The Bird

Morning at Sea

Krok knew from the time his mother kicked him out of the nest when he was a baby something was wrong. They were all idiots. He was the best looking most assertive baby in the family. They needed to propagate the strong, not boot them out when they were just reinforcing the pecking order.

He tried hanging out with other babies in their nests, hoping their parents wouldn’t notice they had an extra mouth to feed. Sometimes he succeeded but just as soon as he became ‘confident’, out he went, tossed aside like some unwanted twig.

Luckily, he had already completed his solo flight so he decided to join some Eastern Reef Egrets since they had the best views. For a while they tolerated Krok, but they exiled him when he hung around with some cattle, picking ticks off their massive backs.

It just wasn’t done in Eastern Reef society.

Krok flew around hoping to find some suitable colony to join. He perched on empty branches at night, lonely for companionship. He hoped the day would come when he would fit in and find someone to adore him.

Finally, he found his home. It was on an ancient vessel, majestic but terrifying. That was over twenty years ago. Of course, there had been a few teething problems but he gave them some time and a little revenge here and there sorted them out.

He came out of his reverie, in a pleasant dreamy way. He gave a big yawn to complete his awakening. A warm breeze came through the open window and he decided to scope the outside world. First, he’d have to find something to eat and then attend to some grooming. He fluffed up his feathers, tossed his head around to shake out some night kinks. He wandered over to the mirror to check out his appearance.

Not bad at all, he thought as he tapped the glass in approval, but his spiky plume was looking a little dull and that would have to be remedied.

He had a reputation to maintain as the Captain’s favourite. He jumped down to the mezzanine level to check out the food situ.

He stuck his beak into the offerings.

Crap, crap, yuk, you gotta be kidding that was there last week, get rid of that, come on, he knows there’s something good in here, they must have bought home brand again. Note to self, revolt at eighteen hundred hours. Ahah! This’ll do for now.

Gentle snores could be heard from under the thick bedclothes but it didn’t stop him from casting out seed and ignoring it hitting the ground, the walls and the furniture.

Served them right. It was probably that new storeman. Ought to be sacked.

He finished up, not completely satisfied and just a little ticked off.

He drank some water and then decided for Grease lightning. He just didn’t feel like the Fabio look today. His head fit neatly into the dish. Once wet, he flung his head out and up.

Oh Shite.

Almost got the computer. He whistled innocently and got the hell off the mezzanine level. He had another quick check in the mirror.

Looking good.

Every morning he liked to take a fly around to stretch out his wings and catch a thermal or two. He was a bird, afterall, albeit a Cattle Egret.

The name is pretty inelegant if you asked me. My scientific name is more chic, Ardea ibis. Adrea, Adrea.

He was white with a distinguished yellow plume during breeding season. Most people didn’t believe he was an egret, ‘he’s a little squat isn’t he?’ some would ask to their detriment. He would soon sort them out.

His early morning fly always took him to the missus’ cabin just below the Captain’s. She was always up before him carrying out the many assorted tasks that befall a wife, accountant, ship manager of sixty crew, mother and plan co-ordinator.

No doubt he’d be told not to poop in her cabin, really, who did she take him for? That privilege was for the Captain only. Her shower was finished and she came out.

 ‘No pooping inside my dear.’

Typical.

He gave her his most exasperated look. The result? He got a loving.

Back off lady, personal space, personal space.

She had leaned forward and was staring at him with a strange look in her brown eyes.

Swish sat on her bunk to begin the morning’s meditation. He loved to join in. he shuffled around some to get comfortable. All thoughts left him, the sounds she was making, the lapping of the water, the wind, the birds in the distance, the cook telling off the crewman, the snoring from above, the storeman shuffling through something on the lower deck, pen on paper, computer tapping, radio…..

Soon only silence was in his mind.

Crap!

She scared him when she jumped up suddenly.

‘Sorry Krok, I didn’t mean to startle you. Having a wee nap?’ She giggled, she never giggled outside her cabin. Krok could not stop himself from laughing at her expression as she realized she had giggled.

He followed her every movement making sure she didn’t forget anything.

