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Bird Job
by Phil Temples

“Great! Another ‘bird job.’”

Sam said it aloud as though every other run involved the rescue of a feathered creature. The four men and one woman of Ladder 12 had arrived at 125 Prescott Street to find a parrot called “Captain Hook” sitting on a branch about fifty feet up in a tall oak tree. Captain Hook appeared to be in good spirits. His owner, however – a Mrs. Marjorie Fletcher -- was quite beside herself.

“Please! Do something! ‘Captain’ has never been out of the house. Don’t let him get hurt! Please!”

“Ma’am, please calm down. My men will do everything they can to get your bird down safely.”

The response came from another ‘Captain’. Captain Sean T. O’Reilly had been in the vicinity and decided to stop by and monitor the progress of the rescue—and to check on the progress of their newest crew member. While the crew broke out the ladder, O’Reilly tried to calm down Mrs. Fletcher.

“...You don’t understand, sir! He’s more than a bird. He’s my family! He’s all I’ve got.” The tears welled up in her eyes.

“I understand, ma’am. We’ll have your... ah... ‘Mister Hook’ back to you in no time.”

He added, “Now, please don’t take this the wrong way, ma’am. I’m only askin’ for insurance purposes. Can you tell me the approximate value of Captain Hook?”

At first, Mrs. Fletcher looked at Captain O’Reilly in an odd manner as though the question was nonsensical. She thought for a moment.

“Well, he’s been valued at $75 thousand. I have him insured for one hundred thousand dollars.”

Petey and Joey were standing nearby and heard the exchange. Joey whistled at the mention of dollar amount. O’Reilly shot him a dirty look. Clearly this job called for a little finesse.

“Suzy, you goin’ up?” asked the Captain, of the company’s newest firefighter, Susan Langley.

“Sure thing, Cap.”

“But -- but, aren’t you going to send one of your men after my ‘Captain’?” Mrs. Fletcher asked, meekly. She was clearly uncomfortable with a member of the weaker sex being entrusted with such a crucial mission.

“Don’t you worry now, Mrs. Fletcher. Suzy is one of the best.”

Petey and Joey held the ladder. Suzy, in a full body fall arrest and sit harness, headed up with a small assortment of tools strapped to her waist. She was followed by Johnny, better known around the station house as “JG”.

“Aw, shit!” cried Suzy. “Watch out for the bird poop, JG. He almost nailed me.”

The comments brought a chuckle from everyone on the ground, with the exception of Mrs. Fletcher. She thought that it was most disrespectful. However, she kept her mouth shut. Mrs. Fletcher didn’t want anything to distract the fireman and that girl from rescuing her poor Captain.

“Hey, Captain!” yelled Suzy.

“BWWAK! Pretty Captain!” replied Captain Hook.

“Not you, bird!” Suzy countered.

“You like Pretty, Pretty Captain!” said the bird.



Captain Hook echoed O’Reilly’s response.

“Shut up, Captain!” Suzy said.

“I beg your pardon!” yelled Captain O’Reilly from the ground.

“Sorry, Cap, not you—I was talking to the bird.”

“BWAAK! Sure you were, sure you were!” yelled Captain Hook.

“Cap, he’s a little out of our reach! I’m thinkin’ that we hang a split-side pulley off that big branch and rig some hand line. Sound okay by you?”

“Do it!” yelled O’Reilly.

“Do it, do it -- BWAAK!” yelled the parrot.

“Guess it’s unanimous, Suzy,” said JG, from a few rungs below.

“Hey, JG -- ya’ wonder why we go after an animal that’s perfectly capable of getting himself up here in the first place. Now, surely he could find his way back down, wouldn’t ya’ think?”

JG replied, “It’s a ‘PR thing.’ We go after cats all the time.” He added, “If ya’ ask me, we ought’a just shake the damn branch until ole’ ‘Mister Hook’ here decides to fly back down under his own steam.”

Suzy said, “Except for the fact that that damn thing is worth more than the first mortgage on my house.”

Twenty frustrating minutes later, Suzy and JG were still no closer to rescuing Captain Hook. The Captain stayed conveniently out of their reach. He would periodically interrupt his pruning to eye the two would-be rescuers with great suspicion.

“That’s right, Captain Hook. Come to papa -- come to papa,” said JG.

“BWAAK! Fa loves Pa!”

“What th’fuck did it say to me?” said JG.

“Shhh,” said Suzy. She lowered her voice to a whisper. “You want that ole’ bag down there to go mental on us? Just humor the bird, alright?”

“Pretty girl, pretty girl,” said the Captain to Suzy. The Captain followed up with a ‘wolf whistle’.

“He knows how to chat up a gal, doesn’t he?” quipped JG.

“Maybe you should take some lessons from him,” she replied. Suzy turned her attention to the ground.

