Elmo’s Hint   by Oleg Clark Kagan

     I met Jolene, parrot enthusiast, 80, at a fundraising luncheon I attended a few days ago. She was a good listener, interrupted infrequently and always had witty remarks or clever questions to keep me going. After awhile I was comfortable enough to tell her my favorite parrot story. Though her interjections would be interesting for the reader, I will keep them to a minimum in order that the story flows smoothly. Now then, here is the tale:

     It was a few years ago, when I was still a bachelor living in a breezy beach-front apartment with Elmo, my stodgy parakeet. Though I’d had several close-calls with this gal or that, Elmo and I remained a pair. It was a relaxing life.

     Occasionally, our relaxing life would saunter over to 5A. Maxine’s was a bachelor pad like mine, but Maxine was no regular bachelorette; she had inherited a small fortune after the collapse of a distant relative and wiled away her time designing costumes for community theatre and buying expensive musical instruments which littered her apartment like crumpled drafts of a hack writer with bad aim.

     One day, as Elmo and I mounted the stairs to Maxine’s, we heard an unfamiliar voice. Did Maxine have a gentlemen caller? Unlikely; she didn’t go in for that sort of thing. Still, there was a distinctly male voice in her apartment

     “Do we go on?” I whispered to Elmo.

     “Why not?” Answered the daring bird.

     “The door’s open,” Maxine announced, hearing us through the open front window. We crossed the threshold into 5A and found Maxine reclining on a futon opposite an round, shaggy fellow. Elmo, who was riding on my arm, looked nervously at me. I won’t let him eat you, I transmitted, convinced that some parrots can read minds.

     Introductions were made. He was Maxine’s cousin thrice-removed; there was no resemblance. They’d recently reconnected on Facebook and the affable Maxine accepted Mitch when he stopped in unannounced. The three of us tried to make conversation, but Elmo would have none of it. He kept butting in with knock knock jokes and lame puns – anything for attention. At first it was charming and we chuckled a bit, but soon it became a nuisance.

     “I’ll take him home,” I said, “He can see and hear us through the window so he’ll feel like he’s in the loop, but…” and here I lowered my voice and spoke away from the bird, “…it’ll be easier to ignore him.” Then I scooted home with Elmo who was just then in the middle of a classic Abbot and Costello routine.

     Once back, the three of us had a casual evening of inconsequential chatter. All I remember is Mitch’s way of speaking; he had a stutter and a lisp. I recall supposing that it was okay because such a large man should be able to handle two speech impediments.

     A few weeks passed where Mitch dropped by 5A rather frequently. Sometimes I, sans Elmo, would drop by too. I liked Mitch, he was the type of guy one could relax around; he wasn’t anything special and didn’t expect anyone else to be. Plus, we liked the same sort of beer and enjoyed introducing each other to new brews. Then, as if he never existed, Mitch stopped coming over. I asked Maxine about it, but she had no idea – he didn’t respond to her Facebook messages and she never did have his phone number.

     Two weeks later, I awoke drowsy on a Sunday after a late date. On autopilot, I went to feed the bird only to find a nervous Elmo pacing his cage. He was saying something, but it was hard to understand.

     “a…a…athoon?” I tried, “you heard someone sneezing?”

     Elmo answered by imitating a sneeze, which sounded nothing like what he was saying.

     “a a thpoon? A spoon?” I offered. No. To be continued, I thought, feeding Elmo and going down to the beach to walk off my hangover.

     When I came back, there were two police cars in our driveway. I could hear Elmo shrieking as I mounted two flights. Upstairs, through my window, I could see the police interviewing a distraught Maxine.

     “Pashtoon?” I attempted. Elmo tried to bite me. “Bethune? What? No?”

     The bird was inconsolable. I looked around the apartment and racked my brain for what could be causing Elmo’s distress. Finally, at my wit’s end, I was dialing the veterinarian when there was a knock on the door. It was the fuzz.

     The reader might liked to know that, at this point, nearing the end of her peach cobbler, Jolene asked what sorts of instruments Maxine kept at her apartment. I winked at her and continued my story.

     Apparently there had been a theft. As my sharp friend intimated, a number of Maxine’s instruments were gone. Unfortunately, I could tell the police nothing since my previous night’s stupor was so deep I had heard nary a sound. When they left I took a toweled Elmo to the vet’s office. The doctor found nothing unusual with the offended parakeet. That evening, Maxine came over. I gave her a delicious Porter I’d been saving for Mitch.

     “I don’t feel safe over there now. I don’t come home one night and BAM, someone steals my beautiful instruments,” she lamented.

     “All of them?” I query. Maxine shoots me a quizzical look.

     “Are you crazy? They’da had to be here all night,” she answers and we laugh. “No, but they took plenty…Two violins, a trombone, a bassoon…” Here Elmo cuts her off, going absolutely bonkers.

     “Bassoon! That’s it!” Shouted Jolene.

     “…And could you explain Elmo’s hint?” I teased, knowing she could.

     Maxine called the police and soon most of the instruments were back with their owner who bought Elmo a CD full of bassoon tunes which he enjoys very much.

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3 Responses to “Elmo’s Hint   by Oleg Clark Kagan”

  1. Hillary Says:

    …littered her apartment like crumpled drafts of a hack writer with bad aim. — nice!

  2. Lauren Says:

    Yes, I liked that as well. Also, the man that was so large he could handle 2 speech impediments. that was good. :)

  3. Elmo’s Hint | Life in Oleg Says:

    [...] case you missed it, my story Elmo’s Hint is part of the 5A Story Contest Ashley and I organized. This entry was posted in Creative [...]