The wobbly, tomato-soaked letters in my Alphaghetti taunt me with their accidental arrangements. We donâ€™t want to start a fire for fear of attracting attention, so weâ€™re eating the soup cold. I slurp down the artificially-thickened, artificially-sweetened mixture. I smush the pasta with my tongue. No need to chew it; I havenâ€™t used my teeth on anything but tree bark and mushrooms for the past three weeks. I stare into the bottom of the bowl and my eyes refocus out of boredom. I stir my soup, absently.
That one doesnâ€™t count.
You smack your lips in disgust and groan. â€œWhy didnâ€™t we pack something other than Alphaghetti? I feel like Iâ€™m sweating tomato sauce.â€
â€œThatâ€™s because you bathed in a can of it earlier. I tried to stop you.â€
â€œDid I? So thatâ€™s why that fox was licking me.â€
â€œThat wasnâ€™t a fox. That was Patrick Duffy.â€
â€œSo thatâ€™s what heâ€™s been doing lately.â€
We finally returned to the little farmhouse two weeks ago. It was burned to the ground. We found our knitting, but the family was long gone. We saw tire-tracks leading to the highway. The highway lead south. We followed it. We crossed over the Canada-US border last night.
â€œDo you think Zemira and Barnabas got out okay?â€ you ask as we push once more through the brush.
â€œThat depends on your definition of â€˜okay,â€™â€ I reply. You stick your thumb in the air, hopefully.
â€œThen God help them,â€ I growl, solemnly.
â€œThe end is near! BRAAWWK! The end is near!â€
We look puzzled at each other.
â€œBRAAWK! The end is near!â€
A man clothed in bright feathers and a fibreglass beak traipses out from a stand of trees. He has an American flag pinned to his chest and a small microphone hanging from his collar.
â€œThe end is near! BRAWWK! Support our troops! With us or against us! BRAWK!â€
â€œDid we just step into The Magic Flute?â€ you ask.
â€œI think thatâ€™s Bob Woodruff.â€ I reply with amusement.
â€œHezbollah! Hezbollah! BRAAWK! Avian flu! Shock and Awe! BRAAAAWWK!â€
A stocky bald man emerges from behind him, talking on a cell phone. â€œTell Bill: â€˜Pearl-McPhee is fair game.â€ His eyes bulge as he sees us and he slaps the clamshell shut. He scurries up a tree and swings away through the branches.
â€œHey!â€ I chase after him for a few steps and give up when I canâ€™t see him anymore. He said the Yarn Harlot was fair game. But why? Itâ€™s not Knitter Season for another month.
â€œKatarina! BRAAWK! The end is near! BRAAWK!â€
My heart skips. Did he just say â€˜Katarina?â€™
â€œThis is getting really irritating,â€ you say. â€œWeâ€™re not going to have to take this guy with us, are we?â€
â€œOf course.â€ I must have written him into the story for some reason. I think it may have been the mushrooms I ate earlier.
Geez, donâ€™t look so shocked.
â€œCan you at least not have him squawk like that all the time?â€
â€œBut heâ€™s a parrot!â€
â€œNot a parrot,â€ he suddenly interjects. â€œAs well as being a well-known member of the media, Iâ€™m a secret agent. Iâ€™ve been sent to find you and bring you to Washington in my space ship. Also, Iâ€™m very suave and handsome underneath all these feathers, so you should probably decide now which one of you is going to fall in love with me. Are you both straight?â€
â€œIâ€™m of ambiguous gender and sexual orientation,â€ you say.
â€œKinky,â€ he smiles.
Now it’s your turn. What do you do? Do you continue to Washington in the arms of this befeathered media presenter? Or do you pour yourself another can of Alphaghetti?