THE FOWL TRICK – A Short Play By Paul Hagen
Lightning illuminates an abandoned railway car, in which sits CHARLIE — a middle-aged gentleman in a rain-splattered trench coat and fedora. Roused from quiet contemplation by a rolling thunder, he stumbles center stage looking rather frazzled.
CHARLIE: I don’t know how long ago, I’ve lost all track of time,
Since someone did this to me — this truly heinous crime.
But I will tell the story of what happened, that I’ll do.
In hopes that no one someday does the same damn thing to you.
I was walking one night through a none-too-wealthy part of town:
Mostly I was moving forward, keeping my head down
When suddenly a creature in a window caught my eye.
I stopped there in my tracks. I had to. I will tell you why:
She was seated in a storefront window, with a sparkling curtain,
Staring out into the street — she seemed determined, just so certain
That once she caught my eye I’d enter, and that’s what I did.
There was something that I had to see, that in her lap she hid.
“What have you got there?” I wondered after stumbling in the door,
Even though I wasn’t really sure what I’d gone in there for.
Why I needed it revealed to me, I didn’t understand,
Then she pulled it from her garment and I saw it in her hand:
At first I thought: This can’t be real — this lovely little thing
But then it turned its face up at me and began to sing.
It trilled and tittered, I was charmed by every chirp and peep
It seemed to beg me: “Take me home!” I watched it squirm and leap
From one hand to the other of the strange, shadowy lady
I asked, her “Will you sell it to me?” though she seemed quite shady.
“I will,” she whispered in a rasp that struck me as quite queer.
“Except it’s very special; so the price is rather dear.”
“It’s just a little bird,” I said. “How pricey can it be?”
“It’s more than just a bird. It’s magic. Watch and you will see.”
With that the bird – who was a rather shocking shade of pink
Became a bold bright blue within the quickness of a blink.
Now that was something that I’d never seen a birdie do.
“But how?” I asked. “I wished for it,” she answered. “So can you.”
And in that moment all these possibilities occurred
The things that I could do if it were my wish-granting bird.
She quoted me a price I found to be, frankly, too high.
I handed her my credit card. “Declined,” she said. “But why?”
I asked. “Have you another card, perhaps?” I had a debit.
“Put in your pin and that should do — since you can’t use your credit.”
I did. She said, “That’s incorrect. Perhaps you could pay cash?”
I emptied out my wallet; she took the entire stash.
And she caged up the birdie, who still seemed to be quite mellow
And by this point had turned a fascinating shade of yellow.
Concerned my cards had not gone through I rushed into the night
Realized I’d left my gloves, I turned – the store was gone from sight
And furthermore, to heighten my alarming state of plight,
The bird had lost all color — now a dull and greyish white.
I tried to call an Uber but it wouldn’t take my card.
And neither would the ATM. I took it pretty hard.
So angrily I called my credit company about
The situation and they said that my card was maxed out.
And desperately I called my bank, for I now feared a con.
They told me my account had been already overdrawn.
Wearily I started walking home, then came the rain.
I wandered here into this railyard, feet aching in pain.
I fell asleep here, on this dusty old cargo car’s floor.
When I awoke after a while my whole body was sore
And then I noticed somehow — on the bird’s crate — that the door
Was open, the bird: gone! I cursed that woman and her store!
For now I had no cash, no credit, my phone’s charge was dead!
How could I let this happen? Had I no sense in my head?
CHARLIE hangs his head in shame, takes a handkerchief out of his pocket and wipes his brow before addressing the crowd again.
So if you’re ever in a none-too-wealthy part of town,
And someone tries to sell you something strange, please turn them down.
Don’t give away your credit card or pin — it could be theft!
Don’t give away your cash — it might be all that you have left!
And if you see a woman in a window — don’t you go!
And if you see my birdie — well… I hope you’ll let me know.
CHARLIE picks up an empty cage and begins to looks forlornly around the railcar for his missing bird as LIGHTS FADE TO BLACK.