‘How’s your love life my dear, I miss your little friend. She was very sweet.’

Why don’t you just twist the knife a little deeper?

‘I wonder if we should go back to that little island where you met.’ She dropped her brush.

Klutz.

And in response to your comment, nooooo. She found herself another sucker.

She didn’t seem interested in continuing the conversation, thank the seeds. She was busy brushing her hair and then applied some colour on a stick to her lips.

‘That’s it, I’m finished. Would you like some Krok Spiky?’

You’ve got to be kidding? That colour doesn’t go with my plume.

He leaned back as far as he could go.

The missus shrugged and then became preoccupied with measuring breakfast when it came.

Everyone’s got breakfast issues today…

She left the room without even saying goodbye.

Ripped off, who holds this family together? ME KROK SPIKY…hey, I’m talking to you.

No R.E.S.P.E.C.T. He launched into his favourite song.

A little later, he headed back to the Captain’s cabin.

‘Krok?’ he cried as the Captain closed the laptop with a resounding click.

Is that it?

Captain Swash Buckling leaned back, trying to stretch out the kinks from spending so long at the computer.

A piffling 10 minutes.

His fuzzy black hair looked flat, his long-fingered black hands stretched out on either side of the thin casing. His eyes were sunken which were accentuated by shadows thrown by the morning light. The Captain had been suffering from gruelling nightmares of late but wouldn’t say what they were. Every night words would come out from the Captain’s mouth, but just as the words would become clear, the missus, when present, would swat her husband, hard.

On one such entertaining occasion, the Captain fell out of the bunk after a rough dream and heavy hand.

Krok had used his most helpful tone.

Problem, Captain?

The Captain had looked across at him on his perch, ‘Nightmares bird, ‘orrible ‘orrible nightmares,’ and he had promptly climbed back up to the bunk and had gone to sleep.

‘Come on bird…’ the Captain laughed at him, Krok was so busy in his reverie and hadn’t heard the Captain get up, ‘wake up… we’ve got chores to do…

Yuk

…before the missus comes back on board. You know that I’ve been a pirate of the seas for 45 years…

52 actually.

and have always been the boss on his ship, The Crow…

The Egret you mean

…You know me, bird, I tolerate no rivalry …

Really Swash, how can we take you seriously with all that bird doo down your back?

… and no cheek…

Krok’s eyes rolled around and he opened his beak to stick out his tongue.

… and no laziness…

 Krok’s head suddenly fell to his chest and a snoring sound came from his mouth.

…I said no cheek bird. You know what will happen when she gets back.’

Sex?

Both the Captain and he shuttered simultaneously for different reasons.

Chores

Krok pushed into the Captain’s hand that was busy scratching under his plume hoping to put off the inevitable. ‘That’ll be all bird, that’ll be all…

Oink, oink, and stop calling me bird.

Krok helped the Captain get him to his shoulder.

‘I hate to say it, but you seem happier since we hired Jim.’

Yep.

They left the main cabin and entered the passage to get to the upper deck. ‘It’s a peaceful morning bird, let’s get those jobs done and then enjoy what time we have, while we have it.’

Repeat. Stop calling me bird.

The Captain’s cabin which was at the stern of the old sailing vessel…

That’s the back end.

waslarge and sumptuous…

Very spiffy.

The double bunk was along the back sloping wall. A chest and other necessities were placed around the room. The large mahogany desk had been placed in the centre of the room; today it was clear of maps, nautical equipment and birdseed. The perch was on the other side to where the Captain sat so that Krok could keep an eye on him.

Swish had gone ashore to collect Swank. The teenager was on holidays and would live on board for a few weeks.

I think they know that already.

The Captain started to whistle. Krok bobbed his head up and down to the rhythm making up his own words.

singin’ tooreli attiti, we’re heading for Botany Bay…

…tomorra we gonna get paid or laid…

More Chores

Yuk.

Narrator: Do you have to interrupt everyone Krok?

Yep get on with it.

