The Vow of the Peacock

[Can you impress us in 1500 words or less? Enter the Short Short Story Competition today! Deadline January 15, 2018]


As with many holiday traditions, most New Year’s resolutions have religious roots. Babylonians were thought to be some of the first to make such resolutions, making promises to the gods to return borrowed objects and pay debts at the start of each year. Drawing from this earlier tradition, Romans also made promises to the two-faced god Janus, namesake of the month January.

During the Medieval Era, there was yet another New Years-resolution tradition, known as the Vow of the Peacock, that has fallen out of practice in modern times. In Charles Dickens’ periodical All the Year Round, he wrote about the Vow of the Peacock, explaining that peacocks (and occasionally pheasants) represented “by the splendour and variety of their colours, the majesty of kings during the middle ages”—and were thought to be “the peculiar diet of valiant knights and heart-stricken lovers.” Therefore, in the new year, a great feast was held with a roasted peacock as its centerpiece. Each knight would make a vow of chivalry to the bird, after which it would be carved and divided among all those present.

The code of chivalry—which knights in question pledged to uphold—can be found below. (Click the image to enlarge.)

The Prompt: 

You’re sipping champagne at the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2018, enjoying your celebration and not giving much thought to tomorrow. Suddenly, you notice that there is a large peacock standing beside you. You’re not quite sure where it came from, or if the bird is even real. The peacock cranes its slender neck to look up at you, then politely asks if you intend to uphold the code of chivalry and make the Vow of the Peacock in the new year. What do you do?

[Update #2: I have whitelisted the word “peacock” so that comments containing it will not be deleted. They may go to my moderation queue, however, and it may take me up to 24 hours to approve any pending comments. My apologies for the inconvenience.]

 

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117 thoughts on “The Vow of the Peacock

  1. abufas

    As midnight approached, Chris again wandered off to find a quiet corner. He hated coming to these New Year’s Eve parties, and this was the worst part of all. The kiss. Not just any kiss, but THE kiss. The ultimate cliché.
    He found a secluded corner out on the balcony, thankfully far enough away from the stinking cigars and the loud and intoxicated talk of shop. His only wish was to settle in with his own drink, to weather the storm until it passed, praying that nobody discovered him.
    A few minutes later, the all too familiar sound came from the other room. Ten …. Nine ….
    Why did he come? He desperately wanted to claim illness, but Bob was having none of that. Chris had the “flu” for the last two New Years Eve celebrations, and he wasn’t taking no for an answer this time.
    … Eight ….
    “Hey!”
    Chris’s head jerked suddenly. Was he discovered? Would he have to suffer through another awkward ball drop, wanting to be anywhere else, stuck in an awkward kiss with some stranger who is just as uncomfortable as he is?
    He looked to the left and the right, but there wasn’t a person to be seen.
    … Seven …
    “Over here.”
    Chris squinted his eyes and peered through the leaves of Bob’s half dead shrubbery, and reminded himself to have a talk with Bob about spending a couple bucks on a shrub guy. A pair of eyes appear between the branches, followed by a small head. What the hell is that? A bird of some sort? As the long neck proceeded out of the bushes, Chris could have sworn he saw a peacock.
    He looked down at his drink, wondering if somebody had spiked the punch bowl with some funny stuff. He sure hoped not. But what else could it be? He had to be hallucinating.
    … Six …
    The peacock moved closer, cocking its head to the left. At first, it looked like any other stupid bird with a brain the size of a pea, but looking into its eyes Chris could see much more.
    “Hello Chris.”
    “What the hell,” Chris muttered. “Is this bird talking to me? I’ve finally lost my mind, I’m done for. Time to check in to the padded room. Strait jackets and soft walls for me. Better get ready, Nurse Ratched.”
    “Its OK, you’re not crazy,” the peacock said. Of course, that’s exactly what a crazy man would expect to hear.
    … Five …
    The peacock leaned forward and pecked Chris’s hand, and he felt a massive shock. It was if it was thrown a hundred feet in an instant, and he wanted to throw up, and it felt as if he had lost consciousness, or at least that was the only way he could describe it.
    When he awoke, Chris was dizzy. He wasn’t on the patio anymore. He noticed stone walls, strange tapestries, a large fireplace warming an otherwise chilled space. Her was a table in the center of the room, and on it was a large cooked bird. It took him a moment to realize that it was the same size as the one he had seen on the patio. Had the same shock that knocked him out and took him here done the same to the bird? Was the bird less lucky than him, about to become lunch?
    A faint voice in the distance whispered to him …. Four ….
    What followed was impossible to describe, a blur. Was this a movie, a play, or that cheesy medieval restaurant? Man after man approached the table. Strange language … vows … oaths … codes … what the hell is going on? What the hell did Bob put in these drinks?
    He watched for what seemed hours, the same display repeating itself over and over. To make it worse, Chris thought the cooked bird on the table was looking at him.
    “I think I’m losing my mind.”
    The whisper again …. Three …
    Chris felt dizzy again, he closed his eyes struggling to maintain consciousness. When he opened them, be was back on the patio, the bird staring at him an inch from his face. The peacock nudged him again. This time a smaller shock, but he suddenly understood.
    … Two …
    Chris stood up and did the exact opposite of what he had done for the last few years. He ran towards the party, towards this ridiculous celebration. As he entered the French doors from the patio, he surveyed the room. As his gaze passed the bar, he saw exactly who he was looking for.
    … One …
    Chris felt a bump on his shoulder as he quickly brushed past Bob. He extended his arm and slid it gently around Jennifer’s waist, pulling her in slowly.
    … Zero …
    He looked into her eyes and he did what he had been wanting to do for years. A kiss … with passion … with meaning … yet … knightly? And as their lips touched, he felt that same shock again.
    But it wasn’t to last long. Chris felt a strong hand on his shoulder, pulling him away. As he spun around, he saw Bob’s angry eyes. And out of the corner he saw it at the last second, Bob’s fist crashing down.
    It was a mighty good punch, at least good enough to knock him down, although not enough to knock him out. Chris rubbed his eye and saw some blood on his hand as he took it away. He looked up to see two men holding Bob back. One couldn’t blame him, right? Jennifer was his fiancé of two years.
    Chris wondered what the hell had gotten into him. Why had he done this? But then he spotted Jennifer out of the corner of his eye, standing behind Bob, but looking at Chris. Squinting, he noticed on her scarf a brooch in the shape of a peacock. She had a look of shock on her face, but when he made eye contact, he understood that they had a lot to talk about.

  2. Ry Strife

    A stiff thud bounced into the room, the entrance thrust open to welcome its owner into their apartment. Grey eyes surveyed the room soundlessly, only interrupted by the soft shutting of the door. Walking forward, the figure pulled up a stool, walking off to the refrigerator. Finding what she was looking for, she pulled the bottle from its cold counter, and set it on the counter.

    The clock beeped, signaling the arrival of midnight, and by extension, the beginning of a new year. The woman looked on, opening the bottle, waiting for the beep to finally cease. After a moment, it granted her request, allowing her to pour her first bottle of champagne in peace.

    Sitting upon the stool, her black and white colored room settled her nerves, the draining of the day finally leaving her, replaced with a comfortable indifference. Raising the glass to her lips, she exhaled, the scent of the liquid overtaking her senses. Thinking, she set the bottle back down, turning away.

    The sight of a peacock giving her the buzz she sought for.

    It’s slender neck raised up to her, eyes firmly on the bottle, drifting to her curiously. Seemingly satisfied, it titled its head.

    ‘’You wish to uphold the code of chivalry, and make the vow of the Peacock?’’

    The woman wordlessly turned away from the sight, retrieving her glass. This failed to dissuade the bird, it’s beady eyes refusing to falter.

    ‘’Fair Play. Nobility. Valor. Honor. Courtesy. Loyalty. This is the way to live a life worthy of respect and honor.’’

    The taste of the champagne was paradoxical, its sweetness and bitterness fighting for her very tongue, sliding down her throat silently.

