The Joke

by Walter Kwiatkowski


The idea of the joke first came to light with the appearance of the father and son. Perched on a thick branch of a tree resembling a withered, hunched-over old man, Rob and Jason, good friends since the first grade, could see the whole park.

They had skipped English Lit, picked up some burgers and come to the park. They noticed the odd tree — funny they hadn’t seen it before — and decided to enjoy the view while they ate. The best thing was that they were well hidden in the evergreen foliage. They could see down easily, but they were not visible from the ground. They had to stifle their excitement when they saw their first victims.

The man, in his in forties, wore a grey windbreaker and carried a pair of binoculars around his neck. The boy, around ten years old, wore a red rain jacket with a a hood and a happy smiling face.

“Hey,” said the father, pointing the binoculars to the sky, “was that an eagle?”

The boy sighed. “No, Dad, it was a crow.”

“A crow?”

“Didn’t you see the beak?”

“I guessed I missed it.”

The pair approached the large tree. The boy examined it with his head tilted to one side, as if trying to figure out which way he should look at it.

Jason, wearing a Boston Red Sox cap backwards so that the visor pointed away from him, looked straight down between some foliage. A large evil Grinch-like smile stretched across his face. “Let’s have some fun, Rob.”

“What do you mean?”

“Remember those bird calls we learned when we were in Scouts?”

“Yeah,” he whispered, “what about them?”

“Well, I’m gonna try one, maybe a sparrow.”

Rob shook his head. “No sparrows around here, bro.” He grabbed his friend. “Besides, your bird-calling sucks. I’ll do an owl.” The young man steadied himself on the branch, cupped his hand around his mouth and made a soft hoo-hoo-hoo sound.

The father and son below, who had just walked past the tree hoping to find something extraordinary, stopped. They looked around.

“Did you hear that?” the father said. “Sounds like an owl.”

“I didn’t know they had owls in the park.”

“Neither did I.”

They heard it again. It was an obvious hoot, soft yet very clear. They looked up.

“Could be calling its mate?”

“That’s in the spring, Dad.” the boy said.

The two of them walked to the foot of the tree and tried looking up. But the branches and foliage were so thick, and the light was quickly fading.

The boy was staring straight up. “I think I see something. Blue and red.”

“What kind of owl living around here is blue and red?”

The boy was cranking his head, trying to line up his focus with a dark gap between the branches. “It’s a macaw.”

“A macaw?”

“It could have escaped from the Gardens. It’s just around the corner, you know.”

The father came up beside his son and tilted his head back. “I don’t see anything.”

A small finger pointed upward to the gap between the branches. “There.”

For several minutes, the father twisted himself in all positions in an attempt to see what they thought was a macaw.

The two boys stifled a laugh. Rob hooted once more. Several more people came over to the tree: an older man in yellow, a man and wife carrying cameras, and a man in a brown coat

“Look at that dude in brown. You ever seen eyebrows like that? They’re huge, “Jason said.

“He’s looking at us. D’you think he sees us?”

Jason switched his position to get a better view of the man. “Nah, if he does, why doesn’t he say anything?”

“Maybe he doesn’t want to spoil the joke.”

“Maybe.”

The man in yellow approached the tree when he heard the hooting. “Sounds like an owl.”

The boy shook his head. “It’s a macaw.”

The man looked shocked. “A macaw?”

The father smiled. “We were thinking that it might have escaped from the Gardens.”

The man shook his head. “I’ve seen and heard owls in the park before, and that’s the sound they make.”

“We hear that, too, but it’s blue and red. You can see it.”

The father showed the man in yellow the gap.

“That’s odd, “the man in yellow said. “I don’t know any blue and red owls.”

The couple who were investigating the tree as if choosing a car, stopped on the path, just in front of the man with the huge eyebrows. “You see them too,” the man said to the odd man in brown.

The man said nothing. He simply put his hands into his pockets and continued staring. But it was obvious what he had been looking at.

“Hey,” said the man with the camera, “it’s kids!”

The father and son scooted over to the clearing and looked up. The man in yellow followed. The two boys, perched on the branch, took off their hats and waved to their audience below. “Did we get you good?”

The son was wide-eyed in surprise, and father stood there shaking his head.

“We thought it was real,” the son said, somewhat annoyed.

The man in the yellow smiled. “That was the best owl call I’ve ever heard.”

The last vestiges of light were scampering for a nearby hole. The man in yellow nodded and said goodbye.

“Well, we’d better get home, my boy,” said the father, “before your mother starts to worry.”

They took off down the road.

Rob slapped his leg. “Man, that was cool. Wanna stay here for a bit and see if we can snare another sucker?”

Jason’s stomach rumbled. “Okay, but I’m getting hungry.”

Rob hooted again.

A couple of high schools students walked past, stopped, looked around, giggled then hurried off down the path.

Jason elbowed his friend. “Look, that weird guy with the eyebrows is still there.”

Rob looked around. The sky faded into a purple-blue colour, trying to hold back the shadows peeking up over the horizon. “It’s kinda creepy up here.”

“Yeah,” Jason said, his voice suddenly becoming creaky, “all the better to scare you with, my dear.”

“Ha, ha.”

When a young man and woman walked by, Rob hooted again. The couple looked up at the tree for a few seconds, then continued walking.

“Hey, Rob, that weird guy’s gone.”

After a few seconds of silence Rob responded. “No, he isn’t. He’s right under us; right under the gap those geeks were staring at earlier.”

“Hey, look at his nose.”

Rob laughed. “Yeah, what a beak.”

“Funny, his hair looks longer.”

“That’s because he’s closer.”

Jason glanced at his watch. It had a green florescent face. “This is boring now. Let’s go get a bite to eat.”

WHOOOOOO!

They were interrupted by a low resonant bellow, sounding very much like a hoot of an owl, but much louder and sharper.

Rob gasped. “Look!” He pointed below them. Two bright yellow-dished sized orbs were staring at them. The orbs blinked. An ear-piercing screech nearly knocked them out of the tree.

“Wh-what was that?” Rob said.

“Probably just those two bird-watchers with a couple of flashlights back for revenge. C’mon, let’s get out of here.”

They started down, but were stopped by what sounded like a helicopter taking off. This was followed by a powerful wind that almost knocked Jason off the branch. Jason slipped and struggled to pull himself back up.

Rob looked down. The two-plate like orbs were larger now, and getting larger and larger.

“Rob, give me your...”

Rob reached down.

AHHHH my leg!” Jason screamed. “Something’s got my leg.”

Rob stared down to see the two giant spheres moving wildly back and forth.

ROB!

Rob was bending and reaching out as far as he could, frantically trying to help his friend. Suddenly Jason was gone and something rocked the branch he was sitting on. He toppled forward, dropping headfirst.

“OH MY GOD... Ahhh...!”

Except for the sound of Rob’s back snapping as he hit the ground, there was silence.

Rob groaned. He lay arms akimbo, forced to stare above him, directly into the gap of darkness the geeks had stared at earlier. From the highest branch, a gentle hoot, sounding exactly the way he had mimicked, filled the air.

The two large globes stared down at him. He looked at something just below those large orbs: something tooth-shaped and gigantic, seemingly split down the middle with a tongue sticking out. He heard a loud flapping and saw wings.

The salty taste of blood filled his mouth. But that was nothing to the ice-cold feeling that was running through his veins. For he now realized that those orbs were eyes, and that the tooth-shaped something was a beak, and the tongue...

He screamed.


Copyright © 2017 by kwiatkowski_walter_bio

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