Friday, 22 July 2011

Terence Hits Newcastle: Part 1

Fluffy Oakes takes the tiny strip of material and, tying it securely around the hummingbird's head, makes sure his makeshift blindfold totally blocks Harry's eyesight. Behind him, in the crumbling pub, the animals of the zoo cheer Harry on.

Jacob the mountain lion roars encouragement. “Go on Harry! Stick it right in!”

The animals cheer in English for as long as they can, until they exhaust their new-found vocabulary. The cheering blends into a cacophony of animal cries- sounds of contentment, fear, threat, courtship- whatever their throats can produce.

Harry starts to flap his wings, picking up speed. His feet leave the small table like he's a futuristic spacecraft taking off. He lurches forward, beak-first, to the other end of the seedy city-centre boozer. Over the dartboard, Fluffy has pinned up a road map of the United Kingdom.

As the cheering swells in the small room, Harry haphazardly skewers himself into the board. His wings are still flapping, making a tapped buzzing noise. He's landed somewhere in the north of England, perforating a hole in the map. Harry doesn't realise, but behind the paper, he's hit triple twenty.

The animals' howling makes a crescendo, a symphony of nature.

Fluffy steps forward and delicately retrieves Harry from the wall. He holds Harry back from the map and takes off the blindfold. He knows Harry can read the text.

He points to the place-name. “Go on," says Fluffy. “Read it out.”

Newcastle!” shouts Harry, and the calls subside for a second.

At the back of the room, Terence the lovebird realises that he doesn't know much about the outside world. He's familiar with Manchester, and knows of London. He's heard of Newcastle, but he can't retrieve any facts about it. His tiny lovebird stomach churns. It's only nerves, he thinks.

Jacob the mountain lion woops in excitement. He knows this will be hilarious. He doesn't know how, but he knows he'll be the star of the excursion. The other animals cry out, falling in suit.

Terence has to remind himself that this is not about his quest. Not this time. This is a male bonding adventure. Do not take yourself, he thinks, nor anyone else, too seriously.

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