    ‘’Do you pledge to honor these words? Do you pledge to uphold them this coming year without question?’’

    The champagne was poured once more, feet shifting as another cup was downed.

    ‘’Consider before you answer, madam. For this is your very responsibility, your very duty for the power handled to you.’’

    The cycle of shots continued, the bottle lessening, becoming nothing more than an empty vessel. The peacock rambled on, despite the lack of response. She listened well. She remembered it bit by bit, word for word.

    For it asked for the same vow every year. To answer was to cave into its own insanity, for it didn’t matter. No matter the year, no matter the time, no matter the level of success, no matter the many times it should appear, there was only one absolute truth.

    Despite everything, she would never change.

  3. Jennifer Park

    [Now a little break from Darth Barbara.}

    “Do you vow to uphold the code of chivalry, and make the Vow of the Peacock?”

    “What? I’m a f*&^ing peahen! Why would I… Oh, for the love of… Hey, Bob. Bob! Wake up!”

    “Wurgh…?”

    “Wake up, Bob! It’s three minutes to midnight!”

    “Urv… Yes, dear…”

    If I’m going to take a solemn vow for anything, it will be to divorce this loser once and for all. Who falls asleep at a f*&^ing New Year’s party at the Hilton? For all his medieval fantasy dreams, he wouldn’t even take me to SCA. I swear…

    “I love you…”

    F*&^ you, loser. “Whatever.”

  4. Jennifer Park

    33. The Duuumtipaatiiti

    [Follows “The Reassignment” under “Whatever of the year”.]

    Barbara was disappointed and relieved to discover that she was not being offered a position on the secret, galactic cabal—which, of course, everyone denied existing—but on the Council of 30, which controlled the galactic diplomatic corps. Barbara did not want the responsibility of deciding the fate of entire planets’, or entire sectors’, life and death, war and peace, but she abhorred the idea of an overceremonial desk job even more.

    Hence the choice of a well-established model member planet. The Duuumtipaatiiti, unlike most exoskeletal species, were logical to a fault, unemotional, and efficient. They were, unlike most other species, period, honest to a fault. Hence being entrusted with the galactic treasury for this octant and more. And hence their enormous wealth, which did not seem to move them at all.

    They were, also, not complete dummies, and did not trust other species to be as honest as they were. Hence the oath.

    “You are ready, Ambassador?” The Duuumtipaatiiti communicated by tapping on one another’s tympanic membrane in a three-tone, three-length Morse-like code. To communicate with other species or to talk to others at a distance, they had to bang on their own tympanic membrane really hard, which gave them a bad headache.

    Or, they could tap on the broadcaster, which they invented as soon as they achieved modern technology. They invented the translator as soon as they achieved artificial intelligence. “I think so.”

    “You are not certain.”

    The minister was right. One line in the oath rubbed her the wrong way. “‘Show respect to private property.’ You mean wealth, do you not?”

    “Of course.” The minister spread its tail fan up, which meant it was listening attentively. The tail fan shimmered in a rainbow hue that was invisible to the Duuumtipaatiiti, but made many Earthlings consider them to be one of the most beautiful intelligent species in the galaxy. All species appreciated attentive listeners, of course. “We only mean that one shall not unjustly and without due process confiscate another’s belongings. ‘Thou shalt not steal,’ your people say.”

    Barbara could not quite explain her feelings, however. Was it that she had grown up in poverty? That she had just done a round at a planet that practiced commonwealth?

    Was it that she had come to distrust the Duuumtipaatiiti and their well-cultivated reputation for honesty?

    “The Kryzlamei have another saying, ‘Property is theft.’”

    The minister made a strange motion that Barbara did not recognize. Was it… an emotion? “Pardon?”

    “You’ve never heard it?”

    “Property… theft?”

    “Some species believe that wealth should be shared. Public. Not private.”

    The minister almost seemed to make a facial expression. Tricky, with exoskeleton. “That… is unethical. Property is by nature private.” The translator spoke in monotone, but Barbara could almost hear the exclamation points. Anger? Outrage?

    Barbara thought back to her pack of dogs, and how they shared everything they had taken… stolen… plundered… She shook her head, herself confused.

    The minister recomposed itself. “It is time.”

  5. Nyx

    “Well, if it isn’t the bird!”

    “I can’t believe it. I don’t understand.”

    “I never knew birds strive for understanding.”

    “I’m…I’m still alive. I think.”

    “I think so, too. I’m not certain, I’ve had a lot to drink.”

    “Why would you do this for me?”

    “I mean I have just sworn to defend the weak and innocent. And I intend to uphold the code of chivalry!”

    “What about respecting authority and obeying the law?”

    “Still working on those.”

    “Nobody has ever done this before.”

    “You can’t be sure about that. You don’t by any chance have a record of peacocks surviving the aftermath of the Vow of the Peacock ceremonies, do you?”

    “No. I mean, nobody would do something like this. What would the king do to you? What will the knights do when they find out that you snatched their dinner right from under their noses? Oh My Lord! This will be the end of you. The end of us!”

    “I’m glad cult membership is not an exclusively human preserve. And pray tell which lord do you pledge your allegiance to?”

    “This is no time for making jokes.“

    “You’re right, it isn’t.“

    “And I certainly don’t appreciate you mocking my faith.“

    “I’m sorry.”

    “I should think you are. I’d be sorry too if I had just committed the most idiotic of stunts. Stealing the knights’ dinner! And on the most important ceremony!”

    “You know, I’m beginning to wonder if I would have liked you more had I left you on that platter.”

    “Oh.”

    “And I did not steal you. I freed you. You’re welcome, by the way.”

    “Yes, sorry. Thank you. But what now?”

    “Champaign?”

    1. Kerry Charlton

      This is guite amusing, I wasn’t sure the way you were headed, they weren’t going to run off and have a fling so to speak. There is a lot booze flowing with this week’s, prompt, don’t you agree?

  6. ShamelessHack

    3…2…1
    Happy New Year!

    Well.
    What’s so happy about it?
    I’m alone on New Year’s Eve.
    Divorced.
    The kids are living with their mother.
    No one calls me.

    Well, there’s only one thing left to do: take the “Vow of the Peacock.”
    Here goes:
    I do solemnly swear that I will strive to be like a Peacock.
    I will appear in all the colors of a Peacock.
    I further swear that I will not be ashamed of becoming a Peacock.
    Instead, I will flaunt my Peacock transformation.
    I will appear on the cover of Vanity Fair in full Peacock plumage.
    I will get a reality show called “I am Peacock.”
    I will get the proper surgeries to become a Peacock. (Involves certain amputations, nose-to-beak reshaping, feet-to-claws transfer, arms-to-wings reassignment, and lots of feather implants. And I mean LOTS.)
    In short, I will have transformed from my old life of being a man,
    Into what I should have been from day one: a Peacock.

    (Even as a child I suspected that I was a Peacock, but that never went over very well with my parents who thought that turning into a big bird was about as sick as it gets, so I stayed in the Peacock closet for most of my life. I mean YOU never suspected that I was a Peacock did you? Nah, you didn’t.)

    There! Now that I’ve taken the “Vow of the Peacock,” I feel complete.
    This really will be a Happy New Year after all!

    P.S. Don’t look for me at Thanksgiving. I’ll be hiding out in the Peacock Protection Program until it’s all over.

    Bird seed, anyone?

      1. Kerry Charlton

        You are at your best with sophisticated satire and this one is no exception. May you have a great year and a week alone with a thirty years old Ann Margaret.

