyright Â© 2013 by Gail Sattler
All rights reserved.
E-book ISBN: 978-1-4336-7934-6
Published by B&H Publishing Group
No part of this e-book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission from the B&H Publishing Group
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Especially if the bush has thorns.
'm not so sure of this.” Josh Tavendish ran his fingers down the hodgepodge of colored shapes. “Do you really think it's going to work?”
Sarah stood beside him, reading the now empty box. He figured that, being a veterinarian, she would be the one who would know what would attract, and keep, a parrot's attention.
“It has to,” she mumbled. “Quite frankly, I don't know why they're insisting on this. Half the children are terrified of Murray.”
Josh nodded. “Not to mention that a lot of adults aren't too comfortable with him, either. Andy isn't sure it's going to work, but he couldn't say no. You know how he feels about expanding the burn unit for the hospital. For that, he's willing to give anything a try. If including Murray in the fund-raiser earns more money for the hospital, then Andy will do it.” Although Andy wasn't the only one who had doubts about whether the whole thing would work. Murray did not have the most friendly disposition, but then neither did Andy.
Ever the responsible fire chief, Andy Barnhardt had dressed up as Santa for another hospital event a few years ago. Even though he hadn't been the cheeriest Santa on record, the occasion had been a success and therefore sealed Andy's fate. For this season's affair, the theme was swashbucklers. With Andy's disposition, Josh could well imagine Andy as a swarthy pirate.
But Josh couldn't imagine Murray, Andy's cranky parrot, behaving himself in a crowd. He especially couldn't imagine the bird posing for photographs.
He poked at the red plastic square and watched it swing. “Do you really think this is going to make Murray behave? What's it supposed to do, hypnotize him?”
Sarah tapped the blue circle. “They didn't teach us much about parrots in veterinary college, but I do know they're smarter than people think. The most important thing I learned about them is that a bored parrot is an unhappy parrot. Andy needs to keep Murray distracted, so this thing just might work.”
Josh turned his head to look over his shoulder. For the first time since he opened his pet supply store four years ago, a line of people waited outside. He wished it had something to do with the ad he'd taken out in the
, or the small poster he'd put up at Sarah's veterinary clinic, but he knew it wasn't so. Nor did it matter what new pet toys he had on sale.
The people outside crowding the sidewalk weren't coming to check out his new stock. Like a twisted Groundhog Day, everyone was here to see how Murray reacted to the new parrot toy.
This was worse than reality television. And it was happening in his store.
The buzz of conversation outside increased.
He didn't know the last time Bloomfield had seen so much action. There would be no middle ground for what happened today. It would either go really good or really, really bad, and he didn't feel very optimistic right now.
In his experience, Andy was only slightly friendlier than Murray, with emphasis on the
. The specific reason Andy agreed and would tolerate today's sideshow was that allowing people to watch Murray's reaction to the new toy created hype, and hype drew people's attention to the fund-raiser. Throughout Andy's years with the fire department, he'd seen too many injuries, so having the hospital well-staffed with up-to-date equipment in good repair was important to him, which was why he'd agreed to participate.
Josh checked his watch. “I have to go open the door. Andy will be here in five minutes.”
Sarah stood back, giving both dogs a hand signal to sit and stay while Josh walked to the door.
Like many pet supply stores, he encouraged people to bring their pets inside under the condition that they were docile and controlled in a public environment. A sign on the door notified newcomers whether a cat or dog was currently in the store, for obvious reasons.
He didn't have a sign to say he had a guest bird.
It didn't matter. It appeared that at least half of Bloomfield already knew one was due to arrive.
Even though most people had come to watch Andy's parrot, many people had brought their dogs, most notably Libby with Tobie, her little Miniature Schnauzer, and Lynn Myers brought Beasley, her Cocker Spaniel. Off in the distance, near the end of the line, he couldn't remember the owner's name, but Max, the German Shepherd sniffed at the fire hydrant, and Fluffy, a dog of no particular breed whose owner he also couldn't remember, scratched at her hand-knitted sweater.
Strange how he could remember the names of the pets better than the names of most people.
Wisely, no one brought a cat, but then, with the size of Murray, he had no question who would have the upper hand. Or paw. Or was that claw?
Before opening the door, he checked to make sure Rufus held his position beside Sarah and Scruffy. Rufus usually accompanied him to the door when he opened it every day, but this time Josh thought it wiser to keep both dogs away from the crowd.