Chore time, time to go. He headed off into the sky for a late morning surveillance run. He had to rendezvous with a friend of his. They met halfway, his friend had come from Swank’s school and Krok from the ship docked in the quiet harbour.

That’s very poetic. Now down to business, so Suntana ,report, what’s happening?

After the brief, they enjoyed some nitpicking, lizard chasing, snail pouncing and then it was time to go.

He headed back flying and gliding. Back just in time. The chores had been done. He landed a little rough on the Captain’s shoulder.

Krok noticed Swash scratch his balls and it looked kinda cool in a macho way. He checked his out and couldn’t see a thing under the feathers. He tried to scratch himself around where they should be. The Captain called to the crew. A whistle sounded somewhere to draw the crew’s attention. They dribbled out from here and there. Krok noted their untidy appearance.

‘Listen up. You’ve probably heard that Swank’s coming on board…’ a few groans could be heard, ‘…he’ll be here for a few weeks. That does not mean we aren’t going through with Plan 416. At sixteen hundred hours I want the officers in his cabin along with their selected crewmembers. I want the ship prepared for carrying out the plan tomorrow. Cecil?’

Sleaze bag.

‘Here Captain.’ A scarred, clean-shaven man spoke.

Said the sleaze bag.

‘I need you to see the missus as soon as she gets back.’

‘Aye Captain.’

No Captain, not a good idea. So don’t take my advice, I’ll just dig a little harder into your shoulder. Still no clues, bugger, just another thing I gotta keep an eye on today.

‘Any questions?’

‘Captain?’

‘Speak.’

‘Swank will have his mobile with him won’t he?’

Will you drop it, Captain don’t do it,…

‘Good point, you’ve just nominated yourself, Fred, to removing all communication devices off his son until the plan has been executed.’

‘Thanks, Captain.’

Shite. Bunch of idiots.

He couldn’t stand it, they still had bad memories about the incident but to keep on treating Swank like a criminal was a big mistake. He flew off not in disgust. Swash started on the chores again.

At thirteen hundred hours Swish and Swank arrived. The little rowboat was tied up next to the wooden sailing ship. A few muttered greetings were heard as Swash wandered over to the two. He was back on the Captain’s shoulder. He pooped.

That felt good.

Swank kissed Swish but not his son.

 ‘Son.’

They just nodded at each other.

How emblematic.

Swank was looking pretty cool. He wanted the look too, and decided to meet up with Swank in a few days to get his help. A nice breeze passed through the group rattling Swank’s chains.

I wonder if I can attach some chains to my feathers?

‘Got new rings?’ Swash asked his son.

The teen punk nodded.

Krok got a wink from Swank. He knew about the tongue ring and wanted to see it so he opened his beak and stuck out his tongue, Swank returned the gesture. Cool.

 ‘Got any jobs for me to do?’ Swank asked Swash.

He looked over at the missus. She seemed worried or preoccupied or something. Definitely a little sad.

‘Yeh, I need you to clean up Krok’s perch area and get more seed from the storeroom for ‘im. Then that’s pretty much it. We’ve got a job on tomorrow, you understand son, so Fred here, ‘the Captain indicated with a lean of his head toward the crewman now slinking over, ‘is gonna take…’

‘Whatever.’ Swank went over to Fred, who frisked the lad, including making him take off his black boots and then went through his gear taking out all communication devices. The knife was returned.

Krok hated them all at this moment.

Except for Swank.

‘Darling, Gran wants you to call her.’ Swish smiled at him, before adding, ‘I have the gear we’ll need for tomorrow.’

‘Good, I’ve told Cecil to come to see you.’

Ha ha,  payback to you both.

Krok flew around for a while; he just didn’t know where to go first. Cecil needed surveillance, the Captain needed guidance and Swank needed to clean up his stuff. His stuff won so he flew into the Captain’s cabin. Krok dozed while Swank was hard at work.

Swank was just finishing up cleaning his morning’s mess and gave him a good scratch.

Krok Spiky woke with a big yawn. He had just finished a satisfying dream of those old rich days when he would ride the backs of cattle, eating off their backs. Food was plentiful; the sun would shine and warm his very soul. Thinking of those days of plenty he fluffed up his feathers, tossed his head this way and then that way to get the kinks out of his body.

