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Fan Fics

La Dolce e Acida Vita
By Craig M. J. Marinaro

It was a gorgeous, starlit night, without a cloud in the sky. The moonlight bathed the statue of Martin Scorsese, giving the two figures perched atop an unearthly glow. Bobby noticed what a spectacular view the statue provided. He'd seen this park every day for years, but for the first time in his life, he looked at it.

The tiny spots of dew on the grass glistened in the moonlight. The tree branches swayed ever so slightly with the gentle breeze. Suddenly, a stronger gust shook the leaves. The figure next to him snuggled up closer. He took her wing and looked at her. She smiled lovingly. Neither of them said anything. Nothing needed to be said.

Her golden feathers were softer than silk in his hands. He noticed that one feather had slipped out of place and fallen over deep blue eye. He pushed it back gently. Something about the way she looked at him...when the moon hit her eye...it was just like...like...

"A BIG PIZZA PIE!"

Bobby jolted upright. He looked around to find himself slumped against the bottom of a garbage can in the park. It was near dusk. Pesto and Squit were perched high above him on the rim of the trash can.

"A big pizza pie, he promised us!" Pesto was ranting. "We send him out for dinner, and he says, 'Don't worry, guys, I'll pinch us a whole wingin' pie!' 'Bada bing,' he says. 'No problem!' he says! Then we find him catchin' forty-something winks over here!"

"Ah, turn off the caloric, ya demented buzzard. So what, I need a little rest once in awhile...not all of us get to take a three-hour nap every afternoon."

"Hey! I need my nappy!" Pesto replied defensively. "I don't take my nappy, I get cranky." "Well, one thing's for sure...it ain't beauty sleep!" Squit laughed.

Pesto smacked him. "Shut up, Squit."

"Yeah, stow it, Squit."

"Sorry."

"Well, while you was playin' Rip Van Winkle, me an' Squit got our own grub. Some old lady was feeding popcorn to a buncha pigeons, and she was 'kind' enough to 'donate' the whole bag to us." He chuckled.

"Actually, Pesto, we kinna nabbed it from her..."

"That was *implied* in what I said! I implied it! I think it was pretty obvious. You got the implication, didn't ya, Bobby? You don't think I was being vague, right?"

"Ah, chirp off." Bobby flapped his wings and disappeared over the horizon.

Squit turned to Pesto. "What's up with him?"

"Pheeew! Your breath prolly drove him off! Here, lesse if we can't dig you up an after- dinner mint somewheres..." Squit followed obediently.

~~~

Bobby muttered to himself as he flew over the city. "Bah...don't even bother saving me any food! That's gratitude...how often have I gotten them nicer meals than their

squabbled brains could even imagine? Well, I’ll show 'em...I'll get a whole pizza, with everything on it, and I'll eat it all by myself! And then I'll get beakin' sick! Sicker than either of those two ingrates could ever dream of getting!" His stomach growled happily. He closed his eyes happily, in anticipation of the feast awaiting him.

Not so happily, he missed the window he was aiming for by half a foot, and smacked into a wall. As he plummeted, he successfully regained his composure. He then turned his attention to the task of regaining his airbornness, and realized that if he had it to do over again, this would have been at the top of his priority list. But we can't live our lives twice, so the next sound he heard was a rather unpleasant little SPLAT, all the more unpleasant in that it involved him.

Picking himself up and dusting himself off, he flew again into the air and swooped into the window, which happened to lead into a nice-looking Italian joint down below, called Manfredi's. He landed on a table in the comer.

"Oh, lookit this! They got red-and-white checkered tables over here! Now *THIS* is eatin' in style! I hope I'm not underdressed..."

A waitress wandered casually up, and delivered a monotone dialogue that by this point came second-nature to her. "Hey there. My name's Angelina, and I'll be your waitress tonight. In your place, You will find a large folded booklet labeled 'MENU.' It contains descriptive names that should give you an adequate idea of what our various dishes consist of. Once you have made a selection, you are to tell me or another designated employee of the restaurant, and you should receive a plate of food within a satisfactory amount of time. We have found this to be a very effective system of serving our patrons. The menu is *NOT* for consumption purposes. Do not attempt to ingest it. Thank you."

"?!?" questioned Bobby.

The proprietor of the place, an overweight, stereotypical Italian, marched up furiously.

"Mama mia! Another pigeon, eh? This place, she's-a goin' to the birds! Well, we never turn away a customer yet... But if you gotta do-a you' business, at least try to do it on one-a the white checkers, eh?"

"Sweet Momma Leone!" Bobby exclaimed. "What kinda guy do you think I am?! I thought this was a classy joint! The very implication...rigatone!" He flew back out the window as fast as his wings would carry him.

"Aaah...now we lose another customer! What am I a-doin' wrong?"

"Maybe you should take the edge off," Angelina advised. "Be a bit more pleasant to the customers! They come here to have a good time, now to have a big, grumpy Italian guy screaming at them."

"Oooh...but it gives me a feeling of inflated superiority, and adds fun and flavor to my otherwise dull workaday existence...it's-a no fair."