He turned the switch so the neon sign flashed
, and he turned the sign to show that guest dogs were in the store and peeked through the blinds. The lineup appeared even longer than the last time he'd checked. Josh flicked the lock, opened the door, and stood back.
Everyone filed straight to the bird section, forming a circle around his newest acquisition.
Again, Josh checked his watch. Andy was never late. Ever.
Sure enough, squawking in the distance signified that Andy had opened the door of his vehicle right on time. The squawking increased in volume, and the muffled bang of the car door closing silenced the noisy bird.
Josh shook his head. He hadn't been in contact with many parrots, especially big ones like Murray, but he felt pretty sure this particular idiosyncrasy was unique.
As the store door opened, the crowed hushed. The parrot squawked.
Andy strode in with the bird perched on his forearm, hollering and bobbing his head until the door closed, when Murray went still and silence reigned once more.
The crowd remained quiet as Andy approached the new parrot toy and held Murray closer to it. Everyone except for a little boy pressed tightly against his mother's side, anyway.
“Mommy,” the youngster whined, tugging on his mother's hand. “Why isn't Murray playing with his new toy? Doesn't he like it?”
“Hush, Mattie,” the boy's mother whispered. “We have to let him decide.”
At the mother's soft words, Murray stretched and extended his wings. “Hush, little baby . . .
!” he bellowed, not the least bit softly. “Hush, little baby!”
Andy mumbled something under his breath that Josh couldn't hear.
The child cringed, his lower lip quivered, and tears streamed down his face. He turned and pressed his face into his mother's thigh. “Murray called me a baby. I isn't a baby.” The little boy then began to cry in earnest.
The mother's face turned beet red. She rested her hands on her son's shoulders and turned toward the door. “Excuse us,” she muttered as everyone in the crowd did their best to part for them to allow their escape.
The parrot folded his wings and stared at the toy. This time he didn't holler and squawk when the door opened.
If it wasn't Josh's imagination, everyone in the crowd seemed to hold their collective breathâlike a bad crowd scene in a B-grade movie, except it was really happening.
In his store.
Sarah stepped forward. Ignoring potential risk to her fingers, she flicked one of the colorful shapes. Murray's head bobbed, he hunched, and he reached for the toy, pecking it with his beak.
The crowd gasped. Everyone stiffened.
Josh squeezed his eyes shut waiting for Murray to decide if he liked the toy, keeping them shut, just in case he should be praying, even though he didn't think he should bother God about cranky parrots and ugly pet toys.
“He likes it,” Sarah's voice trickled into the blackness.
Josh opened his eyes and forced himself to smile as he stepped toward Andy and Murray. “Will that be cash or on your credit card?” He looked around at the crowd. “Or maybe I can just put it on an account for you, and you can pay me next time you're in.” Not that Andy was in often, but Josh didn't want to be responsible to hold the bird while Andy got out his credit card and signed the receipt.
Andy didn't look at anyone in the crowd. He glanced at the door, then down to the bird on his arm, then at Rufus and Scruffy, who both wagged their tails as they watched from a few feet away. “Yeah. I gotta get him out of here. I don't need a bag.” Andy held out his free hand.
Not wasting a second, Josh unhooked the parrot toy from the rack and handed it to Andy. Andy turned and walked out of the store without waiting for Josh to retrieve the box.
Beside him, Sarah sighed. “Well, now the fun begins.”
“Thanks, Will,” Sarah Faire
said to Josh's employee as the teen stacked the last box in the corner of the lobby of her clinic. “I'll see you next week.”
He grinned, nodded, and turned toward her weekend receptionist. “Yeah. Next week. See ya, Dr. Faire,” he said, speaking to Sarah, but his gaze didn't break from Brittany. He stepped toward the counter, slapped his palm on the top, and leaned toward Brittany, his voice lowering an octave when he spoke. “I'll see you in school on Monday, Britt.” Before Brittany could answer, he turned and hightailed it outside.
Brittany giggled as the door closed behind him. Sarah rolled her eyes and selected the boxes of medical products from the order.
Fortunately for Brittany, although unfortunately for Sarah since she was Brittany's employer, Sarah certainly remembered those days of teenage love. However, unlike Brittany and Will, whose feelings for each other were mutual, her love hadn't been returned.