It had been rough when he first arrived at the ship and had announced he was now the Captain’s Egret. The food they bought was horrible and then, they had bought the home brand seed. He was a meat-eater for starters. Give him ticks, frogs, lizards, freshwater fish or blood-sucking flies. He had been reduced to crawling around in the secret tunnels trying to find insects to eat in the depths of the ship. And not all of those were particularly appetizing.

Swank dug into his bag. Krok gave him a baleful look.

The teen’s boots made crunching noises as the missed seed was crushed beneath them. ‘I’ve got your favourite Krok.’

He held up a bag of ‘Dr Trevor’s Special Seed, As Advertised on TV, and a sealed bowl of insects, squirming around inside. Ticks and blood-sucking flies. Yum. Yum.

‘What have you been up to, still messing up the Captain’s coat?’

Yep, you?

He refilled the feed tray and finished up.

Swank noticed he looked at the computer, he moved around and played with the mouse. Soon he was working at the password.

It’s SpikyK.

Swank worked out the password and looked at the memoirs. Krok already knew them and they were very, very….

Blah.

The laptop’s lid was closed with a resounding click.

I like that, resounding click.

Narrator: so do, I which is why I use it a lot.

It’s cool to be the narrator, all hail the almighty narrator.

Narrator: thank you, thank you very much.

Swank Buckling glanced over at Krok with a wicked gleam in his green eyes and grinned. His black lips opened to speak but noise on the upper deck distracted him, ‘time to go,’ the teenager went over to him giving him a quick scratch under the spiky yellow plumes, ‘it’s our little secret Krok, remember.’

Krok gave the pale face a saucy wink and then opened his beak to poke his tongue out when Swank’s back was turned.

Secret huh, we all got those me laddy.

When Swank was a baby he had been wailing and the Captain had the pained expression of a man who couldn’t fathom what the fuss was about. He was the father of three, but Swank was the difficult one already. Swank was only two and a half.

Of course, Krok had known what was wrong.

He, Swank, Switch and Swatch had been crawling around the secret tunnels in the sailing vessel. They were used for the jobs when the crew had to hide. Sometimes they were used to store things, but they all linked up and made a great route for bored children stuck on the ship. On one of these expeditions Swank had lost his pacifier and it was up to Krok to go find it.

He whistled a little tune and tossed some seed to the opposite wall. When the agitated father turned around, Krok disappeared down one of the secret entrances. Swank’s wailing continued but as he got further away, the noise lessened. Krok shook his head, his ears hurt. He waddled down one passage to another hoping to glimpse the sparkling blue dummy.

He was entering another passage when suddenly an entrance to that one opened and a package was tossed in. He squealed when it landed on top of him. Thank the stars it was light. As he lay under the soft package, one wing sticking out in one direction, a clawed foot was sticking out in the other direction. His head was skewed to the left. He opened his eye which had been the victim of a pointy corner and then he saw what he was searching for. At last the dusty dummy. He struggled out from under the package, shook himself and then headed back with the dummy in his beak.

He peeked through the secret entrance door and to his disgust, saw that mum had returned and was putting another pacifier in Swank’s red face. Krok sat in the dark, fed up and exhausted. His body hurt and he was too tired to release the pacifier. Soon he started drifting off sucking away his frustrations.

I’ll die before I ever tell that story.

Krok then heard some muttered conversation in the passage.

‘Did you feed the bird-like I asked you?’

Stop calling me bird or I’ll have to exact some revenge.

‘Yeh, what else? Rob anyone today?’

The Captain came through the door. ‘Thank the stars I ‘ave you Krok,’ He gave him a loving scratch.

There’s nothing like a Male and His companions. Faithful creatures who are loyal, loving, respectful and sensitive.

 ‘I’ll write some more of me memoirs’ He sighed and lifted the computer’s lid. ‘Come and settle on me shoulder bird.’

That’ll be Me, Krok Spiky, the magnificent, the brave and handsome, not bird.

