The Baptist and the Bird

The Baptist and the Bird

A Story by Carol Cashes
"

Shillers Pond tale, as told by the Grocer

"

The Baptist and The Bird

 

Madame Rosalie Lavender came to Shillers Pond one bright, cold winter day in February.  She drove straight to Pete Allreen’s Real Estate, Inc., and paid cash for Buddy Rensom’s last play for Marnie Stone’s heart and hand.  This final appeal was a three bedroom red-brick ranch, with two baths, and a chain link fenced lot, located just on the northern outskirts of town.  Marnie Stone gave it a passing glance as she headed north to Alaska on a Greyhound, and gave more thought to her exciting future as a mail-order bride to a self-described entrepreneur of condo time shares and wholesale jewelry.

 

After closing of escrow, Madame Rosalie Lavender drove straight out of town in the direction she came, and nothing was seen or heard of her for two weeks.  Maureen Stokes notified the Baptist Ladies Social Club when the utilities were re-connected, and dutifully reported that the customer would be in residence in three days. 

 

Now, our Baptist Ladies Social Club wore many hats in this town " Welcome Wagon, Community Service, and Fund-Raisers for Christian and Charitable Causes, to name a few.  To name a few more, they were the local news source, early warning network for disasters (both natural and human), and the official Spokeswomen for the Moral Majority of our town.  Their many talents were phenomenal and their business acumen could have taken them to Wall Street and beyond, if the big city had interested any of them.  They could set up a casserole brigade for the grieving in less than two hours;  plan, organize and direct the story of Jesus’ birth or death in a week and a half, complete with props and special effects, could crochet and market five thousand round crocheted things at any chosen Rumble Sale, and could either bring you to Jesus, saving your soul from eternal damnation, Praise God, or proclaim you as Satan’s own unrepentant agent on this earth and order you to Get Thee Behind Them " and everybody else,  Amen.  Yessir, these were women of power and influence.

 

The Welcome Wagon swung into action immediately upon Maureen’s notice, and twenty-four hours before the new neighbor’s ETA, the Baptist Ladies’ official club transport,  Kat Morrison’s new camper trailer,  had been hooked up to Wally Morrison’s new king cab pickup truck, and  parked in the street for easier loading. Three complete meals " lunch, supper and the folllowing breakfast--were mixed, shaken and baked, frozen and tupper-wared, along with five dozen cookies, two layer cakes and a pie.  All was loaded carefully into ice chests and sturdy boxes, and lined up neatly at the front of the trailer.  The second battalion moved in and stacked several large baskets lined with red gingham, the official cloth of the  BLSC, filled with tasteful collections of soaps, lotions, loofahs, shower gels and body mists, lightly sprinkled with the popular round crocheted things, and two cleaning product baskets, complete with scrub bushes, and Handi-wipes.  Norma Winstead, who owned an electric typewriter, was responsible for supplying current,  accurate phone numbers and addresses of services and local businesses, although, to my recollection, neither the post office nor the Piggly Wiggly had moved recently.  Or ever.   Norma officiously and single-handedly loaded three white binders, complete with color coded tabs for easier reference, in the overhead storage compartments over the combination sofa-table seating.  All systems were go for the Madame Rosalie Lavender Welcoming, and the final briefing for the big event was underway in Kat’s large colonial family den.

 

I’ve read that successful people collect information, that knowing everything you can enables you to make informed decisions.  The Baptist Ladies obviously knew this, too, and everyone had their part to play in this reconnaissance mission.  Who was this Madame?  Isn’t that a whorehouse supervisor?  Why is she moving here?  Is there a husband? Why not?  Even her furniture and any personal belongings that could surreptitiously studied would be judged to be either “nice” or “trash”.  After all, it was their Christian duty to protect their community from undesirable elements--Satan only needs an inch too get a foothold and start spreadin’ his evil and his lies to the unsuspecting!  Onward, Christian Soldiers!

 

The next morning, when the moving van lumbered north through town, the information network buzzed into action and within the hour, the Welcome Wagon was also lumbering north, seven of their best interrogators on board.

