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The Parrot's Bell: flash fiction by cam

Updated on November 17, 2016
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Chris has written more than 100 flash fiction/short stories.Working Vacation took 21st out of 6,700 in the 2016 Writer's Digest competition.

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Burl Johnson wanted to make a powerful statement to the small city in which he lived. While ramblers and ranches were the craze in home construction across America, he built a three thousand square foot stone victorian on a hilltop overlooking the town. It was his way of reminding the people down there who the wealthiest and most powerful person around really was. The message they got was slightly different. When they looked at the house on the hill, they thought, what a jackass.

Burl built the house with his own hands, except for the rafters. He made life miserable for the crew he hired to put them up. He watched from the yard and yelled that a rafter wasn’t plum, even though the carpenters’ levels proved him wrong. They claimed he never paid them in full, he claimed he paid them what they were worth.

The house was finally finished in the fall of 1955, and Burl moved in just before halloween. He placed jack-o-lanterns in two upstairs windows that, according to the townspeople, looked like yellow eyes peering out of a gigantic skull. He had no visitors on All Hallows Eve or on any other eve for that matter.

Source

The only relationship in Burl’s life that resembled love was with a parrot named Boris. The two had an understanding in which Boris was allowed to live on a roost next to Burl’s recliner rather than in a cage. In return, Boris acted as Burl’s alarm clock, waking him each morning by pecking three times on a bell suspended like a pendulum from the ceiling on a length of string.

Peanut shells littered the floor beneath the roost, remnants of Boris’s reward for waking his master.

One morning in 1995, the bell did not ring, and Burl did not roll out of bed. Man and bird had passed away during the same night.

#

Aryanna sat in the lone, dining room chair while her husband, Stephen, and a realtor named Jack stood during their discussion about the dilapidated victorian. Jack searched musty kitchen drawers for a rag to wipe twenty years of dust from the table.

“What’s the history of the property since the old man died?” said Stephen.

“No relatives came forward, so the place reverted to the State,” said Jack.

“No bank held a lien?” said Aryanna.

“Johnson owned it free and clear,” said Jack. “A development company bought it five years ago, but they’ve had no luck selling it.”

Source

The three visitors walked into the living room. Crumbling remnants of peanut shells lay scattered on the floor beneath a wooden rod supported by a simple, two-by-four frame.

“A bird roost?” said Aryanna.

“The old fella had a parrot is what I’ve been told,” said Jack.

Aryanna picked up a bell from the floor beneath the roost. She looked up and saw the string dangling from a hook in the ceiling.

“A toy for the bird," she said. Using the kitchen chair as a step stool, Arianna reached out and touched the string. It crumbled into pieces which drifted to the surface of the recliner where they were lost in the accumulation of dust. She went to the kitchen and returned with a roll of string and a pair of scissors. “Stephen, could you put it up? I can’t reach the ceiling, even from the chair.” She cut the string and handed it to her husband. A moment later, the bell was swinging gently from the ceiling.

“The place is in rough shape,” said Jack. “That’s why the price is so low.”

“How low?” said Stephen.

“One twenty five,” said Jack.

“We’ll offer a hundred,” said Stephen.

“That might be considered low balling,” said Jack.

“We’ll consider the difference to be full payment for the rafters my Grandfather put on the place,” said Aryanna.

“Well, nobody else seems all that interested, so it will probably be accepted,” said Jack.

“Sold,” said Aryanna as she tapped the bell three times with the scissors.

The visitors left through the front door, and Jack secured the padlock on the outside.

A hush settled over the old victorian as the bell swung back and forth beside the parrot’s roost. A voice drifted down the staircase, barely disturbing the silence.

“Boris, I think you were late ringing the bell this morning.”

Source

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    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 20 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Thanks Deb. I think there will be some sparks flying around there soon.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 20 months ago from Stillwater, OK

      The ending is perfect. I think Aryanna and the old man will butt heads if she buys the place, for sure.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 20 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Genna, thanks for reading this story. I appreciate your comments as well. Nice to see you here today.

