Cara Mia Delgatto and the Bye-Bye Birdie, Part 11

Note: We’ve had so much fun with serialized stories that I’m trying my hand at one again! Here’s the next installment of a new adventure for Cara Mia Delgatto and her friends. To read Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 scroll to the bottom of the blog where it says OLDER POSTS.

“Now what,” I said more to myself than to Skye or Greta. All three of us had tears in our eyes while Helen stroked Kookie’s crest. Even Libby was sniffling.

Helen pushed herself to a seated position. Kookie rubbed his beak against her face, cooing and talking a mile a minute.

“That’s the most animated I’ve seen her since she moved in,” Greta said. She covered her mouth with her hand and stared at the two reunited friends.

Skye nodded. “I don’t think I can bear to separate them. Frankly, the vet told us that Kookie won’t live much longer if this depression continues. So taking the bird back to the store…”

“Isn’t a wise idea.” Greta squared her shoulders and inhaled deeply. “Mr. Salazar isn’t supposed to visit us again for another two weeks. Libby? What’s your feeling about this?”

Libby’s dark brown eyes were huge with wonder. “I never been around big birds, but I don’t want Miss Helen to have to say goodbye to her pet. Lord above, I thought she was all but, well, she was really poorly. Now she’s acting like she’s got her will to live back again.”

“That bird does make messes,” Skye said. “To be fair, I had to tell you.”

Greta smiled, a tiny rueful grin. “All our residents make messes. How about this? Leave Kookie here. We’ll see how things go.”

With that, we made arrangements for her to stop by the store to pick up the perch, the cage, and the bird seed.

**

One week later, Greta called to ask if Skye and I were free for lunch. A hitch in her voice suggested she was upset, so I asked, “Is Helen all right? And Kookie?”

“Both are fine, but we have a problem. I’d rather discuss it with you two in person. Is it at all possible that we meet today?”

Over three salads at Pumpernickel’s, Greta reported an unexpected visit from her boss, Mr. Salazar. “To make a long story short, he gave me twenty-four hours to find Kookie a new home. According to him, we’re breaking all sorts of health department regulations.”

Setting down her fork, Greta sipped water. Her eyes had been downcast since we walked in the door. She’s chosen a back booth, a place where we could talk in private. By unspoken agreement, we didn’t tackled the main subject until the server, a friend of Skye’s, set our bowls in front of us. Now, my appetite deserted me. I couldn’t imagine separating Kookie and Helen, and I said as much.

“He’s adamant. Even wrote me up and threatened to fire me on the spot.” Greta’s face was a mask of grief. “I need this job. Even if I didn’t, my replacement would be in the same predicament.”

Skye toyed with a piece of tomato. “We all knew it couldn’t last. Not long. But is Helen better? I don’t want to sound rude, but I had the idea she wasn’t going to live much longer. I guess I figured she’d be gone by now, and you wouldn’t have to cope with this.”

“If I’d been a betting woman, I would have laid odds that she would have passed over by now. However, she and Kookie are happy as can be. Of course, there are all sorts of visitors who drop by daily now. Everyone loves the bird. I’ve promised I’ll see about getting other animals, but Mr. Salazar suggested that he was not interested. First there are the health regulations. Then there’s the mess. Finally, there are liability issues. I prepped all sorts of articles about the therapeutic value of pets in an assisted living care facility, but he wasn’t impressed. I guess if we could find therapy animals with trainers to come and go, he’d be okay with that. But live-in animals? A non-starter.”

“Any word on the financing issue?” I pushed my food away. “If that gets taken care of, maybe the landscaping would help. The residents could look out the windows and see something–anything!–that would cheer them up.”

“Mr. Salazar told me that it’s taking longer than Mr. Boehner had predicted.” Greta folded her hands in her lap.

None of us spoke.

Finally, she burst out with, “Look, I like both of you a lot. Let me be really frank, but this has to stay in the room, Mr. Salazar does not like me. He thinks I’m unqualified for my job. He’s not interested in keeping me in the loop. He’s a numbers guy, and that’s what moves the needle on his dial. He’s one of those old-school admin people who thinks of residential care as warehousing. Since he couldn’t be clearer about that, I have to rethink my future at Martin Gardens. This isn’t what I signed up for. This isn’t who I am!”

Then the tears started.

