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Flightless in Cleveland
By
QuirkyStories

Flightless in Cleveland

The Federation of Flightless Birds holds its most recent convention in Cleveland.

The most recent convention of the Federation of Flightless Birds took place in Cleveland. There had been a lot of bickering about where the convention should take place. The emus and kiwis wanted New Zealand. The penguins pushed for Antarctica. The ostriches wanted Africa. And a particularly outspoken, and little, Inaccessible Island Rail insisted on the Inaccessible Island of the Tristan Archipelago.

So how did the convention end up in Cleveland, a city that boasts no indigenous flightless birds, save for a certain sports team mascot of indeterminate evolutionary pedigree? It’s simple. This way everyone had something to complain about. Besides, Cleveland lobbied hard for the event. Times were tough, and the city needed a lift.

It took a while for attendees to assemble. Most of the birds refused to be flown to Cleveland, planes being controversial among flightless birds. And so they arrived by boat and began to settle into the guest pen at the Cleveland Zoo.

The last to make it were the penguins, who were flown in on a chartered plane.

“It’s just like those penguins to arrive pompously late, and on a plane, no less – the heretics!” cried the Inaccessible Island Rail, whose name was Chip.

But once the convention did take wing, er, get under way, it proved to be every bit as eventful as previous conventions, which was not very.

But of course there were some highlights:

Chip gave a four hour harangue in which he complained about the choice of the modifier “flightless.”

“It’s an insult!” he cried, pounding his beak on the podium. “The urchin can’t swim - does anyone call him a swimless fish? A duck can’t sing - does anyone call him a tweetless bird? A bat can’t scurry - does anyone call him a scurrilous rodent? It’s shameless… I mean, shameful!”

The penguins, having already arrived late, had the nerve to leave while the convention was ongoing. They jetted off to Hollywood where they were guests at the premier of a movie featuring dancing penguins. Apparently, a posh hotel awaited them in Tinseltown.

“All of the sudden a zoo isn’t good enough for them, the prima donnas,” said Chip.

And a certain emu named Icarus built attachable wings, which he claimed would make him fly. They had quite the wingspan.

He climbed to the top of the Terminal Tower, a tall building, to try out his contraption.

“This will change everything!” he called down to his flightless friends.

Icarus should’ve known better. The only thing that changed was his legs, which were broken in many places after a dramatic crash landing. At least the injury wasn’t terminal. But he had to be pushed around in a wheelchair for the rest of the convention.

All good things do come to a close, and the convention ended. The birds’ boat wasn’t due back in port for another day, so the city’s notables suggested taking the birds to some of the city’s sites. The trouble was finding something the birds (or rather Chip) could agree upon.

The Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame was running an exposé on The Eagles. (“That’s for the Byrds!” said Chip.)

The Cleveland Orchestra was playing “The Birds” by Respighi. (“That’s for the Eagles!” quipped Chip.)

And the Museum of Natural History had an exhibit on the migratory patterns of North American waterfowl. (“BORING!” yawned Chip.)

In the end they decided on a tour of the Cleveland Museum of Art. That the museum didn’t contain a single 18th century Dutch portrait of a flightless bird diminished the collection in Chip’s eyes. Though later, when pressed, the docent did concede that a particular Picasso could have, feasibly, theoretically, been a depiction of a flightless bird… perhaps.

What impressed the flightless birds most, however, was Rodin’s Thinker overlooking the museum lagoon.

“What happened to his feet?” asked Minki the Kiwi.

“A protester blew them off in the early Seventies,” answered the docent.

“Well, at least he has something to think about,” said Icarus. “Like, ‘Hmmm, why would anyone have anything against thinking?’”

“You should be able to answer that one,” said Chip.

“But you’re missing the point,” continued the excitable Inaccessible Island Rail. “Can’t you all see that this is wrong? That crazy protester clipped the poor chap’s wings.”

“Like, they blew off his feet, not his wings. Everyone knows people don’t have wings,” said Minki.

“Don’t be a birdbrain! I’m speaking figuratively!” cried Chip. “The poor bastard will fall on his face if he so much as takes a walk. Do you know what that means?" 

“That he needs to wear a helmet?” asked Minki.

“No!!” cried the Inaccessible Island Rail. “It means he can’t get up, and that means he can’t stop thinking. He’s trapped in his thoughts!!!”

“Well, I have broken legs, and I’m not trapped in my thoughts,” said Icarus.

“Duh, I wonder why that is?” said Chip, scratching his head with his foot.

“Well, I tell you one thing. Something has to be done,” declared Chip.

“Done?” asked the other birds and the docent.

“Done!”

That night, with the help of an Andean Condor, they broke out of the zoo. (Chip made the condor an honorary member of the Order of Flightless Birds for his troubles.)

They stole through the wet Cleveland night, like so many sports team mascots, pushing Icarus in his wheelchair. They didn’t stop until they all stood in front of the footless Thinker. And without much ado, they affixed Icarus’s experimental wings to the back of the Thinker. (Wings had fared better than legs during the crash landing.)

“Now this changes everything,” said Chip.

As they admired their handiwork, Eggy the ostrich lay what wing he had over the little shoulder of Chip.

“You are a little bird,” said Eggy.

“That I am,” said Chip.

“And you have a very big mouth,” said the Ostrich.

“That I do,” said Chip. “And your point is?”

“My point is that tonight you have done something grand,” said Eggy. “Grand indeed.”

“So I have,” said Chip.

The next day a large crowd came to the Cleveland Port to see the flightless birds’ boat off. As most had come to see a penguin dance routine, they were mighty upset to learn the penguins had already skipped town.

“I think they would benefit more to hear about the evolutionary history of flightless birds,” piped up Chip, settling into one of his interminable lectures.

But the people would have nothing off it. They left. They booed. They threw things. (A buffalo wing hit Chip square on the beak).

Things might’ve turned uglier had the emus not suddenly broken into a dance routine to end all dance routines. Even Icarus got in on the action. No one was more shocked at the performance than the emus themselves, who had never danced before. But apparently millions of years spent evolving into flightless birds had left them light on their feet. The crowd ate it up.

As they sailed away, basking in the roars of applause from the shore, Icarus cried, “That was amazing! Step aside penguins, you’re yesterday’s news! I move that we have our next convention in Hollywood.”

“Motion denied!” cried Chip. “We’ll never sell out!!”

“Besides,” he said, producing a piece of paper. “I just received the most charming letter from the President of Moldova.”

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than storiesspace.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © Copyright for all stories submitted by QuirkyStories belongs to D. Benjamin Baskin. This copyright extends to any original characters featured in stories submitted by QuirkyStories. Please consult with author if you wish to incorporate any QuirkyStories story in a publication or compilation, adapt it to another format or media, or profit by it in any manner.

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