  7. Jonathan Leighton

    The crowd in the room surrounding me began the obnoxious annual countdown, 3. 2. 1. HAPPY NEW YEAR! I stood at the bar, as usual, enjoying my champagne without a care in the world. Another year going by didn’t matter much, I had me and that’s all I would ever need.
    “Excuse me?” Someone says from beside me.
    I turn and there before me is a peacock. I shit you not. I’m standing there, looking at the bird, it’s looking back at me and then it opens its beak and starts talking!
    “I have an inquiry of you, sir.” The peacock said.
    I looked down at my champagne, out at the crowd, and back at the bird. I thought for sure I had lost it finally. Like my father had back in the day.
    “How can I help you?” I ask, wondering where this hallucination is going to take me, but fully willing to explore my mental faculties. (This wasn’t the first time I’d done acid, so though it wasn’t unexpected, it wasn’t exactly unwanted either.)
    “You see, I have been searching around this city for some time seeking someone willing to uphold the Code of Chivalry and take the Oath of the Peacock.” It said, “Would you be willing to do so?”
    “Okay.” I mutter into the bottom of the glass as I down the rest of the drink. I think to myself, this is going to be a fun night after all.
    “Wonderful!” The peacock replies, “Follow me, please.”
    It turns tail, literally, and walks through the party. Out of curiosity I follow. Not a single person in the room reacts to this bird with it’s tail feathers tightly bound standing no less than five feet in the air walking through the dancers, the conversations, or anything. It just keeps politely saying ‘excuse me’ and walking through as though nothing is wrong with this picture. It arrives at the other end of the room, presses the down button on the elevator with its beak and waits as though its just another person waiting for the next one down or something. There I am, following behind this thing like an idiot, stop at the elevator and wait as well.
    “It’s a very nice party.” The bird says to me! Can you believe it?
    “Thanks, I guess.” I say before I can’t help myself, “Are you really here, or are you some kind of trick of my mind? Did someone drug me?”
    “Oh, I can promise you I’m very real.” The bird replies. “I suppose, as you are about to take my oath, I should introduce myself. That is the proper thing to do after all. I am Fiona, Princess of the Peacocks.”
    “Nice to meet you, Fiona. I’m Tom, Director of Marketing.” I reply, doing my best not to laugh.
    “You seem amused? Is my name funny to you?” Fiona asks, her tail feathers ruffling slightly.
    “No, no, not at all. It’s just been a hell of a night.” I reply, not wanting to upset her royal highness, as the bell to the elevator dings and the light turns on above the door.
    “Very well,” She said as the doors opened, “this way, please.”
    We get in the elevator and she presses a button, but I’m too drunk to notice which one, and we ride the elevator down. She watches the lights above the door count down from the 35th floor. The doors open and I realize we are in subbasement 2. She steps off, and I follow, in my ignorance, and she leads me through he basement to the boiler-room door.
    “Open please.” She says flatly, more of a command than a request really. “A gentleman always opens the door for a lady, such as myself.”
    “Okay, lady.” I reply opening the door only to be blasted by the heat coming from inside. “So we really have to go in there? Can’t I just take the oath here?”
    “You can take the oath in my kingdom, where you will become a knight.” she replies as she walks through the door with her head held high.
    “Your will be done, m’lady.” I reply in jest as I follow her through the room past the pipes, water heaters, and heating systems for the building. She walks as though she knows where shes going, so I don’t question it.
    We arrive at yet another door, unmarked this time, and she simply stops in front of it. I stop behind her as well as though something is going to happen, and when she clears her throat I remember what she said. I fell over trying to get to the handle quickly, and proceed to hit myself with the door as it swings open from air pressure on the other side.
    She walks through into pitch blackness. I hesitate at the door. I really should have turned around, but I didn’t, I followed her through the doorway.

    One thing led to another, and before you know it I’m knighted, under oath, and here in the Frog’s Throat Tavern in this little town of your’s on my way to fight a jaguar or something, i’m really not sure, with a sword.
    “That is a crazy story, mister.” The small boy says when I finish my story. “That’s really all it took to become a knight?”
    “That’s it, kid.” I reply downing probably the worst tasting mead I’d ever had. “Happy 2019, by the way. Keep an eye out for pigeons for me, will ya?”
    I rise and leave the tavern to pursue my ‘destiny’ which will probably get me killed, but at least i’m true to my word.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      What a trip you lead with your story. It is fascinating with it’s realism, matter of fact story telling. Perfect response to the prompt this week and thanks for the ride.

    2. writer_sk

      Jonathan- this was a well-told journey.

      Good attention to your main character’s self-awareness. His relentless assessments kept my guard up waiting to see what would happen to him.

      1. GrahamLewis

        I was going to point out that it’s the male with the big feathers, but then I thought what the heck we’ve already got a talking, polite bird so why worry about reality? Other than being nagged at by that thought, I found it an engaging piece and enjoyed the journey.

  8. JRSimmang

    A CONVERSATION BETWEEN GODS

    If the grapes don’t come from the Champagne region in France, then it isn’t champagne. It’s sparkling wine, and it’s awful.

    I only purchased champagne, and I only sipped it.

    “I’m old,” I said to the peacock. “And, so are you.”

    “Unfortunately, that is true,” he replied. “However, you won’t survive unless you do.”

    “Death?”

    “Obscurity, a figment, a fragment, a puff of smoke. We don’t die, we are forgotten.”

    “Then, what’s the difference? Do I continue to be a hopeless old man, or do I, year after year, sacrifice myself so that knights can eat from me? How very Promethian of you, by the way.” I sipped at my champagne again, and rolled the idea over in my head.

    “That hasn’t happened in a long time,” he huffed.

    “Still,” I continued. “How long was it before the kings found it hilarious that the peacock was the symbol of majesty? Vanity, thy name is royalty. Pride, orgulousness, bombast, that is the peacock, not majesty. You know, the peahen is plain, dull, able to camouflage. That would have been a better choice. Self-fulfilling prophecy.”

    “Zeus is dead.”

    I gagged on my champagne, spittling some onto my chin. “What? What did you just say?”

    “I said, ‘Zeus is dead.'” He met my eyes. “So is Hera. And Hephaestus, and Aphrodite. We are all who remain. And, our survival depends on the vow.”

    Silence percolated between us while I finished my champagne.

    “Hades?” I asked.

    “Oh, alive and well.”

    “Well, that’s something.”

    “Listen, Hermes, I know we’ve had a tenuous relationship, and I’m sure you feel like I do. We were just doing our jobs. Now, it’s time to do like the Romans and look ahead as we also look to the past.”

    “Was that a Janus reference?”

    “Yep. And someone I think our old friends and family would have wished as real.”

    I poured myself another glass of champagne, and looked at Argus. “Well, at least Hera made you gorgeous.”

    He bowed his head. “I’m no Hermaphroditus.”

    “Oh, don’t get me started on that. That child…”

    I toasted to the vow, hopeful that my old wings would still spread some chivalry. We’d need it.

    -JR Simmang

    1. Kerry Charlton

      After writing this, I’m heading up to read this all over again. There is a lifetime of thought in it. Your writing climbs above whatever we down here write about.

    2. Kerry Charlton

      This is my third.time trying.to a response.to you. There is a lifetime of thought on.your story
      I’m headed back to read for a third time. Can I use the word brilliant? I should think so

  9. Kerry Charlton

    THE VOW OF THE PEACOCK

    You’re sipping champagne at the stroke of midnight on January 1 2018 enjoying your celebration and not giving much thought to tomorrow. Suddenly, you notice there is a large peacock standing beside you. You’re not sure where it came from or if the bird is even real. The peacock cranes it‘s slender neck to look at you, then politely asks if you intend to uphold the code of chivalry and make the vow of the peacock in the new year. What do you do?

    “Well for God’s sake you big bird, what made you ever think I didn’t follow the rules?”

    “Well Kerry, it’s seems you’ve slipped a little.”

    “Well bird, it seems you know my name, why shouldn’t I yours?”

    , “Why certainly, it’s Josephine, your brother-in-law named me when he rescued me so many years ago. You do remember?”

    “I thought he was telling me one of his tall tales. I knew him well enough to realize he might have. Can you refresh me?“

    Josephine settled down in front of me and spoke softly,

    “I had a lot of brothers and sisters and cousins and we wandered his neighborhood, Snapper Creek Estates, in Miami because it was gated.. The family started to dwindle in count and we learned some illegal’s were climbing the gates, stealing us and cooking us. .I had watched very carefully one morning but one of them grabbed me and then another. I started to yell.”