~ To Be Continued ~

 

Author’s Note: I know you’ll want to read this story in its entirety when I’m finished. (And I’m not done yet!) Just so you’re aware, I’ll bundle it with other Cara Mia short stories and make them available as e-publications.

 

Cara Mia Delgatto and the Bye-Bye Birdie, Part 10

 

Note: We’ve had so much fun with serialized stories that I’m trying my hand at one again! Here’s the next installment of a new adventure for Cara Mia Delgatto and her friends. To read Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 scroll to the bottom of the blog where it says OLDER POSTS.

 

Walking along behind Greta, Skye and Kookie attracted a fair amount of attention. The bird seemed to know his friend was nearby, because his pupils flared and contracted repeatedly. Each resident stopped to remark on how beautiful the blue-eyed cockatoo looked. I bit my tongue rather than add, “If you think he’s lovely now, you should have seen him before he plucked most of his breast feathers out.”
“Are you going to have animals here?” Skye asked. “I’ve read about nursing homes that have cats and fish and other pets. From what I’ve heard, the residents really enjoy the interaction. Most of them wind up being given light chores, feeding, watering, cleaning cages. It’s mentally stimulating.”
“I sincerely hope we can. Things are rather at sixes and sevens right now. Mr. Boehner and I haven’t even met, officially. We Skyped my interview. With the financing problems, he’s been incredibly busy. Of course, I’ve tried to talk to my direct supervisor, Jose Salazar, but he seems reluctant to move forward on my ideas.”
A tone of her voice suggested that Good Old Jose was more than reluctant. But I had to admire the fact that Greta couched her remarks in a neutral way, rather than out and out complaining about the man. All this conversation came forth in bits and drabs as one elderly person after another waved a greeting to Greta or begged Skye for a closer look at Kookie. As they busied themselves, I had a good chance to examine Martin Gardens with a calculating eye. Again, I found myself impressed. The carpet had been installed so that those using walkers could navigate it easily. At the elevators, there was a clear demarcation between the carpet and the entrance to the doors–a small point, but one I’d learned about from my father. As people age, graduations become harder to discern. The change of texture and color would help keep folks from tripping on their way in or out of the elevator cars. Most of the residents’ doors were closed, but a few were open, and from what I could see, the apartments were well-laid out, brightly lit, and smartly constructed. Passing a social room, we paused long enough to watch foursomes playing cards while two ladies took lessons in how to scrapbook. My friend Kiki Lowenstein would have enjoyed participating.
Finally we wound our way to the back of the building. Greta knocked briskly at a door marked #125-Berger. A caregiver in pastel pink scrubs festooned with hot pink flowers opened up. “Helen’s not doing very well today,” she whispered. Her body blocked the entrance. Skye and I stayed back a respectful distance, but I could still see a lump under the bedclothes. An immobile lump, much smaller than the woman I remembered.
Greta’s brow creased in concern. “I think I have a way to brighten her day. Can we come in, Libby?”
The girl frowned. With a quick glance our way, she took in the bird and shook her head before whispering. “I won’t stop you, but it’s pretty bad. She’s, like, not even talking to me. It’s, like, she’s totally checked out.”
Before Greta could respond, Kookie shrieked, “Helen? Helen? Kookie loves you! Do you have kisses for me?”
With surprising agility, the bird launched himself off of Skye’s shoulder. Since his wings are clipped, he managed to just clear Libby before he hit the floor. With an awkward waddle, he ran over to the bed. “Helen? Helen?”
Grabbing at the coverlet, he managed to haul himself up the side of the bed.
“Eeek,” Libby shrieked.
Skye and I stood frozen to the spot. I didn’t know the parrot could move that fast! In the blink of an eye, Kookie was up, on the bed, and hopping over the prone form.
The wad of sheets shifted slightly, and Helen Berger’s face rotated so that we could see her profile. I held my breath as she slowly raised one hand. Her voice was little more than a rasp as she said, “Kookie? Kookie, I’ve missed you!” And then her shaking fingers reached out to stroke the cockatoo’s head.
~ To Be Continued ~
Author’s Note: I know you’ll want to read this story in its entirety when I’m finished. (And I’m not done yet!) Just so you’re aware, I’ll bundle it with other Cara Mia short stories and make them available as e-publications.