~~~

Bobby opened his eyes. His head was throbbing. Glancing casually down, he noted that it was resting on solid granite. He decided he didn't like the sensation this produced, and so attempted to persuade the granite to move away from his head. When it staunchly refused, he began the surprisingly difficult task of relocating his own head.

He raised it slowly, and glanced around at his surroundings through bleary eyes. He was sitting on a stool, one of many, each elaborately connected to the top of a small, dingy- looking birdbath. He groggily looked in front of him, and was startled by the face of a hardened-looking old bird with a scar across his beak staring him down. Bobby started. He then promptly finished, at the realization that sudden movements didn't do much to improve his headache.

The old bird was Joe, the bartender. He stood on the inside of the birdbath, leaning over the granite rim to stare at Bobby. "How ya doin' there, Killer?" he said, as he returned to wiping the grimy stone surface with his barcloth.

"Stupendous. How da heck ya think I'm doin'?!" Bobby slurred. "Gimme anudder."

"I give you anymore, you won't be able to stay on that stool. And it's a long way down!"

Bobby grabbed him by the neck. "I don't plan to stop until I can't tell which was *IS* down! Ya got me?"

"Sure," Joe muttered, yanking himself away, and filling up a glass with water from the bath. He slid it Bobby's way. "Incidentally, how were you planning to pay for all this?"

"Start up a tab."

The barkeep glanced at a collection of drinks sitting in a special compartment on the far side of the bath. "Sorry, we got no Tab. Maybe you'd like a Pepsi One?"

Bobby winced, and took a chug from the glass. Joe went back to scrubbing the bartop. This had no apparent effect, beyond wearing the rag down to nothing. He smiled a faint little smile and glanced up at Bobby.

"I suppose you've got a long, sad story to tell me, huh? Well, I'm here all night...may as well get started..."

"Nah, I got nothin'. Why don't you tell me a story?"

Suddenly, Joe's eyes became host to a light the likes of which they hadn't seen in years. "Really? You want to hear...*MY* story?"

"Meh. Sher," Bobby articulated.

Joe hauled a huge, wet photo album up from the bottom of the birdbath. He dried it a bit with his rag, and then threw the piece of cloth to his feet disdainfully. He then proceeded to open to the first page, on which were some shots of a cute baby bird, doing baby

things.

"I was a very happy baby. My mother always told me that I'd become something

wonderful someday...I look back at those days as the happiest time of my life. She was always there to comfort me when I had nightmares, and play with me, and throw up worms into my mouth when I was hungry. But when she died, my father remarried to an exotic Asian bird who belonged to some rich humans in the upper part of town. She thought I was just a little twerp, and used to make me scrub the cage all day. She eventually threw me out, and her owners sold me to the coal mines, which is where I started to make my way in the world..."

~~~

Bobby's head sagged. He shook himself to stay awake, and looked up at Joe. He was by now about halfway through the huge album, and his eyes were moist.

"...the wedding was supposed to be in August. The anniversary would've been twenty-five years tomorrow. There she is, look..." He pointed at a photo of a pretty- looking girl perched with him in an amusement park. Her bright gold feathers and deep blue eyes would have struck Bobby if he weren't so woozy, and if the picture had been in color. "Dear, sweet Florence, the only person who ever cared about me since my mother kicked it...and I was gonna be with her for the rest of my life! I look back on it as the

third happiest time of my life...or are we up to the fourth now? I forget...anyhow, what happens? The night before the wedding...twenty-five years tonight..."

"Last night," Bobby corrected, staring at the rising sun in the distance.

"... she leaves me! Says she can't see me again...never again. She disappeared the next day...her nest deserted, not a trace of her left anywhere. I did a lot of traveling after that...it was in Maui in 1983 that my life started to pick up again. There, I met up with some birds who had found a map to the city of Atlantis. It felt wonderful to have a purpose again...I look back on my time with them as--"

"Listen, if it's all the same to you, I really should be--"

"--one of the happiest times of my life! Definitely on the top ten list. But just a week before we were supposed to start our mission, the whole gang was on board the

submarine doing some final checks. And what happens?"

"Look, I really have to be going...sorry if I'm a bit short on cash at the moment, but--"

"IT EXPLODES! The whole thing, sky high...everyone dead but me! Ooooh God, why? Whyyyy?"

Bobby shrugged and flapped off. Behind him, he could hear Joe obliviously babbling, "It wasn't long after that I became manager of the Cleveland Indians for a short period of time, through an interesting series of events..."

