11 March 2012

A bestiary (Bush Falls)

When I bought a second hand paperback copy of Jonathon Tropper's Bush Falls for fifty cents from a charity shop, it was only to make up a round sum of money with my other choices when I took them to the counter. I thought that I was getting a light, forgettable, humorous read. What actually got was a fine, wonderfully written piece of literature which I enthusiastically recommend to anyone ... but I did get the humour, which pervades the book.

Practically every page has at least one line which I itch to quote ... but this one, echoing as it does my recent A bestiary (2) post, is the one I've chosen.

The narrator, Joe, after nearly two decades of alienation, wants a rapprochement with his family. In this scene he has accepted an invitation to dinner with his estranged elder brother, sister in law Cindy, and their children. The children have a cockatoo, called Shnookums, which they are teaching to talk. We join them in the middle of a fraught conversation...

Before I can ask him what he means, Shnookums comes flying into the dining room and performs a reckless dive into the chicken marinara, splattering the red sauce across the tablecloth as she flaps her wings in a frantic effort to correct her flight path.

[... ... ...]

The bird spins around on the serving platter as if it's standing on a lazy Suzan, unable to take to the air again because of the saturation of sauce in its feathers. Cindy swats at the bird, missing completely but knocking over her wineglass, which spills onto the table, and the wine bottle, which hits the wood floor with a resounding thud. "Goddammit!" Cindy shrieks.

We all watch, mesmerized, as Shnookums finally extracts herself from the chicken dish and takes a few jerky steps across the table, leaving perfect red footprints on the tablecloth in her wake before coming to a stop directly in front of me. "Hey, dickhead," she says, and that pretty much wraps up dinner with the family.

  • Jonathon Tropper, Bush Falls. 2005, London: Arrow. 0099461234 (pbk.)

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