For the next couple of hours, he flew from one family member to another keeping an eye on them.

The briefing

At sixteen hundred hours the officers assembled in the main cabin along with some underlings. Plan 416 and all the associated paperwork was laid out on the desk. Maps were poured over, miniatures played out for scenarios on possible problems. They had been doing this for years but never failed to plan properly. A few hours later they wrapped up and went on their way. Krok sat quietly throughout the planning to make sure everything was ok. One of the miniatures was a bit mangled; he thought it was one he had been chewing on the other day.

Later, the Captain put out a little red flag of one of the cabin windows, he wanted out, squawking as he did. Red flag meant mating time.

Humans are worse than dogs

Sometime later he did a fly-by and noticed the red flag gone. It was safe to return. He settled on his perch to sleep.

Krok woke with a start. His heart was beating fast.

‘Nooooooo…’ The Captain began to thrash around and cried out, ‘no, no it’s hideous, it’s hideous.’

CRASH

Down went the Captain on the floor moaning and groaning.

‘Krok?’

What?

‘I can’t stand it, Krok. A Teenager on my ship, doing things to it…it was terrible’ Captain threw down the book he had been reading, ‘Life as a suburban teen.’ ‘I blame this! That stupid merchant ship we raided full of children’s toys and books. That’s it, come first light we taking the goods and dumping them.’ He settled back down on his bunk after straightening the rumpled sheets and covers. He turned on his side with his back to the grumpy Egret.

Thanks for that.

morning

Krok went for his early morning visit to see the missus but saw her staggering around the room. She was drunk.

I’d better keep an eye on her.

He returned to the Captain.

The Captain woke up bleary-eyed and he looked very grumpy. Music could be heard from Swank’s cabin.

Thank the stars Swank wasn’t playing death, blood or zombie metal.

Swash left the cabin, yelling at Swank on the way.

Krok snuck in the secret passageway. He neared the galley; the smells were waffling through making his stomach growl. As he nestled in his nest of panties, he looked around at the rainbow of colours. They reminded him of a little incident some years ago when Swank still lived on board.

The night had been dark and silent.

Morning was close but there was still time.

Softly the thief had entered the room peering around.

The glowing lure was ahead now, close.

A golden glint in his eyes was a reflection of the beacon’s light.

He moved stealthfully from behind the couch, noting the rainbow of colours, he must concentrate. To be caught now would be….embarrassing.

He sidled ever closer, his head swinging forward and back, left and right, up and down checking that the way was clear.

His mask covered most of his face, his body tense, poised to flee at the slightest noise.

He was almost there. He darted forward with his neck outstretched. He reached his goal.

He peered down at the treasure beneath the great tree.

Tap, tap.

Too soft.

Tap, tap.

Something in a box.

‘Dear Swank. May you blah blah…’

Shake, rattle, tap. Hmmm.

‘Dear Swash…’

The thief paused briefly. There had to be something for him somewhere. But he checked every last treasure. Not one had his name on it. A silent tear formed in the corner of his eye. He’d been searching for days and for zilch.

Suddenly a noise came from the passage.

Loud footsteps, laughter and general ruckus.

The door opened and they, the cruel and scabby family, entered the room. They moved toward the beacon atop the great tree unable to resist its call.

The thief quickly squeezed himself up the main trunk of the tree, trying not to cry out as pine needles tickled and stuck into his body.

He sat in the tree…for hours or so it seemed.

The family laughed and talked and dispersed out the treasure.

‘Hey, where’s Krok?’

It took ‘em long enough to notice.

‘I don’t know. The morning is his favourite time of the day.’

‘Never mind,’ Swash leaned back relaxing, ‘he’ll show up.’

Krok peered out, wanting to call to them but didn’t want to be discovered in the awkward position. And awkward it was, he was hunched up, his mask skewed and pine needles teasing their way through his feathers, ‘krok’, he grouched softly.

Swank left for a few minutes and then returned with a large barby doll camper box. Krok had seen it before but in an earlier incident, had avoided the blond after she tripped him up as she lay prostrate on her hammock. When an obscure little cousin of Swish’s left with the blond, the box had remained.

