CRACKED SHELLS

Mr. T looked on wide eyed as the battalion floated and soared and finally disappeared through a

thicket of clouds. He paced up and down in deep thought. Stopping once to stare
back up at the skies; then resuming his pacing again. His knees started
complaining so he had no choice but to sit. Pulling a chair from the front
porch, he propped the chair by the baobab tree and sat down. All this while, his
eyes were on the sky.
Swoosh! Woosh! He started from his chair in a fright. He must have dozed off for a couple of
minutes. The battalion settled down once more, they huddled in groups of four
and five, clucking at each other and clicking at their wings. Oh, how he
admired them, beautiful creatures with such amazing capabilities. They were
oblivious to his presence, all they knew and talked about was their beautiful
feathers and colourful beaks.
Magpie quirked his head at the loner, sitting and watching his colleagues in obvious awe. He
walked slowly towards him, noticing the look of envy plainly showing on his face. ‘Er herm!’
Mr. T turned and saw the smartest looking fellow, standing with his hands behind his back. He tipped
his spectacles with the edge of his wing and popped up his heels.
‘Greetings to you sir! I can’t help but notice your admiration for our small group. Mr. T smiled
sheepishly, he mumbled something and took a step back.

‘That’s ok. I am not complaining. By the way, my name is Magpie and you are?’
‘Mr. T’ He said with a smile, he was a bit stunned that one of the creatures he admired so much had
actually taken interest in him. ‘Are you busy tonight? I have a mean bottle of Don Perignon.’