~~~

"As far back as I can remember, the Godpigeon had been the boss, the big cheese, head honcho, top banana in our little organization. Whenever any of us had a problem, we

went right to him. We were like his family, and he always--"

"Squit! What in the name of Vincent Pastore are you doing?!"

Bobby soared down and landed at the foot of the Scorsese statue, to find Squit having a monologue with a rather disinterested-looking chipmunk. The rodent seized this opportunity to grab his nut and make a run for it. Squit turned to Bobby.

"Ah, Pesto said I have to finish this mint before I can perch on the statue." He opened his beak to reveal a ridiculously large breath mint." I've been nursing it all night...I was just trying to pass the time talking to the local wildlife."

"What was that gibberish about the Godpigeon?"

"Oh, just that we received this note earlier. I can't make heads or tails of it, but it looks like it's in his hand."

Bobby grabbed the piece of paper and scanned it. To the untrained eye, it seemed to be just a bunch of incoherent scribbles, but Bobby could immediately translate it from the Godpigeon's hand. "'Hey, Bobby, '" he read. "'I'm currently being kidnapped. How are you? I apologize for the spotty penmanship...this lunkhead keeps grabbing at my arm. Can't he see I'm trying to write? People today have no courtesy. At any rate, I just thought I'd let you know who my captor is. You may take three guesses first, if you like. No, no...you'll never get it! Well, I shall tell you. The identity of my discourteous kidnapper is none other than: ............. oh, shoot, got to go! Hope all is well with you and the boys. With love, your Godpigeon.' Rigatone..."

"Wait! There's more on the back!"

Bobby flipped it over. "'P.S. Well, the fellow here appears to be having a bit of trouble with the string he'd planned to use to tie me up, so I seem to have a few more minutes. In case I don't see you again, here's the lyrics to that song you were always bugging me

about. "Well, the shark has pretty teeth, dear / And he shows 'em..."' Et cetera, et

cetera...ah-ha! 'P.P.S. The kidnapper is O.J.'" Bobby's jaw dropped. "Riiiiigaaaaatone."

"Who's O.J.?"

"Oooh, that s a long story. I ain't gonna tell it twice, so you better wake Pesto up so he can hear it, too."

Squit got a bit squeamish at this suggestion. "Um...couldn't you maybe just wait 'til he

gets up to tell it...perhaps...?"

"Oh, no, this is one of those where you gotta be in the mood. I've got my whole 'in the mood to tell the story of my past' thing goin' here. Gotta get it out before I lose that."

"So..."

"So go wake Pesto."

"What if I just--?"

"Squit?"

"Yeah?"

"I hit a lot harder than Pesto."

"And...?"

"Go wake Pesto."

Squit gulped. "'k."

He flew up to the top of the statue, and gently shook Pesto. "Pesto," he whispered faintly.

"Pessstooooo... Pesto." He shook him a bit harder. Finally, he decided it was inevitable, so he took a deep breath and yelled, "PEEEEEEEEESTOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!"

Pesto jolted up. "Did I place a wake-up call?"

"Well, Bobby said--"

"Did I place a wake-up call?"

"Nossir."

"Then you have a death wish."

"No, I--"

"Yes, You are suicidal. You are intent on departing the land of the living."

"Pesto..."

"Well, I am feeling surprisingly eager to please this morning... "

"Yo! Pesto!" Bobby shouted from below.

"Be with ya in a second, Bobby! I'm just helpin' Squit make his dreams come true!"

