Sunday, May 13, 2012

Story: Caveat Emptor

(StoryADay continues, and gets weirder. This one feels unfinished, but its day is over!)

Once upon a time there was a boy who wanted a pink flamingo in the garden.

"What will the neighbors say?" asked his mother.

"It's an HOA violation," said his father.

"Pink?" asked his brother.

The boy went on eBay and bought a used pink flamingo as part of a package deal that included a plastic gnome and a bag of hose guides.

"It's dirty," said his mother.

"It'll get in the way of the mower," said his father.

"At least the gnome isn't pink," said his brother, and he took the gnome away to be a practice target for Archery Club.

The boy didn't care about the gnome. He didn't want to get in the way of the mower, so he filled a bucket with dirt and put it in his room and stuck the flamingo's legs in it to make it stand up and pointed his desk lamp at it for sunshine. He played music from the eighties for it because that was what his mother had and his father only liked classical and there was a skull and crossbones on the door of his brother's room and his brother meant it.

One night the boy had a dream. He was playing Devo, and the pink flamingo got out of the bucket and started to tapdance out of time in the spotlight of the desk lamp.

"You're getting dirt on the floor," said the boy.

"That's what your mother would say," said the flamingo.

"You don't tapdance to Devo," said the boy.

"That's what your brother would say," said the flamingo.

"What would my father say?" asked the boy.

"Your father would never dream about a pink flamingo," said the flamingo.

The next day at breakfast, the boy said "I dreamed that my flamingo tapdanced to Devo."

"Tapdancing is stupid," said his brother.

"Why are you listening to Devo?" asked his father.

His mother felt his forehead.

The next night the boy had another dream. His brother was sitting in a chair with an apple on his head, and the flamingo was loading a crossbow.

The next day at breakfast the boy said, "I dreamed that my flamingo shot Hugh."

"That's it; that flamingo's going to the dump," said his father.

"I'm calling the doctor," said his mother.

His brother left the breakfast table and went to the boy's room. He took the flamingo and carried it with him to school while the boy's mother was looking for the instant-read thermometer.

The boy didn't discover that his flamingo was gone until after he got home from the doctor and his mother had made him eat two bowls of soup. He was very upset.

"It's just as well," said his mother.

"It's probably home invaders," said his brother when he got home from school.

"Better get rid of that bucket of dirt," said his father when he got home from work.

The boy went to bed early without turning on the desk lamp.

The next day the boy woke up and the flamingo was back, standing in the bucket of dirt.

At breakfast, the boy asked, "Where's Hugh?"

"Hugh?" asked his mother.

"Who's Hugh?" asked his father.

"You know, Hugh. He sits there." The boy pointed at his brother's chair.

"Aren't you a little old for imaginary friends?" asked his father.

"If you invited someone to breakfast, you'd better leave some pancakes for them," said his mother.

The boy finished his pancakes and went to look at his brother's room. The skull and crossbones were gone and the room was painted yellow with white trim and there was a sewing machine and a quilt frame and his mother's autographed poster of Sting was on the wall.

That night the boy had another dream. This time the flamingo was hula dancing to Cindy Lauper.

"Do you give wishes?" asked the boy.

"Sometimes," said the flamingo.

"I didn't really want Hugh to go away forever," said the boy. "Mom would be upset if he never came back."

"She doesn't remember him," said the flamingo.

"What if I wished him back?" asked the boy.

"I don't like him," said the flamingo.

The boy didn't know what to say.

"I don't like your father either," said the flamingo. "And your mother is fussy."

The boy still didn't know what to say. The music stopped, and he put in a Pat Benatar CD.

The flamingo started to dance the hokey pokey. "Do you know what an HOA is?"

The boy said, "They make the rules about paint colors and shutters and trashcans and things."

The flamingo put his left foot in.

The boy said, "And lawn ornaments."

The flamingo put his left foot out.

The boy said, "I can't make the HOA change the rule about lawn ornaments."

The flamingo put his left foot in.

The boy said, "I guess I could try."

The flamingo shook his foot all about.

Image: By Forest & Kim Starr. Wikimedia Commons


  1. This story is riveting! (Sorry I didn't get to read it earlier, but I have been away on a trip.) Love it!

  2. It seems like a perfectly good ending to me, as I already told you. Raymond Carver used to end a lot of stories similarly, and nobody quarreled with him. Have you ever read any of his? You might enjoy them and get ideas about storytelling from them. Early on his stories tended to be quite short and enigmatic. Later they got longer and resolved themselves more fully, but they're good in both periods.

  3. Thanks, Cupcake! Thanks, Pete! I think that surely I have read some Raymond Carver, but not a single memory is coming back. I'll have a look.