 

Cara Mia Delgatto and the Bye-Bye Birdie, Part 8

 

Note: We’ve had so much fun with serialized stories that I’m trying my hand at one again! Here’s the next installment of a new adventure for Cara Mia Delgatto and her friends. To read Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 scroll to the bottom of the blog where it says OLDER POSTS.
“Notice that it says ENTRANCE rather than WELCOME,” Skye snarled.  “Jail was nicer than this. I mean it. We kept the grounds tended and had a garden. This is a crime.
Kookie had started bobbing and ducking his head, while making little clicking noises with his beak. At least he was showing signs of life. I found that mildly comforting. The sliding doors opened with a wheezy hiss, revealing an industrial strength floor mat designed to keep you from slipping and sliding even in rainy weather.
The inside was actually…nice. The colors were a blue-gray, teal, and bright green. Soothing music played over a sound system. A low nap carpet with a pebble design led us in various directions. Dead ahead sat a white-washed gray reclaimed wood desk attended by a woman dressed in a long skirt with a vivid floral pattern, white blouse, and glasses. Her hair had been pulled back neatly into a cap, a sure sign she belonged to one of the more strict Fundamental Christian sects that make their home in Stuart and Hobe Sound.
“Hello. What a lovely bird! May I help you?” Getting gracefully to her feet, the woman extended a hand. “I’m Alyssa Cartwright, the receptionist. Do you have a family member here? Or are you inquiring about availability? How might I be of assistance?”
“Um,” I intended to answer quickly, but my eyes were drawn to the marvelous shape of the place. It was as if the architect had envisioned a hug, an embrace, because the wings of the building formed a large half-circle around a central courtyard. Broad expanses of glass windows overlooked the outdoors. Those expensive window shades, the kind that allow you to see out but can be darkened, covered the windows, blocking the glare. Rather than respond directly to Alyssa’s greeting, I hurried past her, through the clusters of furniture, and right up to the windows. There I pressed my face against the cool glass.
A sea of brown mud, decayed palm fronds, and torn up weeds provided the landscaping. Before I could open my mouth to protest, Skye had moved closer to the desk. Once there, she reached for Alyssa’s hand and gave it a friendly shake. “We’re here to see a friend, Helen Berger. This is her pet, Kookie.”
“Helen?” Kookie’s crest of feathers stood straight up. “Helen? Kookie loves you! Helen? Where is Helen? Hello???”
“My!” Alyssa’s hand flew to her mouth. “We don’t allow pets, but I can certainly see that this is an unusual situation.”
I hustled back to the desk. “This is NOT an unusual situation. This is a crime! How can you plonk people down in a setting like this? This is ugly. Horrible! If I had to look out on this mud puddle all day long, I’d curl up in a ball and cry. To think that people are paying good money for this…this warehouse! It’s a scam and you should be ashamed of yourself!”
I was so angry, so filled with indignation that I didn’t hear the clip-clap of high heels behind me. A gentle hand touched my elbow. I whirled around and faced a woman wearing an inexpensive but elegant navy suit and a pastel blue button-up blouse. “I’ll take it from here, Alyssa. I’m Greta Morgan, the administrator. And you are?”
“Cara Mia Delgatto and my friend Skye Blue. That’s Kookie. Helen Berger’s bird. We came to visit Helen.” I stuck my jaw out, hoping to look as determined as I felt. “And I won’t leave until we do.”
Greta Morgan nodded. Her eyes were brown with amber flecks and her hair a dishwater blonde. The laugh lines around her mouth suggested she was well into her fifties, but her classic features would allow her to age gracefully. She studied me as I gave her the once over. As I did, she softened her stance, whether instinctively or to put me at ease, I couldn’t tell.
“Of course, and so you shall. But first, could I get both of you a cup of tea? In my office? We can chat there. I’d love to hear more about Kookie, and about your involvement with Helen. I was under the impression she has no family.”
“That doesn’t mean no one cares about her,” I snapped.
Skye nudged me forward. “Sounds wonderful. Lead the way.”
I was still grumbling, but Alyssa leaned in and whispered, “Greta is wonderful. She’ll listen. Honest she will. That woman has the patience of a saint.”
~ To Be Continued ~
Remember, I’m adding new installments every day.
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Cara Mia Delgatto and the Bye-Bye Birdie, Part 7

Note: We’ve had so much fun with serialized stories that I’m trying my hand at one again! Here’s the next installment of a new adventure for Cara Mia Delgatto and her friends. To read Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 scroll to the bottom of the blog where it says OLDER POSTS.