    “Oh I do know how loud you can be, what happened”

    “We saw a man sprinting down the road carrying a large shovel.. The ruffians just laughed at him as four or five surrounded him. He took one swing, hit one square on his rear end and sent him sprawling.”

    “He did that with a garden shove?”

    “Yes and you should have heard him.

    “It sounds like Bud all right, I can imagine.”

    “I’m deadly with a shovel, one of you will be missing your head on the next swing. Now leave the peacocks alone.”

    One of the geeks walked up to Bud, who stood five foot eight,

    “Hey man, you’re crazy“

    . Bud swung again but stopped the shovel short. The goof ball was on the ground with his hands holding his head. Bud stood there with a foot firmly placed on the man’s chest, managed an insane look on his face,

    “I am, I am crazy, do you want to know how much?”

    They broke and ran toward the gate. Your brother-in-law aimed his remote and politely opened it for them. We never saw any of them again. Do you get the picture Kerry?”

    “:I do Josephine but I’ll never match him at it. We have some bird seed and suet at the house, would you like some?”

    “Since you asked Kerry, I’d rather have some Old Crow. Make it neat please.

    .

    :

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks Teatha, I didn’t need a whole lot of imagination on this one because the story is true. I enhanced just a little bit. You would understand if you have ever met Bud.

          1. Kerry Charlton

            Hello Moirai Tampa is the rear end of South Florida. Miami, Ft.. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach is where the action is. I didn’t,’t realize when I grew up there. So I labeled my early biography,”Living In Paradise And Not Knowing It.”

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thanks John, it is fun to draw from real experiences. My brother in.law was something else. He’d have to be, married to my older sister.who graduated from highschool at 15 and worked as personal secretary to three bird Colonels At the Pentagon.at the age of 17.

  10. creaturescry

    Under the full moon of the new year something peculiar happened, and signaled a change for the better. Sadly the only two witnesses of said event was a peacock and a mysterious being. So it fair that no one believed the proud bird when he told him his story, turning their backs to the once reputable bird. Then one day a party of three came to the now ancient bird with their own story to tell and a mountain of questions. There was goblin, the griffin, and the gargoyle. All outcasts of society themselves, and hated by most of mankind for all their trickery. But now they were serene and polite, not to mention sitting at the same table as a grand bird.

    “Tell us what happened,” the griffon asked, eyeing his distant relative with hawk like eyes.

    “Why must you know,” the peacock scoffed, taking a swig out of an old champagne bottle, “you three tryin to give me trouble?”

    “No sir!” the goblin insisted, “we’ve heard crumbs of your tale on other tongues in other lands, but we need to hear your version for clarity on the matter.”

    “We saw something,” the Gargoyle added, “something which might have a connection what you witnessed.”

    “Alright,” the Peacock nodded thoughtfully, “then i must tell you, but please bear in mind I’m drunk and old so the story might be tainted.”

    Without any further questions the majestic bird began describing the night and the moon. The sweetness of the air, the lush grass, and the singing of the river close by. All three of them felt themselves swept away into the past by his rich descriptions, even to the point where they felt as if they were standing next to the bird at that moment in time. Then a shadow appeared before them, looming over them with such great power it shook their souls. It spoke to the peacock for a short while, then took the time honored vow before vanishing.

    “Did you see its face?” the griffons eyes widened in alarm, “anything?”

    “Yes, for a split second I saw it,” the peacock admitted, “it was like a dragon of some kind with pearl white scales and black horns protruding out of its slender back…”

    “Did it have the eyes?” the Gargoyle interrupted, “and the red dots around them?!”

    “Yes it did,” he said, “three black eyes.”

    “So it had to be…

    “Septor the Gort, the lost savior of the creature kind,” the Peacock announced, then murmured, “but how did you know about the honorable Septor?”

    “Because we found in dead in the west land,” the Goblin sighed, rubbing his forehead.

    “Then we are nearing the end,” the peacock said solemnly, “it’s only darkness from now on.”

    1. writer_sk

      Ooh I really liked this. I agree, you could continue to a longer piece.

      Well done. Cool setting; i pictured them standing on a building where there are other gargoyle statues.

  11. Moirai-TQ

    I took a nice long drink of my whiskey when I saw that colorful bird to my right. He blinked at me like I knew why he was there.

    “What do you want?” I growled.

    “I was just wondering if you were going to take the Vow of the Peacock this year? It really is a most noble act.”

    My look should’ve caused him to back away, but he held his ground.

    “My name is Henry. Henry Peacock.”

    He was really annoying me. I squinted my eyes some. He was not deterred. I curled my lip and growled again. Flashed my teeth. Nothing.

    “Tell me about this Vow of the Peacock? What do I get out of this vow?” I slouched down a little and continued to just stare at “Henry the Peacock.”

    Henry ruffled his tail out more. His feathers were rubbing on me. Most annoying. I growled at his tail and he pulled it in again.

    “Well, the vow is that you must live a good life. Be kind to all men and beasts. Always tell the truth. Does that sound like something that you can do?”

    I sat and thought for a minute. My empty stomach was making it difficult to think. I should order food.

    “I don’t have an answer for you right now. I will talk to you after I eat.”

    I got up to walk outside. Henry followed me. I was hoping he’d do that. I turned the corner, crouched on all fours, and tore into that bird. How I loved being a wild dog. I guess I won’t be taking the Vow of the Peacock.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      As long you cook it, you might. And invite a guest or two. Now that the bird is gone, will it matter. How about a part two with the Peacock coming back.

        1. jhowe

          Moirai, the hints were perfect. Just enough so you go, oh yeah, at the end. I’m sure there’s a moral to this story somewhere, something about a lower food chain creature avoiding sharp teeth.

  12. jhowe

    The writer rejoiced but still he harbored fears of the unknown. He felt reassured he could write from the heart without fear of the spam filter, at least to a certain extent. He could wait 24 hours for the moderation process; hell, sometimes it took six months to get a response from an editor. He tentatively began:

    After seven cocktails, Purvis peered into the empty tonic bottle. His next drink would have to be gin on the rocks. He had plenty of gin and lots of ice. His girlfriend may complain about postponing sex night but Purvis needed another drink after the peacock incident. He filled his glass with ice and poured. The bird shifted from foot to foot, seemingly impatient, but Purvis took the time to drain his glass.

    Purvis closed one eye and said, “What?”

    “If you could refrain from becoming snockered, maybe we could discuss this like adults.”

    “Adults? You’re a damn peacock.”

    The peacock quivered as he fanned his magnificent tail feathers. Apparently, there was considerable effort needed for such a task. The bird said, “Behold – the vow of the peacock beckons.”

    “I already told you, I ain’t making no vows.” He filled his glass again. “Here, drink some of this. Maybe it will give you some insight.”

    The peacock knocked the glass out of Purvis’s hand with his claw. The other claw slipped on an ice cube and the bird fell on his ass, rumpling his feathers.

    “Look what you’ve done,” the peacock shouted. His feathers dripped and he stank of gin. “I can’t go back like this.”

    Purvis drank form the bottle. “Hell, you’re the one that started it.”

    The writer stretched and shook his head. There was no suitable ending for this. He submitted his work and settled in to wait and see for himself if it would post.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        John, you always deliver.Most amusing, even though the filter shut me down for last week. I swear it was clean as a whistle. The filter is becoming a pain in the as#.

  13. Laeril

    One minute to go until midnight and Jayden was thoroughly enjoying himself with his friends. Even if he was the designated driver for the group. Still, the sparkling apple juice he had snuck into the party was delightfully bubbly, and the atmosphere in the house was bright and hopeful.

    Thirty seconds to go. Time to find the bathroom, but not because he had to use it for the usual function. He was going to need a bit of privacy for what would happen at midnight proper if the pattern of the past ten years held out.

