by Slo Mo
I finally met someone as crazy as me.
Ever since The Kayak Trip From Hell, Karl and I have been hanging out here at my cousin's place. I guess another way to look at it is that Karl hasn't mentioned when he's going home, and neither have I. Not that I'm saying he's one of those Euro-style house guests who show up one day and make themselves at home and never leave... Okay, maybe I'm saying that, but just a little bit. The fact that he hogs the remote and steals all the covers is more than made up for by the heart-warming, drool-inducing sight of him floating in the pool when I get home from work.
Also, Karl is the only person in the world who doesn't mind the fact that I like to stand on top of the furniture and sing karaoke with my Fisher Price microphone, often at odd moments and apropos of nothing. Not only does he not mind it, he applauds and holds up score cards and tosses dollar bills and calls me Aretha. I love a boy with imagination.
But here's the big kicker: Dog and Star adore him. Not just the polite, we'll-shake-a-paw-if-you-feed-us-a-cookie attitude they give most people. We're talking non-stop, tail-wagging, eye-rolling, body-wriggling adoration the likes of which I've never seen. And Karl adores them right back.
So you can imagination how glad I was to have him here the other day when I woke up with a nasty fever and a bad case of the flu. After I'd crawled to the phone and called the animal hospital to tell them I wouldn't be able to work that day on account of my imminent death, I crawled right back under the covers and asked Karl if he would write my obituary and notify my next of kin and then take the dogs for their morning walk.
I mean, the part about walking the dogs seemed like a logical request...
A few hours later, I was awakened by a rooster.
Which is odd, because we don't live in the country...
Or near a chicken-processing plant...
As a matter of fact, not only was a rooster crowing, it sounded like it was right outside my window. I stumbled out to the living room where Karl and Dog and Star were reading the local paper. Well, Karl was reading it. Dog and Star were busy shredding the classifieds.
"Karl? Did you hear a rooster?"
"Hey, look who's up! How are you feeling?"
"I just heard a rooster. Nearby. Really, REALLY nearby."
"Uh-huh. You should have some orange juice or something."
Then I spotted the newspaper headline: Fowl Flaps For Freedom - Doomed Rooster Eludes Owner, Cops.
"Ummmm, Karl? Is there anything you'd like to tell me?"
Even now, I'm not sure I understand what exactly happened on their walk that morning. I got the part about Karl taking the dogs down to the beach, which is a huge no-no in this neighborhood but which he says is just another example of the government trying to control our lives with irrelevant and unnecessary laws. I think it has more to do with poop in the sand, but anyway...
So Karl took the dogs for a swim in the ocean, and after that they hiked along the beachwalk, where he encouraged Dog to lift his leg on every sign that said "State Park - No Pets Allowed", and then he let Star chase some squirrels, and eventually they all ended up in the public beach access near the sheriff's station, and there were a bunch of cops with little tupperware containers of birdseed, and Karl asked some people what was going on, and they told him to get the hell out of there before the cops noticed he had two dogs on state property, and Karl ignored them, and something about a news helicopter, and then they came home with a rooster.
"Uh, Karl? I think you left something out between the part about the cops and the part about adopting a chicken."
"He's not a chicken, Mo, he's a rooster. And we didn't adopt him, okay? He's a refugee and me and Dog and Star have granted him political asylum."
"In my cousin's house?!"
"Oh, listen to little miss Amnesty International! You sign petitions for prisoners of conscience in other countries, but when it comes to helping a victim in your own backyard, nooooooooo- "
I should have kicked him in the nuts for that last comment, but my fever hadn't let up and I was feeling too woozy for combat. So I turned and went out to the garden.
I haven't spent much time on farms (okay - I've spent NO time on farms) and I don't know what your average rooster is supposed to look like, but let me just say that in my amateur opinion, Rusty is one helluva handsome bird. Prize specimen, all the way. He's got the bright red comb on his head and a ton of thick, bronze plumage and that macho strut thing goin' on. I waved and said hello. He gave me a bored look and swaggered over to the grapefruit tree, where Karl had put down some seed and a pan of water.
Karl came up behind me. "Some guy won him in a poker game, but then Rusty escaped from the guy's yard and hid out in the Horticultural Society's experimental gardens and ate all the seeds they'd just planted for this huge international exhibit, and now the garden ladies are out for blood and they got a judge to issue an injunction to have Rusty destroyed, and Rusty's been on the lam ever since."