“Aren’t you forgetting something?” MJ glared at me.

“What?”

“You gave this bird to Skye. You can’t suddenly up and decide that you’re taking the bird away after telling her Kookie belongs to her.”

A slow stain crept up my neck. I turned to my friend and said, “Skye, I apologize. MJ’s right. What do you want to do?”

Skye gave a long, low sigh. “I’m not sure what to do, but I don’t want to own a dead bird, so maybe it’s best that we find a way to reunite Kookie and Helen.”

Honora had been curiously silent throughout Pete’s exam. Now she patted Skye’s arm and said, “You’re an old soul, Skye. You’ve made a brave decision.”

With that decided, I thanked Pete and asked for a bill. “MJ’s already promised to go with me to a concert at the Kravis Center, so you’re paid up.”

“MJ, can I impose on you for one more favor? Can you handle the store by yourself while Skye and I take a ride? I can’t just put the bird in the car and drive over to the assisted living facility.”

“Why not?” MJ raised perfectly plucked eyebrows at me. “Even if you have to get turned away and you have to take him back into the car, at least he might start eating again. Isn’t that the goal?”

I bit my lower lip. Having a big bird in the store made me nervous, but the thought of having that same bird in my car while I was driving nearly put me over the edge. I wanted to scream, “But I hate birds!” As I dithered, trying to find the right words, another white feather drifted off of Kookie and fell to the tile directly in front of me. What was it Kiki Lowenstein always said? Time to pull up my big girl panties and do what needed to be done. “All right. Fine. Let’s do this.”

After I pulled Black Beauty, my Camry, around front, Skye walked out with Kookie on her shoulder. Although I shivered as she climbed in and adjusted her seatbelt, what really bothered me was the churning of my tummy as Kookie climbed off of Skye’s shoulder and onto the back of the passenger seat.

“Do you know where this place is?” My voice sounded like a frog’s croaking.

“I think so.” Skye issued directions, and we were off, winding our way over the railroad tracks, turning south on Dixie Highway, and heading toward Hobe Sound.

A few more turns along the way and we pulled up at a sign, “Martin Gardens: Senior Living Facility.” The name brought a smirk to my face. “Evidently the owner played a lot of Monopoly as a kid.”

Skye didn’t get that. Instead, she pointed to our right. “Look.”

As I turned my head, my jaw dropped. Plunked down in the middle of a mud puddle was a residential building, a place that reminded me of a school without one spec of landscaping. Not even a stray weed. I’d never seen such a barren spot in all my life.

“Oh, my gosh,” said Skye. “That’s plug ugly. It’s awful! Can you imagine? What if you lived there and your window opened out on…on that? Yard after yard of ugly, dirty mud? How could they do that? Is it even legal?”

I pointed the nose of the Camry toward the sliding glass doors under a green fabric canopy. As we moved closer, a sign became obvious: ENTRANCE.

“Wow. What a totally cheerless, desolate place,” I said.

And to that Kookie let out a loud, angry squawk.

~To Be Continued~Okay, kids! Show me some love! If you are liking this serialized short story, go to my Facebook page and hit “Like” the little blue thumb in a tiny white box under the big picture of me. (My toes point to the right. There are three boxes. “Like” is the second box.) Or tell a friend about the Cara Mia Delgatto Mystery Series. Here are the links:  Tear Down and Die  http://tinyurl.com/TearDD and Kicked to the Curb http://tinyurl.com/KickedTTCurb the blog post and click on OLDER POST.

Cara Mia Delgatto and the Bye-Bye Birdie, Part 6

 

