de la cruz STUDIO

Costumes, Cartoons, Illustrations, and Short stories

 

 

 

Taxidermy

His mom bought a yellow head parrot from field workers one summer morning.  Most of the men were illegals, migrant workers from Mexico.  They were a small uniformed outfit of long sleeve plaid shirts, dirty jeans, boots, and sweat.  They were part of the rotating groups working the cotton and jalapeno fields behind their house during summers. 

That same day a grass-fire had consumed a large portion of the nearby desert and had worked its way into the fields behind the government housing neighborhood where Guicho and his family lived.  It was a small community of single story identical homes filled with characters like the next Mexican heroine addict who'd sun tan nude on his front lawn until police would wake him.  Dona Guadalupe and her fat middle-aged daughters who sold Mexican candy and snow cones from their kitchen, Guillermo and his two middle aged brothers who still lived with they're aging mother and owned several well polished loud motorcycles, and the Whites, the only African-American family in town, beautiful black cars and suits on Sunday, government housing.

Guicho was friends with Jeremy White, their only son.  Jeremy's large breasted older sister was in high school. She would later become an object of obsession for the local teenagers. When he was five Guicho used to ask Jeremy lots of questions, why is your skin so dark, why do your sister's chi-chis keep getting bigger, are you good at basketball? 

One June morning Guicho's mom kept the kids and Jeremy in the house, locked all the windows and turned off the A/C , keeping the wildfire's smoke from coming inside.  After a marathon of The Price is Right and shitty Mexican soap opera's the smoke cleared enough for mom to start up the A/C and a knock came from the front door. 

It was the hombres who'd been working the fields behind their house.  Guicho recognized one of the younger men from Dona Guadalupe's house.  They were all smiles and chattered in Spanish with his mom.  It wasn't the typical slowly enunciated slang filled border Spanish, it was fast, almost a song.  They had a bird with them.  They were drunk.  

His mom closed the door, ran to her bedroom and returned with some money.  She gave them a 20, everyone smiled.  She closed the door and jogged over to them cradling a badly burned one eyed yellow head parrot. They crowded her and fell in love.  It tried biting the kids.

Guicho's mom named it "periquito curro", they figured the "curro" was after the catlike purr he'd do after he'd say the first part of his name.  They just called him "periquito culo", which translates to "Little Ass-hole Bird".  

Realizing their mistake, the men returned the following day to ask for more money.  It's a yellow head bird, they said.  It's worth a lot more.  They wanted $80.  Guicho's mom closed the door.  Guicho's dad opened the door.  They must've missed his beat up 1985 Ford Ranger in the driveway or realized what time it was.  They left without $80. 

The years rolled by in cliche montages of 90's music with the little fucker causing all sorts of mischief, learning new words and earning its name as "Little Ass-hole Bird".  When it wasn't in it's cage or on it's tree, a beautiful six-foot perch cemented Mexican ceramic pot, it claimed the 3 foot space in front of the hallway bathroom, trying to perforate the feet of anyone who approached.  Periquito Curro died while Guicho and his sisters were back-to-school shopping 15 years later.  

They found him on the cage floor.  Their mom ran whaling to his palace sized cage and picked up the stiff bird. They crowded her, embraced her tiny frame. 

Let me take him to Mr Letbetter! He'll mount him for you and you can keep him forever, Guicho sniffled trying to sooth her. 

Skeptical at first, she agreed, and resumed crying, rocking her baby. The girls rolled their eyes. Guicho dumped out Sophia's new shoes out of their box, placed the bird in the box and stuck it in the freezer. 

The next morning, after dropping his sisters off at school, Guicho went across the highway to the wooded neighborhood to Mr Ledbetter's home, an artsy red-neck friend of their dad's who'd retired from the University where Guicho went part-time.  Mr. Ledbetter had 5 acres, 24 enormous pecan trees, a rickety 1920's pier and beam house with a rusty metal roof, 3 large German Sheppards, 12 strange metal sculptures randomly scattered on the property, an enormous rat infested workshop, and no kids.  

Guicho had been mowing his lawn and doing random yard work for him since his father left 8 years ago.  The week his dad left Mr. Ledbetter came over with a generous gesture. I'm not gonna give you a hand-out, I'm gonna give you a hand-up.  How's 100 bucks a month sound? 

Yes, sir.

Mr. Ledbetter dabbled in everything from raising Emu's for meat and eggs, making homemade moonshine, and selling hand-made Mexican metal lawn decor and Mexican-Indian crafts at the local flea market, but the pecan trees he'd planted 25 years ago were the only thing that brought him any reliable extra income.  Guicho knew he hunted and had done some taxidermy in the past. 

How much you got? He asked Guicho.

30 bucks

I'll need at least 50 just to get all the stuff, but i'll do it for 30 to help you out.

Thanks Gary, I really appre... 

You can mow my lawn to pay off the rest.

Mr. Letbetter cocked his chin at the bermuda and crab grass jungle behind him.  What a dick. 

I'll do it this weekend. 

Mr. Ledbetter took the shoe box and closed the door.  Titus, the older dog, growled at him, the other two escorted Guicho off the property.

Two weeks later the animal Guicho's mom had been grieving returned mounted on an ultra varnished piece of driftwood with wall hooks.  The one eyed yellow-head parrot had his neck extended upward, tongue hanging out, with the left wing extended downward.

What's he pointing at? They asked.  Why's his neck twisted?  It looks like someone's choking him.  How much did you pay him? Their mom started crying at the absurd animal, ridiculously posed and stuffed. Her cries slowly built into hysteria, laughter. Everyone joined in, she went back to her TV show.  

Guicho mounted the bird over the trashcan.  Covered in soot, Little ass-hole bird survived a fire that destroyed their home 5 years later.  He found it in a box in the garage of his mom's new house while helping his sister prep for a garage sale.  

You remember this thing? He asked her.  She laughed.