|Birds of Paradise by Shelley McElhiney*|
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
They were the best of friends. The bond between them visible, almost tangible, floating mid air, between the the two of them. Distance did not alter this, even when that distance spanned over half the planet.
He was an old school hippie turned businessman by the twists & turns of time & place that overtake us all throughout our lives. His look had become business casual, changed by the practicalities of life, but he retained the long hair & sandals that had once been part of his daily uniform. The ravages of age had given him bald spots & had turned his once long, flowing locks grey & wiry. His belly had softened as his life turned sedentary. No longer a wandering member of a scattered & forgotten tribe, he inhabited the bookstore, struggling to keep it afloat, amidst a sea of bills & a lease that eventually overflowed his income & ballooned out, enveloping the building with a sense of strife & struggle.
She was exotic, if a bit showy. Spending her days basking in the warmth of his attention, she was cranky & inconsolable when he was away. Best described as colorful, she spent her time as a rainbow of excitement, her plumage always in motion. She slept little, constantly watching over her little bookstore kingdom, above the store, but never really out of sight, never really a part of the background. Whenever it seemed as if the store was in danger of slipping into a sad & never ending slumber, it was she who would wake it up, letting out her own, unique squawk, startling customers & employees alike. She would not let them sleep, not while she ruled over all she surveyed. Her demeanor was regal, her appearance filled with more color than all of carnivale. She came from South America, the rainforest her original home. She never quite fit in with the beige walls & slow lifestyle of the store, but she endured it for him. He had brought her here, not directly, but after a series of other places, other homes. She had had other relationships, but had always ended up being too high maintenance, as the years wore by.
Eventually customers began to disappear from the little store, in search of the shiny & the new, perhaps or maybe just the more convenient. The store employees left, one by one, most pushed from the nest, by the lack of money & the lack of customers, sent to fly away on their own in search of other places to roost.
She too left in the end, forced out into the world, into another home, maybe even another bookstore. He could no longer afford her exotic ways, was no longer able to pay for the bookstore, her home. He found another, from a less exotic far away land, this time a fellow tribesman to share his time & his love. She left proudly, without her usual squawks, her colorful feathers ruffled proudly, her head held high & her little feet firmly clutched to the perch inside her gilded cage.
He visited from time to time, but they were never the same. Their friendship would always be, but they had new loves & new homes in which to nest. SAM
* image & short story by Shelley McElhiney, all rights reserved