Note: We’ve had so much fun with serialized stories that I’m trying my hand at one again! Here’s the next installment of a new adventure for Cara Mia Delgatto and her friends. To read Parts 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 scroll to the bottom of the blog post and click on OLDER POSTS.
By the end of the week, Kookie had plucked most of the feathers from his breast. He hadn’t eaten any birdseed. He refused the grapes and pieces of fruit that Skye offered him. He rarely spoke except to wail, “Helen? Helen! Kookie loves you!”
“I can’t stand this.” I stared at the perch and the listless creature. “That bird is dying before our eyes. It’s tearing my heart out. I feel like I’m letting Helen down and killing her best friend.”
Skye wiped her eyes. “I know. Getting him was so exciting for me, but now I’m thinking, ‘Be careful what you wish for,’ because I sure didn’t wish to see an animal suffer.”
The front door opened and Pete Harris stuck his head in. His right hand carried a black leather bag like old-time doctors owned in Westerns.  “Uh, MJ called. Said I needed to make a house call.”
From the back of the store MJ sashayed out, wearing a seductive grin that made both Skye and me blush. Behind her came Honora, wearing a look of anxious curiosity.
“Thanks for dropping by.” MJ planted a peck on the man’s cheek. “Here’s your patient.”
Pete turned in the direction of her finger. “Wow. That is…was…a magnificent blue-eyed cockatoo. What on earth have you done to it?”
Everyone started talking at once, explaining how Kookie came to be a feathered fixture in our store. While we jabbered like fools, Pete walked over to examine the bird more carefully. “This is Helen Berger’s bird, isn’t it? Gosh. What a mess.”
After that we shut up. Pete pulled a few wicked looking instruments out of his black bag.  Peering at Kookie from all angles, he asked, “Is the bird eating? Drinking water?”
“N-no,” sniffled Skye. “What am I doing wrong?”
Pete’s smile was kind, as he tucked a stethoscope into the bag. Even though he was balding, he was a nice looking man with soft gray eyes. His clothes looked as if war had been declared in his closet, but that was easily forgiven when you watched how gentle he was with animals. He’d set Jack’s leg for me, after the dog’s previous owner had chucked him out of a moving truck. Now my pup came and sat down beside Pete’s loafers. Jack knew there was a problem. He raised a tiny white paw to tap Pete’s ankle as though he were begging the vet to help the bird.
“You aren’t doing anything wrong. Kookie is mourning. To put it bluntly, this bird has a death wish. He’s been separated from the one creature he’s loved most in his life.”
“Isn’t there anything we can do?” I felt sick.
“No. Oh, I suppose you could take him down to the zoo in West Palm and see if they have a sick room where they can hook him up to liquids. But that’s a temporary fix. Kookie would rather be dead. So the minute you brought him back here, he’d do this all over again.”
That made me angry. I was NOT going to let that bird die. Not on my watch. “Then we have to find a way to reunite Kookie and Helen. That’s all there is to it.”
~ To Be Continued ~

Okay, kids! Show me some love! If you are liking this serialized short story, go to my Facebook page and hit “Like” the little blue thumb in a tiny white box under the big picture of me. (My toes point to the right. There are three boxes. “Like” is the second box.) Or tell a friend about the Cara Mia Delgatto Mystery Series. Here are the links:  Tear Down and Die  http://tinyurl.com/TearDD and Kicked to the Curb http://tinyurl.com/KickedTTCurb

Cara Mia Delgatto and the Bye-Bye Birdie, Part 5

Note: We’ve had so much fun with serialized stories that I’m trying my hand at one again! Here’s the next installment of a new adventure for Cara Mia Delgatto and her friends. To read Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4 scroll to the bottom of the blog post and click on OLDER POST.

Skye was thrilled with Kookie. The minute she came through the front door, she raced over to see the bird, even though she was still wearing her server’s uniform from Pumpernickel’s. Usually Skye can’t wait to get out of the black slacks and white blouse. They are totally not her style.

“Isn’t he beautiful?” she gushed. “I didn’t realize he’d be a blue-eyed cockatoo. These are really, really rare. An endangered species or close to it.”

In response, Kookie eyed her warily. With a bit of coaxing, Skye was able to get the big white bird to step onto her outstretched finger. He stared at her, fluffed his feathers and wailed, “Helen? Kookie loves you!”

“Poor baby.” Skye brought him closer for a cuddle, and Kookie allowed her to rub her face against his chest. But he didn’t give her a kiss like he’d given Helen.

This love fest went on for half an hour. Finally, Skye let Kookie take his place back on his perch. “I’m going to run upstairs and get him grapes and carrots. He’ll love those.”

As she raced away, MJ shook her head at me. “I was wrong about what a cockatoo is worth. At least, I was wrong about what this one is worth.”

“Not as valuable as you thought, eh?” I chuckled.

“On the contrary. Much more valuable. A bird like Kookie would go for ten grand at least.”

I coughed. “Pardon? Are you sure?”