Krok tried to peer out and got poked in the eye.

The family gathered around the barby box, ‘Good idea that Swank. Hiding Krok’s presents in there out in the open. It’ll be the first time he hasn’t cheated.’

The evil family snickered.

Krok was considering crawling out and trying to come up with a way to salvage his pride when the family suddenly left.

Swash was ushering the others out.

Now was his chance; ignoring the pain, he wriggled and jumped out. He tossed off his mask and quickly groomed himself. He flew to the open window.

The family entered with drinks and food, which was odd because they normally didn’t eat in this room.

‘Come ‘ere bird, you’ve got presents to open.’

Krok tried to look nonchalant but it was too exciting. As soon as the Captain put him on the couch he ripped into the presents, his beak tearing away to reveal his treasure. Krok failed to notice the secretive smiles as the Captain discreetly pushed an offending cloth all the way under the couch with his barefoot.

All in all, it had been a grand morning and only one present had year had been tossed into the corner. A bogus blond that had been made up with a spiky orange puff plume. Someone’s idea of a joke.

Stupid blond.

He had picked her up in his beak when no one was looking and took her into the tunnels. Sometimes he played walk the plank, damsel in distress, bombardier barby, feed ‘er to the sharks and other entertaining pirate games. Sometimes as he wandered around the dark tunnels he would frighten himself because he had forgotten where he’d left her.

Damn short memory. Now why was he here now? That’s right.

Krok had a good view from his nest.

Soon after Swash was seated, Swank entered with his headphones on. Buckling looked at his wife who rolled her eyes. It was hard to have a conversation with someone when they were listening to music.

Swish looked like she was going to throw up.

Swank continued to listen to his music, obviously a ploy to get his dad worked up.

Couldn’t they see Swish was snookered?

‘Swish, why don’t you sit down and relax? Swank? SWANK?’

‘Huh,’ came the deliberate reply.

The headphones came off, sort of. Krok could still hear the music filtering out.

‘How was school this semester?’

‘Ok.’

‘What subjects did you choose?

‘The usual.’

Don’t you know? Advanced Maths, First Year Uni Literature, Advanced Science, Drama and International Economics.

‘What are the usual?’

‘Ballet, music, basket weaving, baking and knitting.’

Ha ha.

CRACK. Swish had been holding a glass, now she just held shards.

Strong grip for a woman, glad that wasn’t me.

 She smiled quickly to cover her expression, ‘Oops.’ She bent down to pick up the shards of glass.

Like I said completely plastered.

He could see a range of emotions going through Swash’s face.

‘Don’t panic pops, I took Maths, Literature, Science, Drama and Economics.’

See I told you, but nice downplay Swank.

 ‘I’m thinking about being a politician.’

Yuk. But it gained some points with mum and dad even though they didn’t know why he wanted the job.

The Job

Breakfast was done and Swank told them he would wait out his day in his cabin. Swish headed off to complete her duties and Swash and he went up to start organizing.

Plan 416 was a huge success. Thanks to Krok.

Thanks to me, Krok the heroic, the fabulous and incredibly good looking.

After the Job

Dinner was going to be pretty friendly so he thought he’d take some time out and have a snooze. He dozed quickly on his perch.

In the Country

In the quiet surroundings of Oxford Jennifer awoke to the sound of her breakfast trolley. The rich smells of English food came flowing in.

‘Good morning miss, have a good night sleep?’

‘Yes, bring that over here Garath,’ she was helped to puff her pillows behind her.

‘Is Father and Mother up yet?’

‘Yes Miss Pennington, he believes your mother has gone for a ride on Hector…’

‘Thank you Garath, please ask Father to come up and see him.’

She looked outside, stretching from her bed slightly, ‘oooh, I shan’t be riding today shall I?’

‘No Miss Pennington.’

He thought she sounded just like her mother.

 After Garath left she nibbled on her toast and licked her skinny fingers occasionally. She then noticed the book that her father had bought her, and along with the book the very authentic looking sailing ship in a bottle that her Father had placed on her mantel place.