    The bathroom he found could have used a remodel but would serve his purpose well. He took out his phone from his slacks pocket and counted down. “Five, four, three, two, one!”

    As shouts of “Happy New Year!” came from the other side of the wooden door, Jayden looked down to see just what he had expected: a peacock, tail feathers currently at rest.

    “Happy New Year, Jayden,” the peacock said, his voice rich and velvety and a hint of an English accent.

    “And a Happy New Year to you, too, Wybert!” Jayden smiled, taking a sip of the sparkling apple juice. “And Happy Tenth Anniversary of… whatever our relationship is.”

    If a bird could smile, Wybert probably would have. Instead, he sighed. “Jayden, there is something I need to ask you.”

    If it had been any of the other ten times that this had happened, Jayden would have prepared himself to give a full reckoning of his year; both failure and success, where he had improved from the year before and where he could improve now in being a chivalrous man. But Wybert’s voice was different from the years before. The tone of his voice wasn’t asking for a moral year in review. He was asking for something far more personal.

    Jayden bent down toward the exotic bird, placing the glass of juice on the counter. “What’s wrong, Wybert?”

    Wybert looked at Jayden with a wavering voice and an almost fearful look in his eye. “Will you promise to never forget what you’ve learned from me?”

    “What’s going on, Wybert?” Jayden asked, tears starting to form in his own eyes. “You aren’t dying, are you?”

    “No, Jayden. But I am afraid that…” There was a pause as the bird tried to keep its composure “…that I am no longer assigned to visit you like this.”

    Jayden’s tears were flowing freely now. After its first occurrence when he was twenty-one, these yearly visits were a lifeline for him. Not only did Wybert teach him about what it meant to be truly chivalrous in a world that found such a concept outmoded and even problematic, he helped him in so many other ways. At twenty-two, Wybert gave him encouragement on his difficult job hunt after college. At twenty-three, he gave him advice on how to survive a broken heart, and the next year congratulated him on his engagement to Lucy. Twenty-five saw him terrified of fatherhood. Twenty-six saw him on another job hunt. Twenty-seven was perhaps the scariest year when his and Lucy’s relationship hit a particularly rough patch. And when his dad died when he was twenty-eight, well, he thought his world was ending.

    But Wybert had been there each New Years Eve, giving hope and advice and even a metaphorical shoulder to cry on.

    As if reading his mind, Wybert spoke. “Yes, we have been through quite a lot, haven’t we? But times must change, dear Jayden. You are thirty-one now, and soon it is you who will be giving advice to the rising generation on what it means to be chivalrous in this world.”

    Fumbling for some toilet paper in lieu of facial tissue to wipe his face, Jayden could only say “I will always remember what you’ve taught me, Wybert.”

    “And I will always remember you, Jayden.”

    Noon on the first day of the new year. Jayden sat in his living room, watching his son and nephew play with the foam swords they had gotten for Christmas, his face solemn.

    “Dad! Mason stepped on my toe” came Christian’s whine.

    “Nu-uh!”

    And suddenly Jayden’s eyes lit up. Standing up from the couch, Jayden said “Boys, if you are going to play knights, you need to learn more than just how to use a sword. You need to learn about chivalry”

    And somewhere, Jayden hoped, a peacock smiled.

    1. writer_sk

      Hi! Welcome. I like your writing style. You fit a nice arc including background into a short time. I liked the characters’ as relationship.

      The ending lines wrapped everything up.

      I think if you want to edit and still say the same thing you could leave out irrelevant stuff like “slacks pocket” and “wooden door”

    2. jhowe

      Very uplifting and well written. All I could think of for this prompt was humor but you managed to create a talking peacock that worked well. Nice job.

  14. cosi van tutte

    I wasn’t drunk.

    That was a fact.

    Okay.

    One sip of champagne cannot make a person drunk.

    That. That was also a fact.

    But the bird was still there with its big, fussy tail all fanned out.

    It tilted its head left.

    It tilted its head right.

    Other than the sheer audacity of its presence, the bird was acting like a bird. Nothing too outlandish there.

    But then it pulled a monocle out of…I swear. I don’t even know where it pulled the monocle out of. It just pulled it out of its neck feathers or thin air. I just don’t know. “Pardon me, sir. Do you have any Grey Poupon?”

    “Huh? Does this look like the kind of party that would serve something upper crust like that?”

    He scanned my fellow partygoers – all of whom looked like they escaped from a truly trashy reality show. His beak dipped down in disapproval. “Oh dear. I’m afraid not.”

    He stuffed the monocle back into his…feathers? Whatever? “Ah, but you seem to be a man of higher distinction than that rabblicious group.” He clapped his wings together as if they were hands. “Do tell me. Do you intend to uphold the code of chivalry and make my vow in this upcoming year?”

    “Wha? Uphold the what what what and make the what? I mean, not that I wasn’t paying attention, but what?”

    “Oh dear. They don’t teach the old ways anymore. What a pity. I will have to kidnap you then. I do hope you don’t mind.”

    ‘Wha?”

    “Of course, you don’t mind.” He flew upwards until we were face to face. “I do hate to do this to you, sir. You seem so amiable.” The bird smacked his small head against my forehead.

    That knocked me out.

    Somehow.

    I swear I have no idea how.

    It’s not like I was drunk or anything.

    I just had one sip of champagne. That was all.

    *sigh*

    I’m hoping that was all a strange spiked champagne hallucination or something.

    I’ll know for sure whenever I regain consciousness.

  15. indigohat

    He flicked the ink from his pen and turned back to his work. The hallucinations were becoming more realistic. If he was lucky, he could finish this manuscript before they took over. The bird gave a shake and from the corner of his eye, he saw it puff up into an almost unimaginable size and it’s giant fan of a tail unfurled behind it chattering. He squinted his eyes on the paper and continued to write “… should not come before church or mankind.”

    A tiny feather drifted down from above. He tried not to focus on it but his eyes traveled up to follow it’s gentle rocking motion down, down until it landed silently, solidly on the page. He reached out slowly with two fingers and plucked it from the page and stared at it. The bird gave what sounded like a purr.

    “What say you, human? Will you say the oath?”

    He turned stiffly to glare at the beast. It stood, eyeing him, chest puffed out, almost filling the tiny room. “You.” He stated jabbing his finger out towards the bird. “Do not exist. I bid you leave me.” The bird cocked it’s head on it’s slender neck. “I don’t exist.” It replied flatly. “But here I stand.” “Ah hah! You admit it then. Be gone!” He exclaimed, a drop of spit flying from his mouth, his sleeves hanging ragged on his body wrists. The bird didn’t leave. It’s head made a bobbing motion.

    “I do actually exist. I was just taking a stab at being agreeable. I’m here. I exist. And you are overdue for taking the oath.”

    “What oath, you vile creature. An oath of the devil’s visions? I say again, be gone.” “You do say again but I shall not. As we have established, I exist and I can no sooner be gone than you could cease to exist, yourself. You have called me and you must now take the oath.” A ripple went through it’s tail feathers and it stood taller, if that were possible.

    “I did not call you, creature. You’ve made a mistake. See there? Now you can leave.” The bird chortled and landed a solid peck on the leather bound journal that lay beyond his pages. “But you did.”

    The king straightened his robe and glared at the journal for a moment and then back at the bird. “That is done and behind me. It was misguided at best and more likely my damnation. And I summoned no such creature, besides.” He glanced at the door and lowered his voice. “You are but another of my damnable hallucinations brought about by too much focus on the details of the dark arts. Had I known better… I’d hoped…” His voice trailed off. The bird cocked it’s head.

    “So you’ve let them convince you you’re mad. It’s the end of humanity as you know it and rather than fighting this war with the tools that only you have managed to muster, you throw them away at the behest of men who have no plan nor vision of how it may be fixed. They sit in your “castle” (as it were, though this tower of glass doesn’t compare to the castles of old), eating the last of the edible food, stoking fires with the last of the fuel and you hide away with the only knowledge that might save you all. Aren’t you a gem.” The bird dipped it’s neck and pecked at the tile then bobbed again and eyed him.