“Absolutely. He’s a blue-eyed cockatoo. That ring of bright blue around his eyes? It’s a telltale marker. That’s the clue I didn’t have.”

“Wow,” I said, channeling my friend Kiki Lowenstein.

“Should I start writing an ad for Kookie? Sid can put him up on Craigslist and some of the other sales sites.”

I thought about Skye’s reaction. She never asked me for anything. Lately she’d been kind of down because her relationship with Lou, a local detective, had hit a rough patch. “Not right now,” I said. Once the excitement of owning a big bird wore off, perhaps she’d be willing to trade the cockatoo for cash.

“Have it your way,” said MJ, with a shrug that told me she thought I was absolutely nuts.

A few days went by, and I came to agree with her. Although Skye was totally smitten with the bird, the cockatoo had not settled in. Hour after hour, he cried, “Helen? Kookie loves you!” He fixated on the front door, growing excited each time it opened and despondent when Helen did not magically appear. Worse yet, he had started to pluck out his own feathers. Each morning, I swept up a small pile from the floor around the cage.

“I’m really, really worried about him.” Skye started chewing a fingernail.

“I’ll call my friend Pete, the vet,” said MJ. “But you’re going to owe me, Skye, because Pete only wants to be re-paid by going on a date together. If I do this for you, you better come up with something really, really great to make it up to me.”

Skye nodded. “I will.”

~To Be Continued~

Okay, kids! Show me some love! If you are liking this serialized short story, go to my Facebook page and hit “Like” the little blue thumb in a tiny white box under the big picture of me. (My toes point to the right. There are three boxes. “Like” is the second box.) Or tell a friend about the Cara Mia Delgatto Mystery Series. Here are the links:  Tear Down and Die  http://tinyurl.com/TearDD and Kicked to the Curb http://tinyurl.com/KickedTTCurb

Cara Mia Delgatto and the Bye-Bye Birdie, Part 4

Note: We’ve had so much fun with serialized stories that I’m trying my hand at one again! Here’s the next installment of a new adventure for Cara Mia Delgatto and her friends. To read Parts 1, 2, and 3 scroll to the bottom of the blog post and click on OLDER POST.

Carrying the cage was awkward, but MJ and I managed. By the time we got it situated in the store, near the big display window, Honora had discovered her friend. She and Helen chatted amiably while Kookie looked on.

Next we hauled in the large perch. It looked like wrought iron and felt just as heavy. Admittedly, it was beautiful with a sculpted border on the stand and rich wooden arms. While MJ positioned it, I went back to the Cadillac and grabbed a large bag filled with bird food, treats, and vitamins. After carrying all those accoutrements in, I watched as Helen walked over and encouraged Kookie to step onto one of the arms of the perch. For the first time, I could see that Kookie was actually wearing a harness that clipped to a leash. Since the bird was snowy white, and the harness was too, you really couldn’t tell that Kookie was restrained. Helen snapped the leash to the perch.

“Now, dear friend, it’s time for us to part,” said Helen, stroking the bird’s breast. “I love you. I will love you until I go to my grave, and we’ll never be parted in spirit. If I could take you with me to the assisted living facility, I would, dear Kookie. Give me one last kiss.”

The bird had been watching her curiously, his head tilted as he regarded Helen. At the word “kiss,” he leaned toward her and extended his beak to touch her lips lightly. With an almost human sigh, he said, “Helen, Kookie loves you.”

A tear dribbled down Helen’s face, leaving a wet mark where it journeyed over her skin. “And I love you, Kookie.”

Without another word, she turned quickly, in an about-face movement, and walked out of the store.

Despite how I feel about birds, a lump had formed in my throat. Grabbing a tissue from the cash station, I dabbed my eyes. Honora followed suite. MJ swallowed repeatedly.

“I feel so bad for Helen,” I managed.

Honora nodded. “She lost Jeb twenty years ago. That’s when she adopted Kookie. I thought I’d never see her smile again after her husband died. They were devoted to each other. But she and Kookie formed a bond that’s obviously kept Helen going.”

Pausing to wipe her eyes, Honora added, “She’s been hoping not to go to the assisted living facility, but she needs more and more skilled nursing care, and they have a room that’s open. It’s that new place not far from Cove Road. If Helen takes residence now, she won’t have to move when the…when she…when hospice is called in. She has no family, so it’s for the best, really.”