 

Kat told me the rest of this story at the Mayor’s Tribute to Cowboys Picnic.  This was an annual event that missed the mark, by a rather wide margin, of being what the Mayor had initially envisioned as he watched The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.  Had he stuck with that theme, I could have worked with it, but as it was, I considered the whole affair to be a blatant abuse of power and brown streamers. 

 

Kat and I found ourselves abandoned at our adjoining picnic tables when the cash-prize competitions began:  marksmanship and archery.  It was about a week after the day in question, so it must have still been fresh in her mind, and needed telling to somebody.  Wally was not anyone’s idea of a sensitive man, his only curiousity focused primarily on his meals.  I moved over to her table so that we needn’t shout, and casually asked about Madame Lavender.  She started to answer me superficially, “seems real nice”  “has a lot of books, must be a reader”, etc.  But she slipped into remembering and told the story:

 

Kat had parked across the street, swelled her ample bosom with a dramatic sigh, and signaled the troops to begin unloading.  She herself walked the length of the moving van up the driveway to the front door and searched for anyone who looked like a Madame Rosalie Lavender.  She stood in the doorway, leaning her head in to peer around the doorframe into the front room when a high, screeching startled her into stumbling back so quickly that it took several steps to regain her balance.  It was only then she realized the screeching broke down into words, and another full moment passed before her brain could translate " something about a silly girl, hurry it up! Hurry it up! Stunned, then swallowing hard, she braved another peek around the door frame, puzzled that there was no one there, yet the screeching went on.  Come to save us!  Come to burn us!  Finally, her eyes spied the large, cast iron bird cage, and the huge, brilliantly colored amazon inside stopped in mid-sentence when he made eye contact.  His screeching had been at such a volume, that the silence resonated slightly for several seconds before becoming a real silence and they stared at each other with almost adversarial intensity.

 

Kat became aware of low voices from the back of the house, and cautiously stepped inside the door.  Never taking her eyes off the exotic bird, she slowly moved in the direction of the voices, expecting the screeching to resume at any moment.  The amazon, however, remained silent, watching her intently as if he knew she had an ulterior motive for being there.  Kat realized that she couldn’t pull her eyes away from his stare, and the first tendrils of fright moved, first through her belly, then settled in her abdomen. 

 

She felt ridiculous, caught like the head-lighted doe--in the gaze of a bird, for goodness sake!  A large, bright blue and emerald feathered talking bird.  She would have been hard put to explain how an amazon changes expression, yet she knew that this bird was now watching her like she was easy and certain prey and there was no hurry.

 

Come back, Kitty Kat, let’s talk.  No screeching now, the words were delivered in a low, almost musical voice, but the words themselves seemed to freeze her heart, then released it to pound in her ears.  The universal word of denial felt as if it was in her throat, waiting for her brain’s permission to fly out of her mouth and into this impossible situation.

 

Heeeere Kitty, Kitty, Kitty.  Seductively and obscenely spoken, the bird began to rock slowly back and forth on the thick perch dissecting his cage.  His black-eyed gaze had never left her face, and remained fixed on her even now.

 

I know what you want, I know what I want, let’s talk, Kitty Kat.  I know you want to--all you Baptist Broads are big talkers...yeah... A low chuckle rumbled from his chest as he shifted his wings.

 

Kat was now sure that her chest would burst from the terror instilled by this impossible bird and his impossible words.  She briefly wondered what happened to the voices she heard earlier, and where were her companions?

 

He continued in a low, seductive almost sing-song voice, still rocking back and forth, and still never losing eye contact. 

 

It’s you Guards for God that caused me to assume this, let’s say unassuming guise.  Yep, can’t fool you for a minute!  Uh uh...too smart for me...catchin’ me comin’ in--kickin’ me to the curb, takin’ out the Lord’s trash!  What a privilege, an honor! Mmmmmmmmm.....

 

While she remained frozen in place, by fear or fowl, she didn’t really know any more.  Now the rocking slowed, then stopped.  He leaned his head forward, as if to emphasize his next point, his low sing-song never varying in volume or speed.