Magpie said with an encouraging smile. He couldn’t find a single reason for his interest in this poor fellow but something just intrigued him.
He watched the play of emotions across Mr. T’s face with hidden amusement.
‘It’s ok if you can’t make it. I suppose I can drink it all alone.’ He said with resignation. Magpie
didn’t really intend to drink alone, matter of fact he could barely keep a shot
of wine down but he couldn’t think of any other reason to get to know this
creature. His fascination with him kept growing by the minute.
‘No no, you don’t have to. But ..’ Mr. T barely finished when Magpie quickly interjected.
‘Good. Thank you so much then. I truly have to go but I will be along later in the evening to pick
you up. A pleasure to meet you once again.’ He said while walking towards his
group. His last comments drew a couple of curious stares from the group but
they were too involved in comparing levels of flamboyancy to pay attention to
him. They left in the same huddles they had stood in a few minutes later after
Magpie gathered them and muttered a few words Mr. T couldn’t hear.
He stood at the base of the tree, still contemplating the exchange that took place between himself
and Magpie. It was all he dreamt about anytime they rendezvoused at his
compound. And now, he is too stunned to celebrate. He walked quietly to the
settee he was dozing on about half an hour ago with a pleased smile on his face
and sat down gingerly as if expecting pinpricks to attack his butt with the
vengeance of the porcupine. He sat, elbows on knees head bowed toward his
crotch still smiling. Then after a while he relaxed further. He knew exactly
what he intended to gain from this unplanned and unsolicited establishment of
friendship. He closed his eyes and continued with what was interrupted, his
sleep.
Magpie stood with his arms at his back, he rocked from his toes to his heels once more, adjusted
his spectacles and smiled as if he was pleased at Mr. T’s outfit. ‘We are going
to my favourite French restaurant. I hope you enjoy oysters and spinach. Perfect
combination in these times when we have to watch everything we eat.’
‘Yes, of course. We can never be too careful.’
They had a good meal and returned to Magpie’s house for a few more drinks. Somewhere between the Don
Perignon that went with the meal and the Scotch they took at home, Mr. T had
turned into a massive talkative. He couldn’t stop going on about his fascination
with the Magpie and his group.
‘Creatures of flight always fascinate me, I keep wondering how you do it.’ Mr. T said.
Magpie had gotten quiet in the midst of the conversation and was watching Mr. T carefully. He had
a strong feeling that T’s interest in his group’s ability goes a little beyond
awe. He squinted his eyes as if in serious thought then blurted out, cutting T
in mid sentence.
‘Are you interested in giving it a try?’
Mr. T choked on his last swallow of scotch, spat it out in a painful hiss and jerked forward,
making his shell smack the back of his in a loud ‘cluck!’ noise. Magpie winced
in pain at the sound.
‘Okay, be careful there.’
‘Yes, of course. What did you say? No don’t repeat it. Damn! Yes, but how…’
‘Let me worry about that. Within our group, we have another sub group of elite gentlebirds. We
specialize in making the impossible real and I think you are right in our alley of interest.’
‘But how will you do it?’
‘You let me worry about that Mr. T. I will keep in touch and let you know about further
developments. Let me get the chauffeur to drop you off.’
Weeks passed and Mr. T didn’t hear a word from Magpie. He watched the sky for a sign, he checked his
mailbox for any message, he sent Magpie email reminders but still no response.
He finally gave up, assuming Magpie’s partners refused and he was finding it
difficult to break the news. Sometimes he would sit under his tree and wonder
if it was something he had done wrong. Maybe he seemed too excited about the
idea. He couldn’t help but go back to their conversation, now he can remember
the squinting of Magpie’s eyes when he almost jumped out of his shell in
pleased surprise.
Maybe he should have acted nonchalant about the idea; a bit hesitant and lack of interest. He passed
out with a bottle of Herbadingo by his side. Suddenly he was jolted from his
sleep. He flopped of out his shell and landed in his bare minimums, he turned around
in fright, pushing back on his ass with his hands and feet. Then he saw Magpie,
standing next to his settee and empty shell, looking at him with an equally
startled and embarrassed look on his face. He averted his eyes and fixed his
gaze at a distance 90 degrees away from Mr. T.
Mr. T. self consciously pulled his knees up to chest and sat there on the floor to gather
his wits about amidst the awkward silence that ensued. He got up quietly and
half crawled, half walked to his shell, picked it up and put it on. Magpie
coughed loudly and uncomfortably.
‘Greetings Mr. T. sorry if I startled you. My apologies.’ He turned on that and smiled widely at
Mr. T who was still trying very hard not to coil into his shell and stay there forever.
‘That’s alright. I must have dozed off a bit. Must be one of those days …’
‘Sorry Mr. T but we do not much time to waste. We must get inside right now before the others get
here.’
‘What is going on?’
‘It’s that time of the month again Mr. T. we are to take off. I thought you kept track of us.’
Magpie watched T with a quizzical look.
‘Yes, of course. You are right. Erm, what do you want me to do?’
‘To do? Come on now. I thought you expressed interest in going with us this time.’ Mr. T nodded in
shocked affirmation.
‘Yes so let’s go. Quickly, my legion will be here anytime from now and we can prepare you.’
Mr. T followed Magpie into his house and not long after, the legion arrived. They were ten of
the most colourful flight creatures T had ever seen and he couldn’t stop himself
from staring. They brought along two large wings made from a variety of bird
feathers and they fixed them on T’s back. They initially tried it with his
shell on but realized it made him too heavy. Mr. T therefore had to strip down
to his boxers. The legion taught him how to fly and covered him with more
feathers to enable him blend in with the others. Then they went out on the
patio and watched the others trickle in one at a time for the take off.
Mr. T had never felt this alive in his entire life, he watched the huge trees he was never able to
climb and never taught of going close to thin out into tiny drops of shrub
under him. He swooped through the clouds and closed his eyes in ecstasy.
Nothing, absolutely nothing, has ever felt this good all his life. Magpie and
the others noted Mr. T’s quickened confidence warily; he seems to be forgetting
that he is still a ground creature. They watched him do back flips and nose
dives. He went so high at a point, they got slightly worried.
‘Maybe you should go check on your guinea pig Magpie.’ Chickadee said. Chickadee was part of the
legion but she was not convinced that Magpie could pull off such a feat as
getting a ground creature to fly. She had her inhibitions but the demands of
the many outweigh that of the few. She snickered at Magpie when he ignored her
suggestions but then kept her thoughts to herself.
Magpie was a bit worried about Mr. T, he has noticed over excitement and prayed it wears off
soon. Whoosh! Mr. T swooped past them in a nose dive, shouting all the way down.
‘Woohoo! Woohoo! I will never feel this elsewhere. Woohoo!’
The others looked on uncomfortably, they made a few more turns and it was ready to return back to
the ground and disperse. The flight creatures had established this occasional group
flights as a form of keeping in touch and maintaining connections. They travel
from far and wide to fly together and when it is over, they disperse to their
respective homes.
‘Mr. T! Time to go now.’ Magpie yelled.
‘Why, it is not yet dark. Let us run another round again, please.’
The other birds started giving them stares, they were wondering why a full grown flight
creature was acting like he’s never flown before.
‘What kind of name is Mr. T? Is it an alias?’ Flycatcher asked.
‘Oh no. that’s my name.’
‘Mr. T!’ Magpie yelled but he had disappeared behind a cloud with Flycatcher.
‘Your name is T? I assume that’s a short form. What’s the full name?’
‘It’s Tortiose.’ And then Mr. T realized his mistake by Flycatcher’s reaction. He let out a loud shriek
and flew away from him. There was visible fear in his eyes.
‘Tortoises don’t fly. Tortoises don’t fly. No no no no no.’
‘Wait, I meant to say..’ Before Mr. T could finish his sentence, Flycatcher had already flown
towards the head of the flock. Suddenly, the flock changed directions. They
headed back to the take-off sight in a frightful speed. The moment directions
changed abruptly, Magpie knew there was trouble. He started searching for Tortoise.
‘Mr. T! Mr. T!’

