Here's this week's installment of The Bird Lady. (If you're wondering what the heck this is all about, then just click on the Fiction Friday tag in the list on the lefthand side of the screen.)
It was a brilliant Sunday. Lucy navigated her old blue station wagon through the thick traffic, humming along to her big band CD as she turned off into the shopping center that housed the PetSmart. After negotiating a parking spot, an act that involved hanging out her window and screeching, "Move it or lose it!" to a meandering senior citizen, Lucy checked her appearance in the rearview mirror. She'd worn her painted wooden parrot earrings for the occasion. They'd been purchased for a birdsong - ha ha ha - as she liked to think, from one of her favorite eBay sellers. Now she watched them dangle merrily over the luxe fabric of her caftan, also purchased on eBay, as she freshened her coppery lipstick. Once satisfied, she got out, locked her doors, and headed toward the entrance.
As soon as she crossed the threshold of the automatic doorway, she breathed in the heady scent of pet food and supplies and pets themselves that always filled her with anticipation. She picked up a basket (she always needed a basket, if not a cart) and trotted off to the exotic bird section. There a tantalizing array of honey sticks, seed mixes, and fruit wheels competed for attention next to colorful plastic swings, ladders, and imitation birds meant to serve as companions for those unfortunate enough to be without playmates. Lucy panned the offerings, eagerly snatching up anything that she was running out of or didn't already own. Her basket was becoming precariously heavy when a salesperson emerged and proffered a cart. It was Molly, a part-timer and college sophomore whom Lucy had grown to know well.
"I saw you over here and thought you might need this."
"How thoughtful!" Lucy dumped her basket into the cart, then waved her arms around as if to celebrate their newfound freedom. "And how are you, my dear? Still knocking 'em dead in early childhood education?"
Molly nodded vigorously, her bobbed red hair swinging. "This semester's already a killer, but really interesting. How are you?"
That was Molly all over, never rambling on about herself, always asking about the other person. She'd make a superb little kindergarten teacher.
"Great!" Lucy dug into her enormous handbag and produced a photograph. "Here's a picture of Finchy's birthday party!"
Molly accepted the picture, her mouth instantly splitting into a smile of delight. At least, Lucy thought it was of delight. But then, who wouldn't love such a picture? It showcased Finchy, Swan, and Wren in all of their glory, each wearing a tiny birthday hat (she'd made them herself) and perched above a sea of colorful (hypoallergenic) confetti in his or respective cage. Lucy had pushed the cages together just for the photo.
"Wow," Molly finally said. "That must have been some party." When she tried to return the picture Lucy stopped her. "Oh no, dear! That one's for you. I had several copies made."
"Oh. Thanks." Molly slipped the photo into her pocket, the ghost of a smile doing strange things to her mouth. "I should get back to work. Happy shopping!"