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by Daniel Braum

I had just returned from three months Down Under. And being back I yearned for all those musical Aussie accents and watching the fruits bats high in the evening Queensland sky. Was it my friends I missed most or the sense of living in a city that had not completely steamrolled nature in order to exist?

These were my thoughts this Saturday afternoon. Autumn had just changed the leaves of my cherry tree to orange but I had the pleasure of taking my god-daughter to the annual Pet expo.

“Be a good girl and hold my hand.” I said to Marti. “They have giant mountain gorillas there, so don’t get lost,”

“Nuh-uh,” Marti said, dismissing the notion as one of my frequent teases.

“B’sides. Grillas are il-leeegal,” she said, one-upping me, as was our way.

We strolled through aisles lined with booths peddling kittens in cages, greyhounds on leashes, and every pet supply I could image. One booth, for a local sanctuary for injured and abandoned birds, was teeming with rather well behaved parrots.

In a cage quietly sat a squat bird, with a large black kingfisher’s bill, its white feathers dusted with gray and black.

“See Marti, that’s a Kookuburra.”

She liked the name, but the bird did not capture her attention.

“She’s from Australia,” said an old woman. The way she had so smoothly emerged from the bustling crowd of strollers and families it seemed she had come from nowhere.

I couldn’t get Marti’s attention away from the parrots. The crowd’s almost angry buzz was wearing on me. More than anything, I wanted to be on the bridge overlooking the Brisbane river.

“So go back,” the woman said, as if my thoughts were being broadcast. “Maybe you could find a way to bring me.”

“I should. And I’d love to,” I said, this time certain I had spoken aloud.

“Who are you talking to, Uncle Dovyd?” Marti asked.

“The nice old woman,” I said.

Marti gave me a look that said, not another silly tease.

I turned to point, but the woman was gone.

The Kookaburra laughed. The gurgling bellow, wholly alien, seemed to stop time.

“Wow, what was that?” Marti asked.

Pungent eucalyptus and tropical humidity filled the expo center and for the most ephemeral instant, all was silent before the din of the crowd returned.

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