This month’s short story is a change of pace. I wrote this tongue-in-cheek tale as a “flash fiction” entry for a writers’ group exercise. Flash fiction stories are usually less than 500 words, written on a specific topic, and still offer character and plot development. I hope you enjoy Fickle Feathered Friend.
Fickle Feathered Friend
I SAT ON MY DECK, Bud Light in hand, watching a ruby-throated hummingbird dart to and from a clump of yellow daylilies. I tried to follow the path of the animated bird as it skimmed into the distance, but each time it vanished, consumed by the horizon. As I finished my next swallow of beer, the bird returned. Where it had gone the prior sixty seconds, I couldn’t determine.
Looking down at my pedestrian body, I wondered, Could two living creatures be more different? This bird can fly backwards, while I lose my balance standing too quickly.
The bird seemed to know I was observing him and exhibited little fear when he swooped toward the deck and hovered above my white ball cap. He either wanted to communicate or my head appeared to him as a mutant hydrangea.
I wondered if a hummingbird could be trained, and if so, what it could learn. Visions of being on America’s Got Talent flashed before me.
What child singer or dog act could stand up to a trained hummingbird?
I stepped inside and mixed sugar and water in a small bowl and returned to the deck. After dipping my index finger into the syrupy concoction, I held it out. The red-necked bird lingered close, but wouldn’t accept my offering.
Color! My finger needs to look like a flower.
After smearing my index finger with a red magic marker, I tried again. With each pass, the hovering bird came nearer. Once he finally got a taste, he returned time and again to lick the sweet liquid off my fingertip.
I named him Buzz, and over the next several weeks, I designed props and developed tricks for The Amazing Buzz to perform. He learned to fly through hoops, both forward and backward. He could even find a sugary treat hidden beneath one of three clamshells after I shuffled them.
Buzz traveling to an audition wasn’t possible, so I sent an iPhone video to the AGT producers. Two weeks later they agreed to come to my home to film Buzz for the upcoming season.
The million dollar prize money was almost mine!
I WAS NERVOUS as a cat in a canoe as the crew set up the lights and cameras. Buzz seemed unaffected, darting back and forth from my finger to the daylilies near the deck.
As the producer was about to shout Action, Buzz shot across the backyard and into the horizon. He’d always returned, but this time he didn’t.
Panic filled my body, but there was nothing I could do. Buzz didn’t come on command. He came when he was hungry.
In desperation, I ran to my car and drove in the direction Buzz had flown. At the other side of the neighborhood, white NBC panel trucks and huge satellite dishes pointing skyward surrounded Jim Edwards’ home. After parking, I ran toward Jim’s voice coming from his back porch.
“Hey, Fred!” he called to me. “Come see what I trained this hummingbird to do!”