 

You workin’ on your Merit Badge for Martyrdom?  Been promised a shiny gold pin if you can stymie Satan?  Whaaaaat?  You’re just doin’ it for extra credit?...my,my...such dedication...such devotion...such a dumbass!  Ask Rosalie what she’s been promised for delivering and installing me in this little footpath on the Highway to Hell…

 

He broke his hypnotic sing-song prattle with a brief bark of laughter which startled her and seemed to squeeze the remaining air from her laboring lungs.  Settling back on the perch, he resumed his demented diatribe, without the sing-song accent, but his voice still seductive, now soft and deliberate.

 

Well, Kitty Kat...here’s the deal...I’m just a bird, see?...and Rosalie’s just a single woman who bought a house in a small town...th..th..th..that’s all, folks!  Nothing to tell...nothing to report...as the song says, Onward, Christian Soldiers!...Move onward Kitty Kat, God’s garbage has been steady growing here, if you would but see...plenty of work for Christ’s clean up crew...aaahhh...here she comes...I’m just a big ole bird, Kitty Kat....she’s just a woman who bought a house...hmmmmm.....

 

She suddenly fell forward to her knees, drawing deep draughts of air.  She hadn’t noticed the absence of noise until it returned and after several more breaths, she forced herself to look up at the bird. 

 

He was right, he was just a bird.  There was not a hint of the evil that permeated the room just moments earlier.  With the footsteps coming closer, she pulled herself up against the wall and stumbled back out the door. 

 

Kat was silent for a moment, the spell had broken, and she finished the tale in a bored, vague manner.  When returning to the wagon, she claimed to be sick, probably the fish Wally swore was still good, told the other women to proceed with the Welcome Wagon deliveries, and she’d call Nancy in the morning for an accounting.  At that, she turned south, and began to walk, slowly at first, then more quickly on the sidewalk leading back to the town, never slowing or stopping until she was safely locked inside her Ethan Allen and Sears and Roebuck furnished home.

 

She shrugged, as if to shake the residue of the tale from her shoulders, and brightly asked me if I wanted a cold drink.  For some reason, I have never questioned the validity of Kat’s story--I believe it, and I have never stopped trying to figure out who, in this town, is evil enough to draw attention from upper management...so to speak.


© 2017 Carol Cashes



Author's Note

Carol Cashes
The Grocer spins another tale of Shillers Pond

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Shut the front door! Whaaaaat? Possessed Parrot- yes! Such fascinating stories and unforgettable characters. Shiller's Pond, the Grocer, Madame Rosalie Lavender, Kitty Kat & Carol- Rock the house!

Posted 5 Months Ago


Carol Cashes

5 Months Ago

Thanks for reading this one. All small towns have secrets and eccentrics. Shiller's Pond is no exc.. read more
I wasn't specifically looking for any POV issues as I read, but none jumped out. One thing that sticks out a bit for me is the high number of people and names mentioned in the early paragraphs. As I try to glue each one down in my elderly head, some fall loose. The best and most interesting part is Kat and the bird, as it's excitement makes everything previous turn rather mundane. (That sequence also brought to mind your Poe blood)
I don't know the time period, but this expression is fairly modern--"kickin’ me to the curb".
Someone is rushing me to finish, so if needed, I'll come back later.

Posted 5 Months Ago


Carol Cashes

5 Months Ago

Good catch: "kickin' me to the curb". I'm not sure of the time era either, but maybe late 60's to .. read more
Samuel Dickens

5 Months Ago

I've skimmed it over again today, and don't see much worth commenting on. Maybe a passive word or tw.. read more
Carol Cashes

5 Months Ago

You're a genius, Mr. Dickens. Of course, The Grocer should "interject" his voice more. I will be re.. read more
Mr. Dickens, I'm afraid that the same POV issues are rampant in this particular tale. Nonetheless, I still need your expertise in identifying the discrepancies and any other issues.

Posted 5 Months Ago



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Added on June 23, 2017
Last Updated on June 23, 2017
Tags: fiction

Author

Carol Cashes
Carol Cashes

Biloxi, MS



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I'm very cynical, jaded, just this side of bitter and the only reason I haven't crossed that line is a good man loves me. I am extremely empathetic, but seldom sympathetic. I can be a ferociously lo.. more..

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