‘Yes, I am here. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. Flycatcher … ‘
‘Oh no. he’s told the lead. You have to hide.’
No sooner had he said that, they saw Eagle baring down from the horizon.
‘A flying tortoise eh? I must say Magpie that you have outdone yourself.’
‘Quick Mr. T, run, go, fly away!’
Mr. T swirled around 360 degrees in confusion and instantly went into what looks like a suicidal
nose dive. He headed straight for his cottage. He could hear the angry birds
right on his tail. As he flew to safety, all he could think was ‘So this is
what a near death experience feels like’. He looked back one more time at the
flock of creatures soaring at his heels with Eagle in the lead and he missed
his way. He run smack into a large Boabab branch and lost one of his wings. He
slid down the tree, landed on an extended branch ass first, twirled into a
somersault and felt face first into his sleeping settee. He got up, run quickly
into the house, disregarding his bruises and cuts, pulling all the feathers
attached to him. He locked himself in his room and waited.
‘You can’t be here.’ Magpie’s voice came from the darkness of his room and he almost jumped out of
his skin.
‘They will hurt you. Quickly, put on your shell and other belongings. You have to move out.’
Chickadee said. Magpie turned to her in surprise.
‘What are you staring at me for? I wasn’t happy about your idea but I won’t let the poor creature
come to harm.’
They helped tortoise to quickly pack his furniture and other personal effects into his small Volkswagen
beetle. They said hurried goodbyes with promises of protection and sincere
apologies for his trouble. Then they heard Eagle let out an angry shriek.
‘Quickly, get in and go.’
As Mr. T sat in the driver seat, he couldn’t fit in it. Magpie and Chickadee pushed him but to no
avail and there wasn’t enough space in the car to place his shell even if he takes it off.
‘Unless.’ Magpie said
‘Unless what?’
‘Take off your shell.’
Mr. T obeyed without compliance. What choice did he have with Eagle’s bellows getting closer? Magpie
picked up a rock from nearby and started smashing the shell.
‘What are you doing?!’
This is the only way, we will give you something to put it together when you find a safe place.’
Magpie cracked Mr. T’s shell and placed the pieces on his dashboard. He then added a bottle of the
adhesive used in attaching the feathers to Magpie with an additional transparent liquid.
‘Mix these two and use it to bind them. It will last forever. I’m sorry my dear friend. You must
go now.’
‘It’s ok, thank you for the experience. Bless you with many more wits and intellect. Goodbye
friend.’

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