    “That journal. That was ages ago… and I summoned nothing. Be. Gone. ” He sat up straight and glowered at the bird.

    “Look, it takes time to get here. It’s not like birds such as I are plentiful these days.” It glanced around pointedly. “And yes, you did. I seem to remember a night of howling winds, when gasts pounded the walls. You fell to your knees and cried out the words. Your knee still aches, if I guess correctly.”

    The king absently rubbed his aching knee and then snapped his attention back to the bird. “How would you know such a thing?” And then “All old men have bad knees. I am old, bird. It was a good guess.”

    “And the pounding on your door, the red wax candles that you hid away before they pounded their way in? It was a different room though.. Much… cleaner.” The bird said pointedly, sweeping his long neck around to take in the dirty dishes, wadded pages, dust laden shelves.

    The king sat for a moment, his words taken from him. No one could have known that plea occurred. Except of course, his own hallucinations.

    “What if I swear the oath.. Will you leave then?” He hissed, glancing once again at the door. The bird bobbed his head. “I could leave you this night, with the swearing of the oath.”

    The king gripped his hands together, his fingers white.

    “Tell me the oath then, bird and be gone.”

    “You know the oath. Speak the words.”

    “I… I don’t… let’s see… To… protect the weak. And defenseless. Right?” The bird bobbed it’s head. It felt as if the room grew warmer. “To… To give succour to widows and orphans! Yes. And to refrain from the wanton giving of offence. To live by honour and for glory. To despise pecuniary reward. To obey those placed in authority. Wait… To fight for the welfare of all.” The bird bobbed his head, seeming to smile a wide smile. He inhaled deeply, smelling dust and mold. He needed to clean. Where were the maids? “To guard the honour of fellow knights. I have no fellow knights, you know. They don’t exist. That’s the problem. If we could find our way back to the old ways, we would find our way back to our people and to an effort that might make a difference, you know. I wrote… ” The bird rolled it’s eyes if that was possible. “The oath, man.” It said.

    “Yes, yes… To eschew unfairness, meanness and deceit. To keep faith. At all times to speak the truth.” He felt the frailness of his limbs. How had that happened? He needed to train. “To persevere to the end in any enterprise begun. To respect the honour of women. Never to refuse a challenge from an equal.” he paused. “And Never to turn the back upon a foe.”

    The bird stared. “You’re still here.” he said. “Do you so swear?” The bird asked. “I do. This I swear.” Lightning flashed outside and a terrible pain wracked his body. His heart! He clasped his chest. His head felt like it shattered. He clutched his head and fell to the floor. The pages on his desk caught fire. He slapped up at them feebly. The bird loomed over him and pecked his shoulder.

    “Arise sir knight and go forth.. And do.” The bird said. In the next flash of lightning he was gone. “I’ll be back tomorrow.” An echo said behind him. “Take a bath, please, before then. You smell something frightful.”

    1. jhowe

      This was a well written, complex story that I really enjoyed reading. It seems you gave this a lot of thought and incorporated the code of chivalry very nicely. The only thing I’d suggest is to separate the dialog into paragraphs for each speaker. Well done.

  16. writer_sk

    The champagne came to my tongue slow and wet. The bubbles lingered in my mouth, a symphonic crowd crying out from the stands. All at once New Years Eve melted away from me, and the spacious ballroom my rich sister-in-law had rented out was now a vacant black oasis. My plate of crackers and caviar my brother’s wife’s money had bought slid to the expensive linen table cloth as the table itself ceased to exist. Like it would on any night, my lonely mind drifted to Amelia. She had left me six months ago and tonight would’ve been tolerable save for her dancing with another man at the very party I attended.

    I looked at my own hands and touched my arms. I was still alive. I saw a bird approaching on spindly legs. The unique plumage indicated to me it was the interesting and alluring peacock.

    The peacock won’t display his feathers unless he wants to. They exist for one reason: to attract a mate.

    I was on my back went I woke up. My eyes focused on Amelia. She was wrapped in a shawl on the roof of the building in which we just were. The peacock walked by and settled itself near a pillar from which exhaust of some kind spilled.

    “Do you see that bird?”

    Amelia turned to look at me.

    Her face and neck were as turquoise as the peacock. She looked into my eyes with her bird eyes and left to return to the ballroom.

    “How did I get up here?” I asked a guy who offered me a cigarette.

    “I don’t know you, I’m David. Have too much to drink, son?”

    “Do you see that bird?” The peacock rose and walked towards the door back down to the party.

    “No, sir, I don’t see anything, can I call you a cab?”

    A cold January wind bit at my neck. People were leaving the party and my brother called me over, grabbing me in a fake chokehold.

    “Happy New Year,” he said, “Diana and I will be in touch to set up brunch with you, mom and dad soon. Take care, Oliver.”

    I smiled but my eyes betrayed my plastered on optimism. Maybe someone had slipped me a drug and I was hallucinating. I felt drawn to the peacock and pulled my coat on forgoing formal goodbyes and season’s greetings.

    The peacock had his feathers down and was streaming down Fifth Avenue. I broke into a light jog, the sweat feeling good as it formed a glass-like clear shield all over my body. Sting’s “Roxanne” came loudly blaring out of a dive bar next to a diner at which Amelia and I once ate.

    “You don’t have to put on your red light” came the repetitive refrain.

    The peacock lay, dead with his feathers out, unceremoniously having dropped on the sidewalk.

    Amelia peered out the diner window as I sat down beside the dead bird and sobbed.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      What a weird and wonderful piece. Even though color plays such a role, I see this as an obscure black and white French film from the sixties. Also, great first line.

    2. jhowe

      Very unusual and interesting. The man with the cigarettes and the brother-in-law served well to keep some reality going but then Amelia and the peacock seemed dreamlike. I enjoyed it.

  17. ReathaThomasOakley

    A Marie Story
    October 1954

    (Immediate continuation of story from October 23 prompt, which I will need to edit at some time. The other Marie stories take place prior to this.)

    “Why’d you think I’d hurt you?” Frank hadn’t said anything since he’d pulled Marie up from the pier behind the ice house, opened the patrol car door, and told her to get in and scooch down. Even after he’d stopped she hadn’t moved, her knees still on the rough floor mat, her face down on the leather seat reeking of sweat, and that other odor, the one she couldn’t ever seem to wash off no matter how hard she scrubbed.

    “I ain’t never hurt no woman,” he laughed, “nor a girl.” She could smell the lighter fluid before she heard the click of the flint and smelled the tobacco burning.

    “Can I have one a them?”

    “Ain’t smokin’ bad for children?” He tossed the Camels onto the seat next to her ear. “You can get up, ain’t no body gonna see you here.”

    “Yeah, I know, know where we are, road back of the ‘gator Farm,” she raised her head, shook a cigarette out of the pack, waited for him to light it. “I heard the peacocks.” She crawled up onto the seat, brushed the dirt and gravel from her knees. “I hate that sound, like somebody gettin’ her throat cut.”

    Frank laughed again, “But, it ain’t the peahens makin’ that racket, it’s the c@cks, wantin’ what they’re wantin’.” Marie thought he was making a joke, but didn’t understand.

    Marie rolled down the window, too much smoke getting into her clothes, but then the stink of hundreds of alligators just behind the wooden fence filled the vehicle.

    “Roll that back up,” Frank reached over her when she hesitated. “God, I hate that smell.” He drew heavily on his cigarette. “Now, why’d you call the station? You ain’t never s’posed to do that.”

    “Yeah, I know,” Marie leaned back in the seat. “Frank, you remember first time I saw you? When that deaf lady’s son said Granny’d poisoned their dog? You got outta this very same car, uniform all starched and sharp ironed, probably by Mama or Aunt Ida at the laundry, boots and belt all shined up, I swear that badge of yours just sparkled in the sun.” Frank laughed again. “I thought you looked just like some knight in shining armor from King Arthur’s Round Table or some place.”