"Why can't he just go live on a farm or something?"
"Because garden ladies are psycho. Think about it, Mo. These people give pep talks to african violets and sleep with their begonias and watch Oprah Winfrey. They're dangerous!"
"Yeah!!! So now the law wants to destroy Rusty just for doing what roosters do. His only crime is self-expression. That's OPPRESSION, man!"
(I can't believe I'm attracted to someone who talks like Jim Breuer. But anyhoo...)
Then the phone rang. It was my neighbor, Mrs. Bollock, who also happens to be treasurer of the Horticultural Society. "Did I just hear a chicken?"
"Young lady, I'm quite certain I just heard a chicken in your yard. Even though you're a foreigner, I'm sure I don't have to explain that it's against the law to harbor fugitives. I can have you deported."
I'd like to say that something clicked in my tree-hugging, petition-signing, vegetarian soul and that I decided to risk arrest and deportation for Rusty's sake. But the truth is I just felt too sick and achy to put up with Mrs. Bollock and her snotty little pre-menopausal attitude.
"He's not a chicken, Mrs. Bull Testicle, he's a ROOSTER. And if you want him, then you drag your withered old liposuctioned ass over here and just try to get him! JUST TRY IT, BITCH!"
In retrospect, that wasn't a very smart thing to say, even though Karl was so impressed that he grabbed me and swung me around and told me I'm his hero, until I had to remind him I have the flu and all that swinging was making me gag. Maybe I'd won Karl's admiration, but I hadn't considered that Mrs. Bollock and her little posse of flower fanatics already had a court injunction. Which meant it only took the police about two seconds to get a search warrant...
And so it was that I found myself hunkered down in the front seat of Karl's white Bronco, still wearing my pajamas and trying not to puke, with Dog and Star curled up on the back seat and Rusty riding in rear cargo, getting directions from Joolz over the cell phone while Karl drove us up the turnpike toward Tallahassee. (Karl now refers to this as our O.J. Simpson car chase, except I always have to remind him that there weren't any cops following us and we weren't broadcast live. And, um, I don't think O.J. traveled with a barnyard menagerie and a feverish girl in pajamas. I'm just saying...)
The plan was to release Rusty at an organic farming commune that belongs to some friends of Joolz. We figured that even if the garden ladies traced our route, it would be impossible for them to pick Rusty out of all the other roosters on the property. I mean, it's not like they can get fingerprints off a bird. Plus, they'd have the organic communists to deal with. And if you think garden ladies are scary, you haven't met Joolz's friends!
I looked over at Karl, who kept hitting the steering wheel and muttering stuff like, "Fight the power!" and "Birds are people too!" I looked down at my bathrobe and my bare feet and the box of Kleenex on my lap. Then I turned to look at Rusty, who was sitting in an old cat carrier I'd found on a shelf in the garage. Even under these circumstances, he managed to exude arrogance, like he was rooster royalty being chauffeured to his new palace, and not just another feather pillow waiting to happen. I could almost believe he ate those flower seeds out of spite. And then I looked at Dog and Star, who were calmly lying on the back seat and watching the scenery go by, even though there was a live hors d'oeuvre in a cage right behind them. And then I looked back at Karl.
That's when I had the scariest revelation of my whole entire selfish little life:
I think I'm in love.
Not because Karl rescued me from the Everglades and he swims naked in my pool and he's the cutest thing I've seen in a long time, which he did and he does and he is. That wasn't it. It had something to do with the fact that he's free enough to cheer my karaoke and crazy enough to kidnap a rooster and fearless enough to convince the dogs he's God and charming enough to make me want to come along for the ride in my pajamas with a fever of 102. Some girls fall for romance, I fell for a guy who talks like Jim Breuer.
"Hey, Karl? Ummm, by the way, how did you manage to capture Rusty while you had Dog and Star with you? They're major bird hunters, you know."
He stopped pounding the steering wheel and gave me a slow, sweet smile. "It's all in the energy, Mo. Love flows where you send it. When you embrace creation, it embraces you... Plus, I gave the dogs some Vicodin."
That did it: I'm in love.
I'd like to report that our ride back from the commune was full of kisses and hand-holding and goofy grins and tacky sentiments. But honestly? I have the flu, people. And this whole love thing has me scared senseless... I puked the whole way home.