“Hey, Cap,” she yelled. “I got an idea! Pass up one of the spare rake handles from the back of the truck! Maybe ‘Captain Hook’ will step out onto it. I can pass’em over to JG!”

“Oh, no, no!” cried Mrs. Fletcher, below. “You’re not going to make my poor Captain ‘walk the plank!’”

“Ma’am, listen.” responded Captain O’Reilly in the most calm, paternal manner that he could muster. “No one’s going to put your bird in any danger. My gal up there knows what she’s doing. Petey -- grab a rake handle from the truck if you would, please?”

Nearly an hour later, Suzy and JG were carrying on an extensive dialog with Captain Hook. Talking to the parrot seemed to keep its attention focused on Suzy and JG. It also kept him from moving further away. To observers on the ground it appeared as though Suzy and JG were trying to reason with the bird.

“...Captain, if you just ‘walk the plank’ for me, I’ll give you a big, big surprise!”

Suzy said it in a provocative manner using a chesty voice, as though she were offering the bird a sexual treat.

“Yeah, Captain -- and all of us get to watch too,” joked JG.

“Shut up, JG!” snapped Suzy.

“BWAAK! Shut up, JG! You want that ole’ bag down there to go mental on us?” screamed Captain Hook.

“Oh, shit,” muttered Suzy under her breath. She knew that Mrs. Fletcher -- in fact, everyone else below -- had heard Captain Hook’s last remarks.

“We’re gonna have to watch what we say, JG,” she whispered.

“Walk the plank! Walk the plank!” cried Captain Hook. “I’ll give you a big surprise! You can watch, too, JG! BWAAK!”

Captain O’Reilly was starting to get pissed.

“Hey, you guys,” he shouted upstairs. “I don’t know what you’ve been sayin’ to each other and to that bird, but knock it off! Don’t make me sorry I sent you up there. Now, you get that animal down here. Now! I don’t want to see any ruffled feathers, either. You read me?”

“Roger that, Cap'n,” replied JG.

“Yessir,” said Suzy.

“BWAAK! Ten-four, Good Buddy!” acknowledged Captain Hook.

A few minutes later, Suzy had positioned the rake handle to rest on the branch, within a few inches of Captain Hook’s feet. The Captain eyed it curiously.

“Com’on, Captain Hook! Step on the pretty stick, now. Mommy misses you. We’ll take you to mommy.”

“BWAAK! Henry! Take me. Take me now! I’m yours. BWAAK!”

All heads turned -- both in the air, and on the ground. Down below, Sam said out loud what was on everyone’s minds.

“Who’s Henry?”

Mrs. Fletcher turned bright red; she said quietly to Captain O’Reilly,

“A woman’s entitled to a little male companionship once in awhile.”

Just then, Captain Hook took a tentative step out onto the rake handle. Before Suzy could get a firm bracing on her end of the stick, however, Captain Hook started sliding quickly over towards Suzy. The sudden, shifting weight of the massive parrot caused Suzy to nearly drop her end.

Captain Hook started to tumble; he flapped his wings as he clung to the rake handle.

"JG! Help!" yelled, Suzy.

“Shit!” screamed Captain Hook. The parrot was now flapping his wings madly. After a second or two, Captain Hook let go of the handle. He started his flight down in a slow, spiraling motion.

“Heads up!” shouted JG to everyone, below.

All eyes were glued on Captain Hook. Mrs. Fletcher felt as though her heart had stopped beating altogether. Captain O’Reilly wondered if they’d have two casualties today -- her, and the bird. The one-hundred-thousand-dollar question on everyone's minds was: could the bird safely land under its own power.

A few seconds later, Captain Hook spiraled down onto the shoulder of Mrs. Fletcher, who then promptly passed out.

“BWAAK! She’s gone mental on us! She’s gone mental on us!” the Captain screamed.

“No she hasn’t, you bird-brain. She’s fainted,” replied Petey.

Petey took off his helmet; he stretched Mrs. Fletcher out on the ground in the event that mouth-to-mouth resuscitation was required. In the meantime, Joey went to the truck to retrieve the smelling salt.

“BWAAK! Kiss me, Henry. Kiss me tenderly, sweetly. BWAAK!”

“Cap, that bird is gonna drive me nuts!” said Petey.

“BWAAK! Fruitcake! Fruitcake!”

Suzy and JG arrived back on the ground. They joined the other crewmembers and Captain Hook, all hovered over Mrs. Fletcher.

“She gonna be okay?” asked Suzy.

“Her pulse and respiration are normal,” replied Captain O’Reilly. “I think Mrs. Fletcher will be just fine.” He added, “Do you two mind telling me what the hell you were talkin' about, up there?”

Before either could respond, Captain Hook replied, “BWAAK. Take some lessons from him, Cap! Just shake the damn branch! BWAAK! Just another ‘bird job...’”