    “You read too much,” Frank ground his Camel out in the ash tray.

    “Yeah, I know that, too.” Marie closed her eyes. “Frank, somethin’ I gotta tell you.” She breathed in hard and tried not to hear the peacock screaming just over the fence.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Jess, sorry to be making so much work for you. I forgot to replace c0ck with c@ck the first time I posted, please take out one attempt. Again, I apologize. Reatha

    2. writer_sk

      Reatha- This was powerful. I could feel Marie’s humiliation. I detected some confusion mixed with admiration. I’m going to go back and read some I missed.

      The use of smells was really well done.

  18. GrahamLewis

    I wish this board had an “edit” capability, or at least allowed you to remove and replace. What about it, Jess? In any event, I realized I had left out part of the first paragraph of my piece “Home To Roost” so I offer this in its stead. I think it’s more complete. Sorry for seeming to try and hog attention. GC

    HOME TO ROOST

    Shouts of “Happy New Year” rang around the room, permeating the lingering strains of “Auld Lang Syne.” Confetti drifted down and glasses were raised. Another year gone, another year of sincere resolutions and promise had slipped by. Erasmus Collins stood by the huge plate glass window, looking out at a landscape of stiff snowbanks and sharp icicles. What a cold, dark, stark world. It hadn’t been easy to carve out his company in a tough, dog-eat-dog environment. He’d paid a price, but so had anyone who stood in his way.

    A moment later he blinked, took off his glasses, and rubbed his eyes. He put the glasses back on, and stared harder.

    There, midst the ice and snow stood a male peacock, tail fanned wide, buffeted by the swirling wind. It seemed to be staring back at him. Erasmus looked around the room to see if anyone else had noticed. Apparently no one had, everyone apparently absorbed in the libation and licentiousness involved in welcoming in the new year.

    He walked to the foyer, got his coat, buttoned up against the cold, and walked outside, and around the building. The bird had moved into a corner, out of the wind, tail fanned even more widely. What the hell, Erasmus thought. He tried to think if any zoo were nearby, but the cold seemed to be sapping away his ability to think clearly.

    A moment later the bird spoke. “I wondered when we would be meeting up. Erasmus. I’d of thought you’d pick a more exotic locale, rich old man that you are, but you always were an odd bird.”

    Erasmus stared.

    “So that’s how it will be, Erasmus my friend. Okay by me. You know the drill.”

    “I do?”

    “Course you do. The rules of chivalrous conduct are there for everyone to see. You know what they are, or you knew anyway.”

    “I did?”

    The bird sighed. “This almost makes my next question irrelevant, but I have to ask. Have you lived by those rules? This is your last chance.”

    Erasmus only gaped. “So be it,” the bird said, and folding his feathers, walked into the darkness. Erasmus lunged after it, grasping at nothing. He looked desperately about him. “I should have known,” he said, to no one. He felt incredibly cold, and leaned back against the building, then slid down onto the cold hard pavement. “I should have known,” he said again, and closed his eyes. His head slumped forward.

    The snow clearing crew found him next morning, tears frozen on his cheeks. One rock hard hand inexplicably clutched an iridescent peacock feather.

    1. writer_sk

      Graham-

      Nice approach to the prompt. Your bird had a sinister vibe. You nailed the cold tone throughout.

      I liked the line where the peac@ck calls MC an old bird.

      Well done.

  19. Denise

    (It should be noted that this is only the second time doing the writing prompts. As this is relatively new to me, please feel free to educate me if I’m not doing things according to the rules. Thanks.)

    It took me a minute or two to process that this magnificently multi-colored bird spoke to me. I watched as he sashayed before me waiting for my response, pondering his question.

    “Your vow is quite noble and complete. It seems to embrace all the actions of humanity.”

    “Thank you. We thought long and hard about what the vow should encompass,” the beautiful strutting bird replied.

    “As much as I would love to tell you that I would uphold your code of chivalry and take your vow, I can’t.” The plummed bird came a sudden halt. His long slender neck boldly made its way to my face.

    “And why not my dear? You just stated that it embraces all the actions of humanity. Aren’t you human? Don’t you want to embrace them?” he stated with a touch of intensity.

    “No need to get your neck all twisted, I mean no disrespect,” I said as I took a step back from him. “You see I do live by a few Golden Rules of my own, a sort of code of ethics–chivalry if you prefer.”

    “It cannot be as complete as ours.”

    “Au contraire my feathered friend, it is.”

    “Do share,” he sarcastically replied.

    I carefully thought how I would explain my Golden Rules to him. After all, he was a bird, an intelligent bird, but a bird none the less. He waited impatiently, craning his neck, pecking at the dramatic landscape he bore on his back. The reflection of colors flashing in his eyes as he went from one feather to the next. He paced back and forth, gently hovering his nose over the drinking glasses of the people around him, inhaling the fruity aromas of their cocktails. Unexpectedly, he snapped his neck in my direction. “Well, the new year is almost here. Are you going to say anything? What are these Golden Rules?”

    I took a sip of my drink. I lifted my chin in an attempt to crane my neck in the same confidence as my plumaged pal. “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” I waited. He bobbed his head back and forth and furrowed his brow.
    “Not bad. I see the logic,” he reluctantly said as he lowered his head. “Are there any others?”

    “I do have another I’d like to share.”

    “Who’s stopping you? Share.”

    Once again I positioned myself in conviction. “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”

    “I don’t see the relevance?” he said with a huff.

    I had to remind myself once again I was talking to a big bird. I wasn’t sure how far I would get with a rebuttal. “If you love yourself–respect yourself that’s how one should feel about a neighbor–friend or whomever. And if you have that kind of aspiration towards others, it ultimately leads you to the first Golden Rule–you wouldn’t want to treat someone in a way you wouldn’t want to be treated. Simple.”

    “Well, I guess you may have something there.”

    “I know I have something there.” I raised my glass with a nod of my head and took another sip. “Would you care for one?”

    “Like I can hold a glass, don’t be ridiculous,” he said with a slight smirk. “But I do give you kudos for daring to come up against me. Most people are usually quite inebriated by this time of evening and will agree to anything. Although you don’t agree to uphold my code, your code is just as good–even though I wouldn’t admit it anyone else.”
    “Thank you for that. For a bird, not you’re not a bad fellow.”

    “And for a human, you’re not a bad gal. I guess if everyone followed both of our codes, the world would be a better place,” he said spreading his feathers.

    “Agreed.”

    The clock struck 12 and 2018 began its journey into our lives one tick at a time. As I raised my glass in celebration, my new feathered friend raised his long iridescent tail, and together we toasted in the new year.

  20. bchapman0331

    I bow my head to honor the beauty before me. I confess, the gesture gifted a moment to compose my reply. Rising, my head mirrors the peacock’s gentle, but much more elongated, head tilt.

    “My dear friend, should I take the Peacock’s Vow, your splendor and beauty would be plucked to feather my belly and honor. But should I honor the words, and not the meat, we would but dine on another of your kin. Perhaps a chicken, a turkey, or even a non-feathered boar would celebrate the feast of vows and chivalry. I do not know why we must kill another to celebrate our vows of love, friendship, and the gathering of kin. Your question, my friend, is the seed of countless others.”

    The peacock’s head turned and stretched. I thought he was peering around and within me. “And so, my friend- for that is how you addressed me- I ask again, will you make the Vow of the Peacock?”

    “Would it dishonor your nobility for me to refrain from the meal but feast upon its heart?”

    “And the Vow of the Peacock?”

    My hands fold against my heart. I bow both back and neck. “I shall take the Vow of the Peacock.” As I rise, my fingers grasp a feathered eye tail feather from his plume. “I now have partaken of your wisdom. I have left your honor as it is. And I shall wear the eye of fearless questions and let their beauty speak.”

