Wednesday, 22 February 2017

It Was Beaks At Dawn When The Avocet and Curlew Went To War

Last night I said some random words to my wife.  This morning I've free written from them.  What follows is the result.  I had some ideas as I began to write.  Most of them weren't used.  One idea was to write a bird poem and include lots of bad bird puns.  Instead there's this piece of silliness!

Yesterday (Sunday) I didn't write a post.  Oh dear.  So I'm playing catch up today and need to write a second post this evening.  I didn't write but I did attend a performance poetry workshop for the first time.  And for the first time ever I performed a poem I wrote.  To an audience of poets, to be critiqued.  In many ways that's the safest place to begin.  A bunch of poets isn't likely to say, "Ooh that was total crap.  Get out and don't you dare come here again you fake poet!"  Every one of them knows how hard it is and everyone is there to encourage others to write and perform as best as they can.  Which means that all critique is constructive and even if something is total crap it's a learning experience rather than a damning one.  But I wasn't total crap, either in the words or the performance.  Far from it.  Happily, I should be able to get to the next workshop.  By that time I will have performed at least one short piece before a room full of people.  Another step in the plan without a plan.

Here then is the first piece of writing for today.  You will notice that I've totally ignored the writing prompt list.  That doesn't matter.  This blog is about writing not lists.

In the duel between the avocet and the curlew it was beaks at dawn.

Ornithological history does not record which of the birds began the argument. All we know for sure is that one small barb led to another and another until they could hardly bear to inhabit the same piece of waterway. While it is true that each would criticise the other for their plumage, and many suspect that both were jealous, the main sticking point was their beaks.

The avocet would say “Look at you, you're upside down and stupid. That beak of yours is ridiculous. Why would anyone want something as useless as that down-curving monstrosity on the end of your face?”

And the curlew would reply, “My beak is a wonder. It's the stuff of legend. Anyway, it's much better than yours. Yours is up-turned. I suppose that's apt for such a stuck up bird. You've got ideas above your station.”

A curlew. Image from the RSPB

The avocet said, “It's not my fault the bird people made me their emblem. They took one look at me and knew I was best and my beak was perfect.”

“They only did it for the sympathy vote knowing they would get extra donations when people saw just how pitiful you were. So turn your beak round now before I rip it off your face.”

That did it. The avocet didn't want to listen to any more of such talk. The marsh was only big enough for the one of them. So he said, “I challenge you to a duel. We shall fight to the death. Or until one of us gives up.”

“That's easy. I'll win. Tomorrow morning at dawn we shall meet on the waterfront and fight.”

The following morning a crowd gathered. The official duel adjudicator was there too with his case of weapons. The finest of juggling clubs, hula hoops and frisbees were combined with ribbons, bubbles, and a selection of stick on red noses. He was so embarrassed when he opened up the case and everyone saw he had made an error of judgement, bringing everything from his other job as circus clown. The duel was postponed for the day. Nobody minded too much. The birds spent the day playing as best they could. But it's hard to blow bubbles when you're a bird.

An avocet.  Image from the RSPB

The following morning a bigger crowd gathered. The official duel adjudicator was there again with his case of weapons. This time he hadn't made a mistake. He opened up the trunk and everyone oohed and aahed over the cache. The finest of wooded clubs was supplemented by a selection of swords, bottles, knives, guns, and even a pair of intricately decorated tickling sticks although the adjudicator later admitted they should have been in his other case.

The avocet and curlew stared at the case and shouted at each other.

“I'm gonna cut you up into tiny pieces. See if I don't.”

“You little ass-wipe. Go get eaten by a cat! One bullet into your bird brain and everyone will tweet and squawk in celebration of my victory.”

They continued insulting each other and the language grew more and more fruity until an entire orchard of trees collapsed under the weight of words. It took until seven in the evening before they could agree on how to try to kill each other and the whole duel had to be postponed.

The following morning a crowd gathered that was so big they could hardly fit in the wetlands at all. A family of capercaillie had travelled down especially on the night train and a video link had been set up because a blood thirsty emu wanted to watch. The duel adjudicator was there again with his case of weapons and a smile on his face because he got double pay for overtime.

The avocet and the curlew approached the chest.

“Take up your weapons,” the adjudicator intoned imperiously.

The two birds bent down over the chest and took up the weapons in their beaks. Each would have a jewel encrusted sword. A gentleman's weapon although neither thought the other a gentleman. It was then that everyone realised there had been a miscalculation.

For whether your beak is upturned or downturned it's not a swordsman's anatomy of choice. Neither bird could pick up their sword. They tried hard. For most of the day. The crowds got bored and would have demanded their money back had it not been for a troupe of eagles laying on an aerobatic display that everyone appreciated. Everyone that is apart from the pigeons who were shanghaied into being part of the display and were dined on that evening. The ice cream seller was happiest of all because she nearly sold her entire stock to hot birds, without once stopping to wonder how the birds happened to be carrying money or how they might have all managed to carry the cones.

The avocet and the curlew were encouraged to try other weapons. But it was no good. The avocet could hang a gun from his beak but such a weapon just fell off when the curlew tried to pick it up. It wasn't really any use for the avocet either because he found there was no way to aim a gun hung from a beak. Let alone reach up with is wing and fire. Even the wooden clubs were impossible.

It was an owl who proposed the solution. “I propose the solution of unarmed combat,” he said.

The curlew laughed. “Unarmed combat? You unwise owl you. Of course it'll be unarmed. Because we haven't got arms to combat with. We've got wings. And that's where the problem lies. Wings are excellent for flight but useless for weapon carrying.”

A penguin and an ostrich from the local zoo were heard to grumble at the mention of flight but that only made some of the other birds turn and laugh at them.

The owl said. “No, no, I meant you should fight without weapons. Bird to bird combat. Just use your beaks as swords and you'll soon see which is better. Or at least which is better for duelling.”

The avocet and the curlew looked at each other and nodded. They would do as the owl said. But it was getting late so the duel was postponed once more.

The following morning a crowd gathered. It was smaller. Some of the birds had needed to get home. The duel adjudicator was there. He had left his case at home, locked up in a big safe. He announced the rules. The two birds would stand back to back and take twenty paces, turn and then charge at each other and fight on his command.

They lined up on the beach happy to face away from each other. They paced. Turned. There was beak hatred in their eyes. The adjudicator shouted, loudly, “Ready … steady … GO!” and the birds ran and flapped, meaning to impale each other.

They didn't get a chance. When they were still ten paces apart a puffin suddenly flapped down between them and cried “STOP! Stop this madness.”
The avocet stopped.

The curlew stopped. Fell over. Ungracefully stood again.

They stared at the puffin. Stared some more.

The puffin said, “There's no need to fight about which of your beaks is the best. You, avocet, look fine in your plumage and with your upturned beak. And you, curlew, look just as good in your plumage and with your downturned beak. There's no denying that. Your beaks are both good so give each other a hug.”

The avocet and curlew approached each other. They had to admit it. The puffin was quite right. So they lifted up their wings and hugged each other warmly before deciding to head off to a seafood restaurant for a make-up meal.

The puffin smiled. As best as a beaked creature can smile.

My work here is done. I must return to my island now.”

He flew off and as he did so he called back to the crowds.

“Anyone with half a brain can see the truth. My beak is the best in the world.”

[1362 words]

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