In 20-20 hindsight I should have noticed them; two matching bikes, white shirt/black pants. Maybe the punk haircuts threw me off. I’ll never know. I was off-duty, on vacation.
I’d decided to take my dearest Chicken for the weekend, to relax a bit Three nights in the Czech Capitol, stay at our favorite home-base, the Kafka Hostel on Kaprova, tour the town a bit, air out the brain.
The night before she was obviously troubled:
“Johnny, all I see is black, all black.”
I was supportive:
“Silly pigeon, of course you do. it’s night-time, duh. Your crystal egg’s asleep. Now find a nice place in the tree and I’ll call you before we leave for the airport.”
“No, Daddy, this is serious. I see myself in an avian coma, a final exclamation-cluck, then only ellipses …with nothing following…”
“Stop being silly, dear. That’s just punctuation.” I tried to comfort her.
“Punk-chew-ation, exactly.” she went on. “I see only Man’s evil appetites, their hands on the wicked throttle.”
I had some packing to do; air-holes in the carry-on bag, stuff like that. Still, reassuring my Feathered Girl was Job-one. And so far, it didn’t look easy.
“Bigger air-holes?” she offered, reading my mind.
“Only don’t cluck, duck.” I kidded her. “And no farts either. You remember when we got knocked off the connector in Larnaca?”
“You try seven hours in a carrion-bag without breaking wind!” she argued, not without a basis.
But I’d started to realize the linguistic common-demon in her fears:
“‘Carry-on’, it’s two words, honey.” I explained.
“Yeah, like ‘Poultry-Geist’? I see myself floating in eternal space, moving random dumb shit for the amusement of psychics…”
“Poltergeist.” I corrected her. “It’s got no connection with chickens.”
“And what the hell is ‘Prone-agraphy’?” she wanted to know. I looked at my watch, (even though ‘less people wear a watch’ these days, according to Xanga’s Theo-Dan.) It was late: Late in the game or him to join the ranks of the passably-literate, and late for me, if I wanted to sleep before the flight. I decided to humour the fowl a bit:
“‘Prone-agraphy‘ is the study of methods of lying flat on the ground, my little bird.”
“So why do I see ‘masturcation’ or is it ‘mastibation’ in my Fortune-telling Egg?”
“Don’t worry about it, dear. It’s a ‘tooth’ thing‘, and you ain’t got any.”
“Neither do you, Daddy. OK, I guess I’m just nervous, is all…”
“It’ll be fine, bird. We’ll have great fun. And stop with them ellipses. They’re like, you know, ‘ominous’. Just close your little eyes and bingo, no omens.”
The flight itself went without a hitch. even the nitrate-sniffer at check-in.
“Looking good, baby.” I spoke into my hand-bag, arousing the suspicion of ‘Orli’, (by her name-tag at Ben Gurion.)
“Le’me’ata me’da’ber?” (‘who you talking to?’) she asked, suddenly.
“I talk to my-self. American. We do that.” I told her, in easy English. Works every time.
So it was the second night when things went tragically wrong. We were gawking at the giant sculpture of the Man on a Horse. I was distracted bargaining with a street-vendor in pidgin-yiddish for a ‘Czech Spring™’ plastic slinky. Thought the birds might enjoy playing with it in off-hours in their coup.
Ill-fated Hen clucked in my ear:
“I’ll be right back. This nice religious guy wants to give me a ride on his bicycle.”
“Wait-a-minit. What do they believe in?” I remember asking her.
“Universal Love, whateveah…” she said, breathless.
“You’ve lost your marbles, child?” I at least managed to ask.
“Mebbe. But I feel marble-less, wonderful, Daddy. Please? Five minutes…”
I decided that being a responsible parent might not include micro-managing my child’s theology and deferred to her best judgment…
The Police found only entrails. Fore-telling only the Past. I shall never forgive myself. F*cking Gnostics; who could have known? I returned to Tel Aviv, to my surviving hens, a broken man.
And vowing to take their ‘prognosticator’ clucks dead-seriously in the Future. RIP.
Wu: Didn’t really happen, right?
Me: Aww, Wuzie, Why you always gotta bring up details like that?
Wu: Reassures the innocent believers.
Me: All right then. You have a point. But I’m still on the trail of a gnostic with chicken-breath. And his hand in his pants.