    • Genna East profile image

      Genna East 20 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

      Great story. "The only relationship in Burl’s life that resembled love was with a parrot named Boris." That is echoed throughout, along with the bell and his voice that drifted the through dark, padlocked home.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 20 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Thanks Ruby, I love writing these stories and am glad so many seem to enjoy them.

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 20 months ago from Southern Illinois

      You never disappoint. I loved this story. Funny how karma catches up with someone. It may take a few years like in your story. Well done...

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 20 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Blossom, I'm glad you enjoyed the story. Thanks for stopping by.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 20 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      William, I appreciate the depth that you found in the story. Thanks for reading. I appreciate your interest in my stories.

    • BlossomSB profile image

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 20 months ago from Victoria, Australia

      Great story and loved the surprise ending.

    • wingedcentaur profile image

      William Thomas 20 months ago from That Great Primordial Smash UP of This and That Which Gave Rise To All Beings and All Things!

      Hi Chris!

      I voted this 'up' and 'interesting.' Even with that ghost-suggestion bit at the end ("Boris I think you were late ringing the bell this morning."), for me, the most interesting part was the 'It's a small world,' 'What comes around, goes around' bit: "We'll consider the difference full payment for the rafters my Grandfather put on the place."

      "Justice" does not always have to be dramatic and bloody. It can be very subtle and simple, as you have laid out with this tale.

      Take it easy!

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 20 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Becky, so much for needing to screen their reading material. Have fun.

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 20 months ago from Hereford, AZ

      My kids are not to worry about. My youngest is 18 and the other one here is 27. Hahahaha

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 20 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Becky, I looked back to make sure the story was kid friendly. Glad you got a chuckle from it, and I hope the kids did too.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 20 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Eric, You're right. If she had left bell enough alone, they would have had a specter free future in that house. Thanks for reading.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 20 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Thanks Bill, I'm wondering where a parrot might fit into the scheme of things you've got going on up there in Olympia. It might help keep Minerva in line during video shoots. :)

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 20 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Larry, thank you for reading the story, and I am pleased that you found it amusing and engaging.

    • Becky Katz profile image

      Becky Katz 20 months ago from Hereford, AZ

      Great story. I busted out laughing and caused my kids to come find out what was so funny. Loved the ending.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 20 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Fantastic great read. Why in the heck did she put that bell back up?

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 20 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Excellent story, but I expect nothing less from you, Chris. Loved the ending....and I think I want a parrot now. :)

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 20 months ago from Oklahoma

      Very amusing. A wonderful and engaging tale.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 20 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Thanks Shauna. After my story ends, it's whatever you want it to.be. but for the present, that house is haunted.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 20 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Thanks, Ann. That helps. As you say, it is very difficult to objectively view ones own story.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 20 months ago from Central Florida

      Pay back's a bitch! I love that one of the worker's heirs is taking the house and returning what was due her grandfather.Will Boris' ghost continue to awaken the new owner? Or will he and Burl now pass to the other side?

      Great story, Chris. I love these flash fiction tales.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 20 months ago from SW England

      I don't find it abrupt at all, Chris. It's so difficult to see one's own story objectively, I find. I was anticipating something happening as soon as the front door was padlocked - and it did!

      I think it's tidy and effective.

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 20 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      Ann, Thank you for that detailed evaluation. I'm feeling better about the story already after reading yours and John's responses. There is an abruptness to the ending that has me a little puzzled, but more story would simply be filler since I told the story I had in mind. I appreciate your feedback.

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 20 months ago from SW England

      Perfect! I love this. It is all a short story should be; concise, tight wording full of information, atmosphere, a little humour and a great ending. Economy of words to maximum effect. The photos are perfect too. Great!

      Ann

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 20 months ago from Colorado Springs, CO until the end of March

      John, I sat on this one for the very reason you mentioned. It seemed like the beginning to a much longer story. But I liked the ending, so polished it up and called it finished.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 20 months ago from Queensland Australia

      I enjoyed this story Chris, and was waiting for a surprise ending but it came sooner than I expected..quite funny.

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