Pesto grumbled a bit. "Yes, sir." He turned on Squit. "Later...you're goin' down." He jumped off the statue and flapped down to Bobby. Squit reluctantly followed.

Bobby started darkly. "Our tale begins many years ago, back in the old country..."

"Norway?" suggested Pesto cheerfully.

"No," Bobby angrily responded. "Not Norway."

"Well, I was just tryin' to specify," Pesto whispered to Squit. "Norway is an old country, you know."

Bobby cleared his throat. "Our tale begins many years ago, back in the old country. I never had any real parents. I was just a precocious little squab running 'round the streets until the Godpigeon took me under his wing..."

~~~

Venice, 1969.

A cool breeze blew over the bustling seaport. Humans double-checked the cargo on their ships before they went out. Nearby, some birds surveyed their own cargoes, which were being brought overseas in canisters strapped to the legs of professional transport birds, The rising sun glistened down gently on the shimmering sea. Two shadows fell on the sparkling, pristine water, as a couple of birds swooped over and landed on the dock behind one such bird-merchant. One of these two was Solly, Bobby's Godpigeon, looking much leaner, rather roguish, and resembling a pigeon-ized version of a young Marlon Brando, circa Streetcar Named Desire. His accompaniment was a much younger Bobby, about sixteen, looking thrilled to be playing a part in grown-up affairs.

"Antonio?" Bobby asked of the bird they had landed behind. He actually said it in Italian, but it winds up being the same in English, since he just said the guy's name.

"Yes?" replied Antonio, turning around. He actually said, "Sì?" in the original Italian, but for the sake of convenience, we'll just do the rest of the Italian dialogue in the English translation. Mostly because "sì" is about as far as the author's knowledge of Italian goes.

"Sig. Solly wishes to have words with you regarding your...payments."

"I'll tell Sig. Solly where he can shove his payments."

Solly muttered something incomprehensible.

"Sig. Solly wishes you to elucidate him. Where would you recommend that he shove his

payments?"

"Someplace...someplace where I don't have to pay them. If that's quite alright with him." Solly again muttered something.

"Sig. Solly says that it is not quite alright with him. However, he appreciates your consulting his preference, and thus, will hold no hard feelings if you will merely fork over the cash you owe now."

"Well, that shouldn't be difficult, considering that I don't owe him a cent. What does he think, he owns this port? By what right does he demand 50% profit from every merchant who sends out a few pounds of birdseed? Well, these other birds may be frightened into submission by your threats and your 'influences,' but I've had it. You're nothing but a cheap lousy dirty stinking mug, and you're not getting another cent of my money."

Solly muttered something else.

"And just what language does this guy speak, anyhow?!" Antonio demanded. Bobby ignored the question.

"Sig. Solly is very disappointed by your lack of respect toward him. However, he admires your character, and as such, has agreed to give you one more day to get your priorities in order. If the cash is not in his wing by sunrise tomorrow, he may be forced to do something drastic, which would bring great discomfort to both you, and, in a lesser, more indirect way, him. He wishes you a good day." The two turned and flew off.

A young girl ran up and hugged Antonio. Her golden feathers glistened beautifully in the sun. She was perfect in every way--innocent, trusting sweet. In fact, it she had any fault,

it was that she was too perfect. Yes, hers was a fatally flawed perfection.

Oh, yeah, she had deep blue eyes, too.

"Hello, Caprice."

"Who were you talking to, father?"

"Oh, that was Sig. Solly. He was just making his daily threat to my livelihood."

"Oh, no, there must be some mistake! Bobby would never let Sig. Solly bother you!"

"Oh? Why is that?"

"Because I asked him! I asked him not to let Sig. Solly bother you."

"Well, now, honey, I'm sure a handsome young scoundrel like Bobby has dozens of girls

making requests of him every day. If s understandable if he loses track of a few of them every now and then."

"Oh, Daddy, that's a horrible thing to say! I'd tell you that you were a wretched, unsympathetic father and you don't understand me at all, if I didn't love you so very very very much!" She collapsed into his arms. "You must be the greatest daddy in the whole world. And tonight I'll straighten everything out with Bobby, and everything will be perfect, like always!"

Antonio gave her a gentle squeeze. "Sure. Sounds wonderful, honey. Sounds...wonderful..."

