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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Calm (emotionally) (09/13/07)

TITLE: Gonzo the Emu Saves the Day
By matthew buchanan


The emu stared me straight in the face. “You want a piece of me?” I asked. The wind fluttered in the maples, and people shuffled by looking at me as if I were an exhibit in the zoo while relishing their ice cream and frozen lemonade. It was a typical day at the Indianapolis Zoo.

I stared at the emu. Maybe he was deaf. “Do-you-want-a-piece-of-me?” I repeated.

He did not respond. I guess I was ridiculous to expect an emu to speak. I guess it was ridiculous to take all the frustration of a day—or was it a month or a year?--out on a helpless bird just because it happened to have the audacity to eat my map of the zoo. I guess it was pretty dumb to keep standing toe to toe with the emu while wearing a cap that looked like it might taste good.

Yeah, the emu wanted a piece of me. He wanted my hat. In a second I was hatless on a hot summer day in the middle of the zoo. I was also bald—new development this past year that the doctor had calmly stated was stress-related--and had never been a fan of sunburned scalp. The itching could take weeks to dissipate.

I stared at the emu. The emu stared at me. I could see that what we had, in the words of my psychiatrist, was a failure to communicate. What had I done in the past in similar situations? Throwing stuff didn’t seem like it would be appropriate here. Apart from denting walls and shattering glass heirlooms into little fragments, it hadn’t really worked, ever. Shouting, yelling, screaming like a lunatic—well, I didn’t think it would have any effect on the emu. Those who shout are eventually tuned out by those they most want to influence.

So we sat. I felt my pulse slow down. I noticed that the emu looked a bit like a muppet. What was his name? Gonzo.

“I will call you Gonzo, mighty Eater of Hat,” I said.

And I laughed. Maybe the emu needed the hat more than I did. As I laughed, something broke inside of me. A dam of frustration spilled out in each guffaw until I was emptied of the anger of a failed relationship, the fear of a mysterious health diagnosis, the sorrow of watching your children raised by another.

For the first time in a year, I was calm. And I would’ve thanked the emu, but I knew it wouldn’t do any good.

So I walked away, slowly, before the emu decided he wanted my shirt.

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This article has been read 635 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Helen Murray09/20/07
What a fabulous story! How delicately you have wrapped very deep and powerful emotion into a wonderful story with an incredibly funny twist at the end. How I admire you!
Wow! That was funny, and the ending explained the staring he and Gonzo shared. I like how you weaved in the details, but started with this curious exchange between man and bird. Very cool.
Grover Gall09/21/07
A well-written, funny, funny story.
Laury Hubrich 09/21/07
Great story. Especially like the ending!
dub W09/23/07
Well written and bright humor. I loved it; indeed I'm going to read it again cause I enjoyed it so much. Welcome to the puppy pen.
Sheri Gordon09/23/07
You addressed a very serious issue with great humor. Very good.
Marty Wellington 09/23/07
Wonderful title drew me in and this brilliant piece truly delighted me. Congratulations on the puppy pen--well deserved.
Jacquelyn Horne09/25/07
Good job in showing the release of frustration. Unique story.
c clemons09/25/07
Very good, I should just ditto everything that was said before. Good Job!
Sheri Gordon09/27/07
Congratulations on your much deserved 2nd place. This is really good writing.
Janice Cartwright09/27/07
Bravo! I loved the combination of poignancy and humor and the way you "showed" rather than "told" the healing power of laughter.
Joanne Sher 09/28/07
Congratulations, Matthew. In addition to your seond place in Level 2, you entry has placed 25th overall. The Lists for the Top 15 in each Level and the Top 40 overall is available in the Weekly Results and Highest Rankings forum of our Faithwriters Message Boards.
LauraLee Shaw10/06/07
Oh, my goodness! My kids just came running down the stairs to figure out why I was laughing out loud! This will be a story I will read over and over again, because it communicates the release of pressure and stress so well.

Incredible job on this piece!