Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: PHOTOS and/or SOUVENIR(S) (vacation) (07/16/15)
TITLE: I Brake For Peacocks
By Rachel Barrett
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“Why sure,” I'd said. “I'll even teach you how to drive my truck.” She'd turn sixteen soon, after all.
Sixteen or not, she got crash-coursed in country life's nuances. Due to a certain redneck farmer's love affair with poultry—said farmer shall remain nameless—news circulated the neighborhood that a certain doorstep was the place for free handouts. First my neighbor's chickens. Then their neighbor's ducks. Then their neighbor's turkeys. By the time my sister arrived, word had reached the king of local avian life—the Jones's pet peacock.
One morning, as I worked in the barn, I became aware of the distinct sensation of being watched. On hands and knees, I turned, coming nose to beak with a bright blue head and a pair of beady eyes two or three hundredths of an inch from my face.
Nonplussed, I retreated. My sister looked in to ask why I was clinging to the rafters and cursing.
“Inspecting for termites.”
Despite our inauspicious introduction, the peacock visited often. He stalked imperiously across the pasture, about-facing as if heading invisible feathered troops. “Attention, soldiers! A roaming sack of birdseed is lurking in the barn. This threat must be neutralized immediately! Hut two three four . . .”
He apparently considered himself a family member, if not outright Head of Barnyard Security. Working outside, I'd see him bustle along for hourly inspections. He even attempted to assist with routine vehicle maintenance, though his lack of opposable thumbs forced me to reject his application. He hung around, watching me fiddle with pickup guts, replace the hood, and hop in.
Due to unfortunate circumstances involving a high rate of speed, a concrete-reinforced gatepost, and a farmer who shall remain nameless, the truck hood had become permanently disjoined from its confederate parts. This anatomical gap was rectified with a redneck's most trusted helpmeet—baling twine.
Normally, I wouldn't bother with the twine, but today was special.
“So how do you make this thing go?” inquired my sister, reaching for the ignition.
“Easy,” I said. “Push the clutch, then start it.”
Like a wide-eyed lemur mounted on an elephant, she peered over the hulking dashboard. Chuuunk. In went the clutch. Vrrrrrrrrrrrrrr. The engine rumbled.
“Now let the clutch–”
ChiinkVRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!! POWPOWputputputshhhhhhhhhhhh . . .
The elephant lurched, gagged, and died. I contemplated the saucer-eyed young lemur, her fingers clamped around the wheel.
The lemur emitted a faint squeak.
“Try again. Clutch in, engine on, clutch out . . .”
As the small primate regained her sangfroid and gently worked the pedals, the elephant lumbered forward. Up ahead, the peacock climbed atop the fence, broke out a beer, and kicked back, enjoying the show.
The primate's brow crinkled studiously as we bounced along the bumpy driveway. The peacock, hoping to either cheerlead or inspect the engine for code compliance, spread his wings and glided straight toward us.
I casually apprised the young pilot of the approaching obstruction. “LOOK OUT!”
“AAAAAAUGH!” she responded, stomping for the nearest pedal, which happened to be the right-hand one.
With a “VRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRM!” the elephant lunged. Flailing wildly, the peacock launched himself skyward, narrowly avoiding the grill guard. The pickup nose slipped underneath him, neatly pinning his claws in the baling twine crossing the hood.
Given full throttle, the elephant stampeded, bucketing over the ruts. Feathers flew, and neighbors stared as we rocketed by, no doubt amazed at our groundbreaking invention—boosting horsepower with peacock power! The cab became a blur of frantically steering lemur, and a formerly peaceful farmer foaming at the mouth and barking orders. The screeching was horrible. The peacock, however, was too scared to make a sound.
As the frenzied lemur located and employed full use of the brake, the twine popped. The hood bounced up, sailing away like a huge Frisbee with a deranged ornament. Last we saw, the peacock had cleared Mrs. Johnson's petunias and was heading straight for the Smiths' fishpond.
Once the crazed creature turned back into a farmer, and the terror-stricken lemur turned back into a sister, she regained enough faculties to express her desire to return east on the fastest plane possible.
A single iridescent tail feather had lodged on the windshield. I offered it to her. “Souvenir?”
Her refusal was, shall we say, colorful. The farmer who taught her those words had better remain nameless.
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