Stupid dreams she thought to herself, sniffing at the same time. She hoped she wouldn’t have another.

Her father knocked politely on the door and waited for her to invite him in. They smiled at each other. He sat down on the side of the queen-size bed.

‘Father,’ she blurted out, ‘what did you do in the Army?’

He sighed, ‘my goodness Tinker Bell it’s a bit early for an interrogation, isn’t it?’

‘Father….’

He held up his long, bony hand. ‘Alright, I was a part of the British S.A.S, it stands for…’

A knock interrupted him.

‘Enjoy your breakfast noodle, I must go.’

After breakfast, she carefully laid the tray to one side and leaned back into the sumptuous pillows. Without meaning to she dozed off.

Dreams

Krok needed urgent help. He fidgeted on the ships wooden banister. The clear skies above and the warm sunshine weren’t bringing him the usual joy. The crew had disappeared and the missus was nowhere to be seen.

Krok turned from looking out at the land to see a rather skinny girl standing on the polished boards. He sidled over to be closer to her; he puffed out his chest looking handsome. She ignored him. He decided to forgo the niceties.

‘Hey kid, get over here.’

She still ignored him

He repeated his words, speaking a little slower and louder just in case she didn’t hear him over the creaking ship.

She looked at him haughtily, ‘I am not deaf and I am not a kid.’

‘What are you then?’ He politely asked

‘I am a whom, not a what. My name is Jennifer Pennington,’ she glanced around, ‘where am I? What am I doing here? What are you?’

He was glad now he hadn’t flown over to sit upon her shoulder. She’d probably have toppled over and wouldn’t appreciate bird crap down her back.

He elected to answer her in short, ‘A ship, don’t care and I’m Krok Spiky, the Brave.’

‘You’re just a bird.’ She spoke insultingly and flicked her hand at him, ‘you can’t be brave. My father’s brave. He has four medals for being brave. He fought in six wars and …’

Krok flicked his head at her, ‘Well, he can’t have been that brave then with only four medals.’

Her disposition changed quickly, ‘was to…’ she reasserted herself, ‘my father’s has ribbons as well…’

He shuttered, this wasn’t going very well. What he needed was for her to shut up and help him. Before he could recruit her she proceeded to go on a tirade about earning the right to be called brave. My father said this, my father said that. She kept going on and on and on. Earn the right, hadn’t he earned the right?

‘…ther’s says the Americans get medals for just doing the washing up. He has…’

This had to stop. He butted in, ‘what did your father do?’

She told him that her father was in the British SAS. Krok didn’t think she knew what that was so he tested her.

‘What’s the SAS?’

‘Ummmmm.’ She fidgeted on the deck, moving away from him. ‘Why do you call yourself brave?’

Krok’s chest puffed out, hoping to make an impression so that she would shut up and help him, ‘oh nothing much, just some low aerobatic flying mission, recon spying, battling heavy storms, stealing…’

‘Stealing…’ she seemed appalled and to Krok’s disgust began another string of her father this and her father that.

He couldn’t stop himself from asking her if she had ever stolen. To his surprise, she blushed and muttered something. This was going to be good…

‘…up bird, wake up. You’re ‘aving a dream…’

Damn.

On the Ship

He was perched once more upon the Captains shoulder. They were near the ship’s wheel. ‘Hard to port.’ Buckling ordered.

‘Aye Sir, Hard to port,’ the steersman repeated.

There was nothing like ordering the plebeians around.

The Captain kept running his hands over the railings and on the mizzen mast, he must be thinking about sex again.

They were going to drop off their wares at a port in a couple of days. He looked forward to that. It was fun screeching at all the kids making them cry.

For now, this was the Captain’s ship, the Egret, and nobody could come or go without his, he meant, the Captain’s permission. It was good to be the Captain’s bird.

Cattle Egret.

The Captain headed off to bed and Krok went to visit the missus.

She wasn’t in her cabin so after a fly around, he discovered her top deck sitting by herself.

Looking very sad.

Krok sidled up to her on the rail, ‘Krok,’ he croaked deeply and softly, ‘krok, krok.’