Since my own mother died of cancer, I understood what Honora meant. Most likely Helen’s last weeks would be grueling. She would need heavy-duty painkillers and around the clock care.

“Is it nice?” asked MJ in a quiet voice. “That facility?”

“I drove past it,” said Honora. “I would describe it as bleak. The original developers went bankrupt halfway through the building process. A new company bought it, finished the work, and opened it, but the takeover was costly. There’s no landscaping.”

“I remember.” MJ sighed. “It was supposed to be a state-of-the-art building. A real showplace.”

“Yes. Now it’s functional, or so I’ve been told.” Honora’s hand trembled as she wadded up the tissue. “Growing old in America is a real nightmare.”

~ To Be Continued ~

Okay, kids! Show me some love! If you are liking this serialized short story, go to my Facebook page and hit “Like” the little blue thumb in a tiny white box under the big picture of me. (My toes point to the right. There are three boxes. “Like” is the second box.) Or tell a friend about the Cara Mia Delgatto Mystery Series. Here are the links:  Tear Down and Die  http://tinyurl.com/TearDD and Kicked to the Curb http://tinyurl.com/KickedTTCurb

 

Cara Mia Delgatto and the Bye-Bye Birdie, Part 3

Note: We’ve had so much fun with serialized stories that I’m trying my hand at one again! Here’s the next installment of a new adventure for Cara Mia Delgatto and her friends. To read Parts 1 and 2, scroll to the bottom of the blog post and click on OLDER POSTS.

A few days later, I was arranging a group of tin cans that Skye had turned into beautiful lanterns when a loud squawk scared the dickens out of me. My first thought was that a bird had somehow found its way into the store. But as I turned around, and as another squawk followed the first, I realized this must be a monster-sized avian to make such a loud racket.

Putting down my inventory clipboard, I scurried to the front of the store. There stood a small woman, caving in on herself, barely strong enough to support the magnificent white bird perched on her shoulder. Her skin was that ashy-gray color so common to people suffering from cancer, a symptom I knew all too well.

“Helen? Kookie loves you!” screamed the bird, leaning in to nuzzle the sagging skin on my guest’s face.

“And I love you, too, Kookie.” The woman lifted a knotted hand to stroke the bird’s belly.

This pleased the animal. He ruffled up his feathers, so that he was fully twice his size. Even from a distance, I could see his pupils dilate and contract with interest as he took in his new surroundings. A thin ring of bright blue was around each of his eyes, a lovely contrast to the stark white of his feathers.

“You must be Honora’s friend Helen,” I said. Usually I would extend my hand for a greeting, but my fear of birds made me jam all my digits into a pocket of my Lilly Pulitzer vintage skirt.

“Yes, dear, I am. Honora told me you agreed to give Kookie a home. His cage and his stand are in my car. Unfortunately, I had to have help loading them up. They’re rather heavy. I’m wondering if you’d be so good as to get them out for me?” The voice quivered with sadness, and correspondingly, a lump formed in my throat.

“One second.” I turned and walked to the back. “MJ? Could you come out here a minute? I need help.”

“What do you need?” MJ seemed a tad bit peeved to be taken away from her work. She’d been busy calling around trying to find a piece of wicker for a customer. But the irked expression softened when she caught sight of Helen and Kookie.

“We need to grab some things from Helen’s car.”

Although she’s shaped like a pinup girl, MJ is pretty strong. After taking the keys from Helen and assuring her that we’d be right back, my friend and I walked outside to where a long, white Cadillac sat pulled up at the curb. The car must have been fifteen years old. Maybe twenty. The inside was pristine, although it smelled a little like funky bird seed. Together MJ and I tackled moving the bird equipment. As we grunted, she said, “That’s one beautiful bird. You realize, don’t you, that birds like that sell for at least a grand. Maybe even two.”

“You’re kidding me.”

“No. I never joke about money. You should know that by now.”

That was true. I cleared my throat as we managed to extricate the cage from the back seat. “So, are you suggesting we sell the bird? After all, Helen told Honora that Kookie needs a new home. That doesn’t preclude us from finding him one with a loving family.”

“Actually, I think you’d get a lot more mileage out of displaying the bird,” said MJ as she started walking backwards with both hands on the bottom of the cage. “Think of it as a living display piece.”

“Right,” I groused. “One that poops all over my floor.”

~To Be Continued~