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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Surprised (09/06/07)

TITLE: Who's the Birdbrain?
By Linda Germain


Today was Emmy Sue Stoogen’s birthday. When a person turns 103 years old it’s hard to ignore all the hoopla. She was well aware of the surprise party goings-on in her assisted living building. Well, she had a surprise for them. She wouldn’t be there.

Having a three-digit age wasn’t so uncommon anymore, but after a while a person just gets bored. Emmy Sue was ready to check out. She still had all her mental faculties and was in better shape than Gilda, her granddaughter who was a mere 65. Gilda’s father, Stanley Stoogen, was 85 and acted like a geezer.

“Harrumph,” Emmy responded out loud to her own thoughts, “They’re just babies. You haven’t lived at all until you pass the century mark.”

She chuckled at the idea. It was hard enough to realize her kids were so old, much less her own body. All in all, though, since she had beaten the odds and bypassed the onslaught of arthritis better than some, she was in pretty good shape for the shape she was in. Her white hair was fluffy and she could see well enough with her new glasses. She wasn’t in a wheelchair and her appetite was excellent.

“No wonder that newspaper keeps trying to interview me and take my picture.”

This comment was addressed to her sassy parrot, Conrad. He had been her constant companion for 40 years. When her third husband, Arnold, now deceased, had given this pet to her, he had forgotten to mention what long livers these birds were. That thought threw her into more giggles.

“How you doing today, old friend?” She removed the cover from his large cage.

“Did they invite you to my birthday party or are you lucky enough to stay perched where you are and watch your cartoons?”

Conrad tilted his beautifully colored head to the side and listened. His vocabulary was outstanding, but just now he had nothing to contribute. Emmy continued her small daily chores. She smoothed out the wrinkles in the chenille spread. Her mother had taught her that a lady never starts the day with an unmade bed. Emmy just liked the way it looked.

She lifted a suitcase onto the low cedar chest and continued to putter, humming as she went; first folding her dresses and nightgowns neatly, and then adding her few pairs of well-made shoes, after wrapping them in tissue paper. She did not like loose ends, and today was no exception.

Conrad began to ruffle his feathers when he saw the old brown valise being packed. “What’s up, Doc?” he chattered five times in a row.

Emmy closed the luggage and locked it for good measure, then retrieved her hot tea from the counter in the galley kitchen. She walked with purpose to the chair beside the birdcage and sat down to chat with her concerned roommate.

“ My dear little Conrad,” she cooed as if he were her baby, “Mama still loves you but please don’t worry. You will not have to fend for yourself. You’re a pretty popular fellow.”

He poked his beak through the wire bars to touch her finger. She spoke in a quiet, reassuring voice.”

“We’ve had some good times, haven’t we? Remember when you scared the would-be burglar by barking like our old Doberman dog, Spike?”

As if on cue, Conrad let out a fierce growl, followed by some serious canine sounds. Emmy Sue laughed so hard she cried. The articulate bird bobbed his head up and down and scooted back and forth across the rod in his cage. The elderly woman stopped the frivolity with a sudden insight she wanted to share.

She took a sip from the antique cup and changed the subject. “You know, I have always tried to be a good person. I haven’t killed anyone or lied too much or coveted my neighbor’s donkey.”

Conrad just stared at her.

“That was a joke, little one.”

The bird did not laugh.

“It will be nice to meet my loved ones in heaven…especially all those husbands I out lived.”

Satisfied with her life, Emmy lay down on the small couch -- to rest in peace.

When the birthday committee opened her door, they were surprised.

When Emily Susan Stoogen opened her eyes and saw where she was, she was even more surprised.

As the men wheeled her out to the hearse, shrouded under a wrinkled plastic blanket, someone heard Conrad say, “Tha…tha…that’s all folks.”

And sadly, in the end -- it was.

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This article has been read 833 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Betty Castleberry09/13/07
I just couldn't pass this one up. You've written about two of my favorite things: parrots and the elderly. If I could give you a personal award, I would. :0) This had an easy flow about it, and was very entertaining. The ending is sweet and poignant. Well done.
Dee Yoder 09/13/07
Couldn't stop reading this. This poor lady! I guess she didn't live long enough to know the difference Jesus would have made to HER surprise ending! The title is very clever.
Jacquelyn Horne09/13/07
Cute turn of events here. Certainly a surprise ending.
Gregory Kane09/15/07
This is a clever piece worthy of a second reading. I noticed the allusions to Warner Bros cartoons and I loved the neat and tidy way that Emmy made her preparations, all the while misleading the reader into thinking she was going to make a break for it. The spiritual application was well done although I wonder whether it might have been too subtle for some people. One of the commentators has made the meaning clear but it’s entirely possible that some readers might have been left puzzled by the ending.
Joanne Sher 09/15/07
I adore the relationship between this woman and her bird - it was absolutely magical. Wonderful ending - and I loved the cartoon references!
Verna Cole Mitchell 09/15/07
I loved your story of the delightful little old lady and her bird. You "showed" so much of her character by her actions and her words. That's excellent writing.
Laurie Walker09/18/07
I love the line: "She was in pretty good shape for the shape she was in." Hilarious. I also loved 'watiching' the bird come to life as well.
Janice Cartwright09/20/07
This is life so real it flies off the page. Emmy and her parrot are lovable and cozy and real. Emmy's boredom though is the clue that she lived a life apart from the Lord and therefore utterly selfish. Where my 93-year-old mom lives in an apartment complex for the elderly I see some Emmy's -and some whose lives reflect a long-lived zeal for the Lord.