    “You have spoken well, and I return your bow. But what of others who bring the feast to their vow?”

    “I shall hold my honor. With valor I shall reason with the others. At the least I shall respectfully distract. While you, my friend, run and fly as quickly as you can. It is a new year and one can hope.”

    The clock’s midnight striking merged with the whoosh of wings. I heard gunfire celebrating the new year and wondered where the bullets might land. But, still in my hand the feathered eye stared back at me.

  21. Jess Zafarris Post author

    Oh, for the love of Zeus. Evidently the name of the bird is setting off our filters. I’m putting in a ticket, but in the meantime, it would appear that “Peac—” works. My apologies.

    1. Jess Zafarris Post author

      UPDATE: I have updated our site settings so that comments containing the word “peacock” will not be blacklisted—but they may go to our moderation queue, in which case it may take me up to 24 hours to review and approve it. I have also removed a number of other common “semi-offensive” words (insert eye-roll) from the blacklisted comments list, including “sex” and a couple of other words that might just come up in everyday, nonoffensive conversation. These may also go to the moderation queue.

      1. ReathaThomasOakley

        Jess, my husband saw the prompt and laughed, I was stopped twice because of this bird, again for Alfred Hitch…, then for S#X, and at least one other thing I can’t remember right now, oh, the word p@rn, just the word, no examples.

        I fear you might exhaust yourself taking care of the folks here, but I appreciate your efforts, and your willingness to address issues.

  22. Pete

    Here we are again. Complimenting each other. Smiling and sipping champagne as the jazz band bee bops through the Ellington standards.

    Cheryl is fighting the crowd to the restrooms. New Year’s or not, I know she’s off to check a source on a story. Not me. I am fat and happy. My assignment days over. I have the table to myself because everyone is refilling and congratulating each other and taking a moment to scroll through the world for the latest.

    The champagne is good, better still with the Stolichnaya vodka from the bar. It’s ten ‘til and a new restlessness has the ball room unsatisfied and anxious. There’s a small crisis over near the lounge. None of us can sleep without wondering what the other guy is doing.

    Try as I might, I can’t leave my own device. The president has sent out a tweet, declaring war on East Germany. More champagne as laughter explodes across the room. I laugh but there’s nothing in it. I knock back the Stoli’s. The ball room glows with smiles and jewels. A peacok joins me at the table.

    “A bit overdressed, aren’t we?” I say to him, her, or they. The peacok cranes his neck. He looks put off at my lack of luster. As though he were still a giant of the industry. As though the clogged internet and blogs weren’t picking him off one feather at a time.

    “Look, just…don’t,” I say, my drink a swirl, my clothes too tight. “You and I both know our time has passed.” I gesture around the room. “This is gone. All these people know it. And that Brian Williams may not have known it then, but he does now. Cute Katie knew it. Give it up, we’re done.”

    He huffs. His feathers pulse. I loosen my tie, suddenly laughing. “Yeah, you too, buddy. I mean, your whole existence was to show off the ‘richness of color programming’.Take a minute with that one, okay? You’re AM radio, pal. Horse and buggy.”

    I reach for another champagne. My head swims, the music warbles. “Look at them, with the phones, the watches. Soon it will be something else. News is moving. What, do you think they’re going to sit down at six o’clock, see what’s happening over at the five and dime?”

    The peacok turns to look. When he turns back, he’s not looking so regal. The Stoli’s keeps me numb. Mean. I scoff. The hubbub has broken up in the lobby. I glance down at the Twitter feed to find that the president has doubled down. Not only are we at war with East Germany, we will see to it that West Germany is the greatest thing anyone has ever seen before.

    I drain the glass. A single feather falls to the floor.

    “So what was it like?”

    The peacok honks. I wipe back my hair. “I mean, the old times. Kennedy. Watergate. Hell, the Brokaw years. The fall of the…” I check my phone and shake my head…“of the Berlin Wall?” l let my shoulders drop. “I’ve forgotten what it was like, before the days of Brittany Spears sister’s pregnancy.”

    Another snort. A ruffle of feathers. I suppose he’s still ticked about the horse and buggy thing. “Look, maybe we can adapt, but everything is on demand. News. Reading. Streaming.”

    The band takes a set breath. I see Cheryl shimmering towards me, a bemused look on her face. Troubling, because I can’t tell if this Peacok is real or just a corporate gimmick or perhaps just a stupid metaphor I’ve dreamed up for the crumbling network. Could be I’m just loaded.

    I look at my champagne flute. The metaphorical gimmick-y peacok shakes its head.

    “Okay. No, I shouldn’t have buried the piece on Buswa. But starving children don’t get clicks. Matt Lauer does.” I shake my phone at the peacok. “East Germany does.”

    The peacok stands as Cheryl arrives. I get to my feet in a bout of sloppy chivalry. She regards me with raised eyebrows. I watch the peacok strutting off in a spread of feathers, I take in his richness of color programming. Proud. Regal. Patient. An endangered species.

    Cheryl asks how I’m feeling. I fell…inspired. The band takes the stage as the countdown begins. I take her hand. She smiles. She says she found her source.

    And so have I.

    Happy New Year.

    1. writer_sk

      I liked your use of the NBC peacock as a metaphor for traditional news reporting. The sights and sounds of the party were well done.

      In my opinion, one thing I might tweak is that I would’ve liked if it started right away with MC at the bar w mr. Pea.C. and then circle back to details of Cheryl chasing leads and more about how they met or something.

      Good job. Great concept.

    2. writer_sk

      I liked your use of the NBC peac*#k as a metaphor for traditional news reporting. The sights and sounds of the party were well done.

      In my opinion, one thing I might tweak is that I would’ve liked if it started right away with MC at the bar w mr. Pea.C. and then circle back to details of Cheryl chasing leads and more about how they met or something.

      Good job. Great concept.

    1. Jess Zafarris Post author

      I have updated our site settings so that comments containing the word “peacock” will not be blacklisted—but they may go to our moderation queue, in which case it may take me up to 24 hours to review and approve it.

  23. rlk67

    This wasn’t in Doctor Dolittle. Even so, this rather polite bird was waiting patiently for an answer.

    “So? What will it be?” the plumed thing whispered with an accent from who-knows-where. “Shall I go through the rules again? I really don’t mind.” No, please, not the silly ‘Vow’ speech again.

    I fidgeted in my chair. “Of course you don’t mind, sir. It means you get to live a little longer.” Did I just call a bird ‘sir’?

    He smiled. “And I appreciate that. But I do need an answer soon. There’s the matter of paperwork, you know.”

    “Well, I suppose it won’t hurt to tell you the…um…truth.” I sighed. “You see…” We both tilted our heads at the same time.

    “Yes? Go on.”

    “It seems you’re too late.” I waited for a reaction. A few feathers went down, that might mean something.

    “Too late, you say? My sister Penelope beat me to it again, huh?” Angry bird alert.

    “No, no. It’s just that…I already took the Oath of the Chicken.” It was a half-lie, really.

    “The Oath of the Chicken, you say?” He was getting testy. “And just what is that, may I ask?”

    I took a gulp of champagne and then a deep breath. “Well, it’s like this. Never attack an enemy, period. Always let bigger people go in front. Melt in front of authority. Run away from at least four challenges per week. Never make eye contact with someone from New York. And heaven help me, never ask a girl out for a date.”

    He stared, then began to pace. “And this is your idea of living life with respect and honor?”

    I tried not to raise my voice. “Well, look at you! Here you are preaching about some chivalrous code of conduct, and after you finish your speech and some guy accepts, what happens next?”

    Ahh…I made a bird sweat. I can write that on my resume.

    “Um…I guess…I…well…”

    “Yes, that’s right! HE SLAUGHTERS AND EATS YOU! GEE, SOME CODE OF CONDUCT!”

    He backed away. “Splendid point, yes. Ok, so be your chicken. See what I care.” And with that, he vanished.

    I laughed as I quickly finished my third bottle.

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