52 Week Short Story Challenge #9 – A Bird in the Bag

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Another prompt from me this week! I went with a quetzal because I just love the damn things so much. Fun fact: I have a large quetzal tattoo and top of my bucket list is to see a live one. Possibly eating an avocado in the bargain.

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A Bird in the Bag

When the drugs started wearing off, the bird was completely confused as to where he was. It was dark, stuffy, and he could hear voices all around him. There was only one thing he knew for sure, and that was that he wasn’t in South America anymore. He shifted slightly, testing the limits. How much he was able to move. How stiff his prison was. What little information he came up with was stored in the back of his mind for when he would be able to make a move.

He listened closely. The bird had no idea what human voices were saying when they made their words, but he’d heard enough of them to interpret what was going on. The people closest to him were whispering, which made them even more difficult to hear, but he could tell they were doing something they weren’t supposed to be doing. It took him a few seconds, possibly because of the drugs still in his system, to realize they were talking about him.

***

                “How much longer are we going to be delayed?” Arturo looked around the terminal for the tenth time and Alicia reached over and pinched his arm. “Ow! What was that for?”

“Do the words ‘act natural’ mean nothing to you? You keep looking around like you’re expecting someone to come after us.” She stretched out her legs and put one on either side of the black duffel bag. “We made it through security in Guatemala, we just have to make our connection and then our friend Malik will walk us through customs. The hardest part is over.”

“This was too risky,” he said, shaking his head. “Parrots and lories are one thing but this thing is the national damn bird of Guatemala. Forget a fine, we’re looking at real jail time. In South America. The only place with worse prisons than South America is China.”

“I don’t know where you get ideas like this,” Alicia sighed. “Besides, this bird is going be the last bird. You know how much that thing is worth?” She lowered her voice even further. “Resplendent Quetzal. Our buyer is paying us two million dollars. That’s a million dollars each. We can retire. Open an actual pet store. Or a bar. We can do whatever we want.”

“I don’t know what I was thinking. I don’t know what I was thinking.” Arturo rubbed his forehead. “Oh my God.”

“Will you please just shut up?” Alicia leaned back in her chair. “It’s going to go fine.”

***

                The bird was starting to remember what he was. His wings and legs were slowly unfreezing, tingling as the feeling came back. Whatever they had given him was almost out of his system and he made a soft clucking sound to check whether or not he was still able to make noise. It didn’t sound quite right and he made another, a little louder, and wriggled to the side. He was almost there. And when he got all the way there, the humans who had stuck him in this bag were going to regret doing it. Majestic though he was, his beak was still sharp.

***

                “Oh my God,” Arturo said, sitting forward suddenly. “It moved. The bag moved. Did you just see it move?”

“It didn’t move,” Alicia said. She pushed the bag with her foot. “It’s just the material settling. I gave the stupid thing the same amount I gave that cockatoo, and that one was still dopey when we met the buyer. They weighed about the same, I figured the dose was the same.”

“I swear it moved. Maybe we should take it to the bathroom and check. Make sure it’s still asleep.” He looked around the terminal, which was crowded and getting more so every minute. “You have more of the medication, right?”

“It didn’t move,” insisted Alicia. “Besides, if I gave that bird more dope it might not survive the trip. Alive, that thing’s worth two million. Dead, it’s just a bunch of green and red feathers and a prison sentence. No way. We’re taking this thing to New York, giving it to the idiot with more money than sense, then going out for dinner. My treat.”

“Who cares about dinner? I don’t think I could even eat a package of peanuts right now.” Arturo looked down at the bag. “I wish we could just get on the plane now. What is taking them so long?”

***

                The quetzal was completely awake now. There were tiny pinpricks of light coming through the fabric around him and he could feel that he was somewhere else. He wasn’t in Guatemala, probably not even in South America anymore. The air tasted different. It tasted good enough for him to draw in great lungfuls, though, and his chest moved like a bellows.

Wherever he was, there was a good chance that if he was found he would be able to get himself back home if he got the attention of the humans around the humans that had stuffed him into this bag. Judging from the amount of noise around him, there were even more people than there had been before and that was a very good thing. They might be able to keep hiding him if only a few people saw what they were up to, but if a whole group of people saw there would be no way around it.

His beak made it impossible to actually smile, but there was a definite smirk in his heart as he pulled his foot back and prepared to kick at the same time he filled his lungs. When he got started this time, it was going to be epic.

***

                “All I’m saying—“ Arturo didn’t get to finish whatever he was about to say. The bird in their bag had gone off like a bomb. It was squawking, the sound slightly strangled coming from inside the heavy canvas bag, and thrashing like it was a shark caught in a net. Alicia stripped off her jacket and tossed it over the bag, finally panicking.

“Shut up, shut up,” she said, squeezing her jacket around the bag. The bird responded by squawking louder. “No, no, no, it should have been enough. There were enough drugs in that syringe, I know there were!”

“Oh my God,” Arturo said, looking over at the door where three armed guards were coming toward them. “We’re going to get arrested. We’re going to jail.” The bird was still screaming and kicking and Arturo began debating the pros and cons of abandoning Alicia altogether and running for it. Sure, he’d be a fugitive but at least he wouldn’t be in prison. “Do something!”

The guards were almost on them now, shouting in Spanish too rapid for Arturo to understand and pointing at the bag. Alicia stood up and held up her hands, and the bird’s squawking suddenly stopped. They all stared at the bag and the jacket it was under. Then, from under the jacket a beautiful red and green bird emerged and shook its head. One bright black bead of an eye looked around the airport and the quetzal clicked its beak.

After all this struggling, it was quite hungry.