Monday, March 16, 2015
Keep 'Em Flying
“Gil, slow down.” Chloe alternated between laughter and panting for breath while Gil tugged her by the hand to the Talbot’s Peak town square. “What’s so important that you’d drag us away from our children?”
“You need a break,” Gil said. “This is a special occasion. It only happens once a year, and then only if weather’s permitting. You missed last year’s. This …” He pointed out the sun and the blue sky nearly empty of clouds. “Is perfect.”
“Does this have something to do with St. Patrick’s Day?”
“Of course,” Gil said. “This is Talbot’s Peak.”
The sky might be empty, but the square was already packed with Peakers decked out in all possible shades of green. More than a few held beverages also tinted green, and more than a few of those beverages contained alcohol. Talbot’s Peak never passed on a chance to celebrate a holiday.
Chloe glanced around the crowded square. She didn’t see any floats or marching bands. “Is there going to be a parade?”
“Sort of,” Gil said. He pointed out a stand selling green spun sugar on a cone. “Cotton candy?”
They strolled hand in hand along the edges of the square, where the Mayor could keep an eye on his constituents and both could avoid accidental trampling by the town’s larger, rowdier citizens. Chloe tore into her cotton candy with gusto. “Where was this when I was pregnant?” she murmured.
“You should have said something. I’ll bet the candy store would have whipped some up. Uh-oh.” Gil carefully drew her toward the center of the square. “Here we go.”
At almost the same instant a pigeon-shifter boy perched on the square’s central fountain pointed at the sky and shouted, “There they are!”
Chloe looked up, but saw nothing. Too many heads in the way. Gil maneuvered her to one of the sculptures dotting the square and hoisted her up for a better look. “The parade’s up there?” she said skeptically. “How—oh.”
And there they were. V after V of migrating goose-shifters, passing over Talbot’s Peak on their way to their northern colonies. They flew low enough for Chloe to see they had dyed themselves green.
Then the show began. The flocks broke ranks and recombined into a pipe, a four-leaf clover, and the outline of a leprechaun. There weren’t enough of them, so the leprechaun came out a bit sketchy. Local bird shifters, the pigeon boy among them, hurried skyward to fill in the gaps. After the portraits followed a performance of high-speed aerial skills, with dips and dives and barrel-rolls and groups in precision maneuvers.
“They brought in hawks again,” Gil remarked. “No goose can dive like that. The flocks compete with each other, see. Somebody always cheats with a hawk. One year a bald eagle showed up. Started a riot. They almost had to cancel the show.”
“We have a dragon,” Gil said. “He’s out of town this year. Good thing they don’t know that.”
The flocks scattered to re-form one final time. The green geese spelled out Happy Saint Patrick’s Day. The pigeon boy provided the apostrophe.
With that, the geese descended. They came to earth and shifted into human form, to thunderous applause. Their skin and hair still sported green, but their smiles were white and broad. Citizens rushed forward to offer free refreshments.
“What happens now?” Chloe asked.
“We party. The geese get free overnight lodging at the Pleasure Club. A lot of them will pair up here and start new families when they get home. Ever since Talbot’s Peak went shifter, we’ve become a regular stop on their route.” They passed another stand. Gil brightened. “Hey! Mint whoopee pies!”
“You’ll spoil your appetite,” Chloe scolded.
“That’s the whole point of a holiday. Green milkshake, m’dear?”