AtoZChallenge. April 5, 2018. The Early Bird Catches the Worm
26 posts. 26 days. And 26 letters of the alphabet, one post beginning with each letter, in April.
Follow me as we visit the not-quite-normal retirement village of Twilight, Arizona, where reality clashes with the unexplained.
The Early Bird Catches the Worm
Ed Robinson couldn’t think of how to get rid of his new neighbor. Frank Sabino followed him around like a puppy, yapping with as much enthusiasm.
“You an early riser?” Frank asked, cupping his hands to light a cigarette, part of a filthy habit that joined his nosiness.
“Why?” Ed unscrewed the motion detector light over his front door and capped the wires.
“The morning sun must burn into your rooms something fierce.” He puffed smoke into the afternoon air.
“The morning sun is one of the reasons I bought this unit.” Ed couldn’t believe his luck when he’d wandered into Twilight, Arizona after getting lost on a trip to Phoenix. The corner unit, one of fourteen in a “U” in the Twilight Palms complex, had a grass courtyard instead of the usual gravel, as well as plenty of trees. He’d spotted the for sale sign and made an offer on the spot. He’d moved in a week ago.
“I guess the early bird catches the worm,” Frank said.
Ed’s hand stopped in mid-air. Mild panic zipped down his back, but he shook it off. “Why’d you say that?”
Frank shrugged. “Don’t know. Hey, you wanna to get breakfast with me tomorrow? It’s Wednesday roundup at The King’s Table. I’ve got a buy one get one free coupon.”
Ed jumped down from the step stool he’d been using. “Sorry. I’ve other plans for breakfast.” And if he didn’t, he’d find an excuse to not join his neighbor. He’d moved to Twilight to be free of social obligations. From now on, he’d do what he wanted when he wanted. No more holding back and hiding his true nature.
“Anytime you want somethin’, I’m the man to get it for you at a discount. Senior meals, produce at a discount—still fresh, mind you—free tickets to museums. I’m the man.”
“I’m sure you are. Excuse me a minute.” Ed opened his front door and escaped, not inviting his neighbor inside. When would the guy take a hint and go away?
Frank waited for him when he came out a minute later. He’d taken over the glider Ed had set on his minuscule front porch and rocked back and forth so hard you’d think he churned butter.
“Sure is a nice piece you got here. Did you get it from Lois and Jill?”
“Who?” Ed hung a hummingbird feeder from a hook on the overhang.
“Guess you haven’t met them yet. The lesbians three doors west of you. They used to be Lois and Deb, but I guess there was a falling out cause one day Lois came back from The Bargain Den with Jill instead of Deb. They buy and sell used furniture. Hey, maybe they can find you a bed. Saw when you moved in you didn’t have one.”
That’s not any of your business.
“Don’t worry about me.” Ed stepped back and admired the feeder. He looked forward to seeing his feathered friends again.
Frank stood, banging the glider into the side of the concrete flowerbed Ed shared with Russ and Judy Frasier next door.
“You got them bee guards on that thing?” Ed asked, standing on his toes to inspect the feeder. “They swarm to any kind of water here in the desert.”
“They won’t to mine.” Ed smiled, showing his teeth in what he hoped was a nasty way. “I’ll bite their heads off.”
Frank did a double take then took off his Cardinal’s hat and scratched his head. “Well, I’ll be.”
“Got to go. The early bird catches the worm, you know.” Ed waved and darted inside. Frank was going to be a problem, but nothing he couldn’t handle.
* * *
Twilight had banned external mailboxes. Thieves drove into the village looking for the telltale red flags, pushed up by Grandma and Grandpa sending cash in birthday cards. Theft of credit card applications wasn’t too far behind in the thieves’ preferences.
Now the United States Postal Service delivered through slots cut in the exterior walls of each unit. Junk mail and catalogs fell into cardboard boxes or baskets inside. The elderly had to toddle to The Mart or catch the mail carriers for any outgoing cards.
Ed had taken the metal flap off the mail slot the day he’d moved in. He needed to provide easy outside access, unseen by any nosy neighbors or pedestrians in the alley. One could never be too careful, especially when harboring a secret.
He woke early, triggered by a primitive internal clock. The sun hadn’t risen, but he sensed it over the horizon, eager to send tendrils then fingers then broad swaths of light into his side of the world.
Ed shook himself and hopped off the perch where he’d slept, his head tucked under his wing.
He reveled in the transformation his body completed once a month during the dark of the moon. For sixty-two years, he’d shifted into a bird, the species changing at whim. This month, he fancied morphing into a thrasher, one of the most accomplished singers in the Sonora Desert. He wanted to sing his good fortune.
Did he resent the change? He’d accepted never been able to live with a woman or have children, but how could family compare to the freedom of flying?
He flapped his wings and arrowed his body to the open mail slot, emerging triumphant into the alley. Twirling with joy, he flew to the open courtyard, pleased to see movement under the green blades of grass.
Yes, the early bird does catch the worm.
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Twilight, Arizona, all the stories now available on Amazon
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Don’t want to wait until April 30th to read all twenty-six Twilight stories. For a limited time, they are available on Amazon for 99¢. From Arizona Heat to One-Zero-Zero, read and enjoy twenty-six stories set in the strange retirement community of Twilight, Arizona.
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Tomorrow’s AtoZChallenge, April 6, 2018, The First Wednesday of the Month
Coupon clipping Frank Sabino never saw this big deal coming in tomorrow’s story
Until then, blessings,
p.s. Ed Robinson next appears on April 24th in Under the Shade of a Thin Tree
p.p.s. Lois and Jill appear in The Bargain Den.by