I thought he was in costume when I met him. he was wearing a suede jacket with fringe and feathers. on his left hand a huge mitt that looked like a welders glove?
“Can’t wait for you to meet him. games at noon. you’re in for a treat. See you Sunday.”
I hung up the phone.
Watching the Game at my friend Jocko’s house. his sister is in town, with her new boyfriend from Arizona.
Jocko met me at the front door, I had stopped on the way over and bought some chicken wings.
“What are you doing? Wings?”
“Yeah man! ohhh right, the falconer?”
“Just put em in the kitchen.”
“You aren’t gonna believe this character. I don’t think he’s a fan of professional football. He’s into birds. be nice, it’s my sister.”
Jocko introduced me to Russell. we shook hands and I sat down.
Halfway through the first quarter.
“HEY That Guy Just Threw Something On The Field!”
Exchanging glances with my friend. I realize that the falconer isn’t kidding.
“That’s a penalty flag, the referee’s throw that when they see something illegal.”
“Against the rules.” I add. “Where are the ladies Jocko?”
“Shopping. Big sale someplace….”
“Russell, can I see your bird? sorry….Falcon. Can I see your Falcon?”
“He resting now. Perhaps, after the contest?”
“C’mon man, I just want to take a peek, I won’t wake it.”
Standing, Russell pulls out his phone. “Pardon me.” exiting the room.
I look at Jocko.
“Why is he wearing that mitt?”
“He needs it, When he feeds it, it sits on his hand.”
“Where is it napping in the guest bedroom?”
“In the garage.”
“I gotta see it man.”
“Not now, later. halftime.”
Russell walks back in, sitting down to silently watch the rest of the first half.
Our attempts to draw him out into conversation prove to be futile.
A couple of field goals make it 3-3 going into halftime.
Russell excuses himself once again to make a phone call.
I look at Jocko. “C’mon man, show me the bird.”
“OK. let’s go, you gotta be quiet, no messing around.”
Entering the kitchen, I ask, “What brings them to town?”
“They’re in for a Bird Meet.”
“What?….. Meet, not meat.”
“You know? a contest, for umm?…his bird to hang out and compete against other falcons.”
“Jocko? Falcons are not pets. they don’t hang out. this is serious business. these birds are trained to kill. Did you notice how he walks? he holds his arm out like a butler handing you a towel.”
“Who? the Bird or Russell.”
“The Falconer. Birds don’t have arms. do they?…. You eegit.”
Leading me to the Garage. Jocko opens the door.
In the corner is a coat rack with a bird perched atop it.
“What the…is the bird making it smell like this? or is it like this all the time?”
“It’s the bird.”
“Open the goddamn door and get some air in here. It smells like ass.”
“It’s the bird. we can’t open the door. He might fly away.”
“He? so…it’s a boy bird?”
“What? Yeah….I think so? I don’t know?”
“Well…What’s his name?”
“Francis?!? listen? Grab ahold of him. I want to check and see if he’s got a pair.”
“Keep yer mitts off.”
“Where’s your flashlight? I’ve seen pictures of falcons before, they didn’t look like this. This bird is a fake.”
“Shuddup, You don’t know nothing.”
“Who ties up a bird and places a hood on his head? then holds him in a dark garage. don’t they have hotels for special birds like this? hotels or barns, bird hostels? seriously man. it’s going take a lot of cleaning in here to get this stank out.”
“Have you seen him fly yet? get that goof in here or I’m gonna take off his little leather bird hat.”
“No! it keeps him calm.”
“Jocko? He’s wearing a blindfold. what have you gotten yourself mixed up in! is this some sort of bird S&M thing? C’mon, take off his mask, let me look into this crazy birds eyes.”
I decide enough is enough. taking matters into my own hands.
I lift the hood off Francis head.
Seeing Jocko and I standing there next to it, the bird goes berserk. flapping its wings wildly.
Lunging forward towards my face. Screeching.
Jocko and I fall back onto the garage floor, scrambling for cover behind his car.
After banging off the garage door a few times Francis has settled on the rafter above us.
“Shit! I thought it was tied to the coat rack? Now What?!?”
“Give him a friggin cracker. Maybe it’ll calm him down?”
“Cracker? They eat mice and small critters. it’s not a parrot. we’re in the garage. You See Any Crackers Out Here?”
Upon Hearing the commotion, Russell rushes in, from above, his bird bellows.
“Behave Yourself! None of that Now. None of THAT!” Russell shouts.
Crouching down. and now frightened. I look at Jocko.
“Is he talking to me or the bird?”
No response from Jocko, who remains motionless, as if he doesn’t move, no one will notice he’s there.
I decide it’s time to go.
Mood is Wrong.
Covering my head in my hands I make a break for the side door of the garage.
“Don’t Run!” Jocko yells. “They’re attracted to Motion!”
Francis spots me and is in hot pursuit.
Yanking the door off its hinges I stumble outside.
I feel the whoosh of air above. As Francis buzzes right over my head disappearing into the late afternoon grey sky.
In Retrospect, I’m not sure how I feel about it?
At the time my survival instincts kicked in.
Most of you would of done the same thing.
Then, after taking time out for some quiet reflection.
Was this bird a prisoner? Held against its will.
Did he and his former master have some kind of bond that was beyond my understanding?
Did I do the right thing by accident?
It would appear no.
That night The Falconer put an ad on Craigslist about a missing Falcon.
We have heard nay about it.
It’s been 7 weeks now since he flew the coop.
Russell has grown increasingly more restless.
He’s expecting some serious cash from us for a new bird.
The last time Jocko and I spoke to discuss the delicate matter of Russell’s money? Didn’t go so well.
“Hey? did you ever see that Maltese Falcon with Bogart? how much do you think that falcon cost?”
“Jocko? That was a stone bird. not a real flying around type of bird. I seriously doubt the falconer is going to accept a painted statue of a bird? Which, by the way Brainiac? won’t fly, or be able to go to bird meets to hang out.”
We were shocked to find out a new falcon is going to set us back about five grand.
Five Freakin Grand!
We finally did agree to split the cost, Jocko tried to stick me with the full cost at first.
Until I explained to him that he never should of shown it to me without The Falconers permission.
It was his house after all the bird was staying at.
Before we cough up the dough, we’re trying one last thing.
We’ve put together a flier to post around town.
Answers to, Hey Bird! and Francis.
Last Seen, flying away.
Likes: Live Mice, Small Critters, Flying Around.
Dislikes: Loud Voices, Garages, Motion and Crackers.
Please be careful. he’s really unpredictable.
***-564-5737 ask for Jocko.
Give me a shout if you see a large unidentified bird flying around.