Swish, don’t be sad.

‘Hello Spiky, what are you doing up? Couldn’t sleep either?’

She talked to him about some of her worries and that she felt bad for the way they had treated Swank. She was upset about her mother’s phone and how much she longed for her mother to like her. Most of all she talked about wanting a friend.

Since she felt like sharing he decided to open up to her as well.

Remember this morning when you mentioned my girlfriend? I really miss her, not. I find it really hard that Captain calls this ship the Crow, after all, her name was Krow. She was such a good hunter of grasshoppers, lizards and beetles. Here I am all ready for breeding and no one even cares. All I want is a good humping. At least you’re getting some. I used to have hundreds of friends and we’d all have nested on the same tree…uh…actually I couldn’t stand that which is why I made a move….and eating ticks and blood-sucking flies off cattle and well…screw that…she just didn’t understand I was unique and needed my space. She wouldn’t give up the lifestyle to come and lower her standards to live on the ship with humans…’

Swish got up to leave.

Where are you going, I haven’t finished.

Have you even be listening to him, lady?

He forgave her though when she picked him up carefully and he was nestled in between her breasts. Two miserable souls should be together in their moments of need.

He remembered love very clearly as the gentle rocking motion reminded him of his past love.

 ‘Krow, krow,’ a female Cattle Egret had cried, annoyed at her current suitor. Krok had watched from another tree, which was gently rocking with a light breeze, with interest as the spiky orange male flew away frustrated. Other males came and went, each unsuccessful. The noise was interrupting his afternoon nap. His own plumes were looking particularly attractive this day, and his beak was a sexy red, he wasn’t going to get any sleep so he may as well have a go.

He flew over to the tree and sidled over to the cute babe in need of a good coupling. She eyed him off and kept quiet.

So far so good, Krok was encouraged. He had opened his beak and deepened his voice to an irresistible croak, ‘krok…krok…’

They communicated the language of love for a while, ‘krok..krow…krow…krok…’

‘krow….krok….krok’, they touched beaks now and then. Communication was over.

They did it.

Krok went to leave.

He had to return to the Captain.

To his annoyance, she had followed him.

At first, he had tried to lose her with some fast low-level manoeuvres but she had kept up, when he looked behind him he realized that she had the look of a determined woman, that of a predator. He hoped when she saw where he lived she would eventually leave. And she did eventually.

He shuttered at the memory. Close call.

Krok could see Swish was feeling better and as she went about preparing for the next day and settling in, he settled on her chair. Oddly he felt better too. Who needed some little tramp who had a roving eye for some redder than red iris and bill. He kept repeating that to himself.

They both drifted off.

About 4am he left and joined the friendly crewman Jim.

During the wee hours, he shared a tale of when an impostor had been on board with his attentive audience.

Krok had known that the parrot was going to be trouble. She was evil and conniving. Just because she was good looking and a parrot didn’t make it right in Krok’s books. Well, maybe the good looking part.

The parrot would act nice as pie to everyone’s faces, but as soon as their backs were turned she would look around with a glint in her eye. Krok watched her like a hawk, stalking her every move, determined not to let anything untoward happen.

The Captain wandered over to Krok, who had been kicked off his perch.

‘Now bird, don’t be like that, it’s only for this job see, I’ve got to ‘ave a conventional parrot.’

‘Krow…’

Krok looked at the parrot who was staring at him with an evil eye.

‘Now, now, don’t get all agitated, the missus has got a special treat for you.’

Krok’s interest perked up. That could mean a pie full of wiggly insects. He could dream. He went away with the Captain. Swash then returned to his cabin where the replacement bird waited. Krok listened in from his secret tunnel.

The Captain went over to the parrot, ‘there now Penny, don’t worry about old Krok, he doesn’t like other birds much. Get on me shoulder then. Ya poor thing having a glass eye an’ all.’

What a sucker.

Jim continued to scratch Krok now and then, in between his duties, in all the right places. They finished the shift together.

Swank Swish The Gran The Crewman The Ship Swash The Bird