~~~

Bobby and Caprice flew over the city of Venice. They soared in the window of a small bistro, and landed on a comer table. The proprietor of the place, an overweight, stereotypical Italian, marched up cheerfully.

"Hey, it's-a the love birds, come back! They musta like our little establishment, huh? Heya, Luigi! Make 'em some-a you' finest pasghetti, onna the house, eh? Here, while-a you wait, I serenade you!" He whipped out an accordion, and began to play (for lack of a better word) the accompaniment as he sung an aria from The Barber of Seville. "Laaaaargo al factotum della citta...lar-go! La ran la la ran la la ran laaaaaaaaaa!"

Bobby grabbed the guy's shirt, pulled him down to level, and gave him a smack in the kisser. "Ah, you cute kids wanta be alone, eh? 'Atsa fine, 'atsa fine!" He smiled to himself as he wandered off, alternately whistling the aria and muttering to no one in particular, "Wonderful kids, wonderful kids!"

Bobby threw a glance her way, and caught her staring at him dreamily. She turned away for a moment, embarrassed, then turned back. He smiled. She let out a happy sigh. Luigi brought the "pasghetti," and, figuring he shouldn't plan on a tip, turned and left in a huff.

Huffs weren't really his specialty, but he'd been practicing in front of a mirror every morning, and he felt he had it down pretty good, if he did say so himself, which he did, quite often.

Bobby and Caprice began to devour the pasghetti. As they reached the bottom of the dish, it became apparent that they were each sucking on opposite ends of the same strand. Unfortunately, Bobby had a lot more power than his delicate little sweet, and he wound

up overpowering her and nearly devouring her head. He spit her out just in time and brushed the feathers off his tongue.

"Yech...that worked a lot better in the movie!"

"Bobby?"

"Yo?"

"Why do you hang around with that awful Sig. Solly?"

"Ah, he's not a bad guy. He's like a father to me! He teaches me about life and personal

hygiene, and buys me gelato on hot summer days!"

"Well, he threatened my father today. And my father is like a father to me!"

"Capri...don't sweat it. He won't really do anything...he's all talk! Godpigeon loves to

talk...just to communicate with people. 'Good morning,' 'How's the wife,' 'I'm going to brutally murder you and your firstborn'...it's what he lives for! He doesn't mean nothin' by it..."

"Well--"

"Forget about Sig. Solly. Forget about your dad. They can do as they please...tonight, there's just you and me." She smiled. He slipped his wing around her and pulled her

closer. And for a brief moment, everything was impossibly simple and perfect.

The world stopped and took a took at these two, and thought to itself, "Hey! These people are living on me! But...they're happy! Myyy my my...I must not be making this hard enough." And he decided to rectify this problem immediately.

~~~

The sun was rising on the new day. A sneering little raven had just finished his job in the nest of a stranger. He flew quietly off into the distance, snickering. His boss had ordered him to give this deadbeat his comeuppance, and he had. And it had been fun, too. He

wondered why everyone didn't enjoy their work as much as he did, and snickered again.

In the nest, Antonio slept peacefully. The warm sun shone on his face, and he smiled. He pulled the beautiful silk handkerchief he and his wife used as a blanket up over his shoulder, and rolled over. Then he opened his eyes, and what he saw filled him with an unspeakable horror.

His wife's head lay next to his own, its eyes peacefully closed. Below it, the "blanket" was drenched with red. He jumped up and screamed.

"SOLLY! You crummy swine! I'll get you for this! I'LL GET YOU!"

His wife sat up. The covers slid off to reveal her body. "What are you yelling about?"

"That creep Solly sent one of his stooges over to drench our gorgeous hanky in tomato sauce!"

"So?"

"So?! Do you have any idea where I got this handkerchief?" He lifted the corner of the handkerchief and showed her the initials.

"'J.M.' ...oh no. You didn't."

"Yes. This handkerchief belongs to John Maridono."

"But he's the most ruthless creature in all of Venice! Why would you deal with him?"

"We need something to keep us warm in the winter! I couldn't afford the prices of the handkerchief wholesale retailers. Maridono loaned me this fine piece of material for a highly reasonable price."

"But now that it's ruined..."

"I'm on his bad side. Which means I'm as good as finished. But before I go down, I'm going to give Sig. Solly what he's had coming to him for years." He jumped off the nest and flew away.

His wife pushed the blanket aside, and shuddered.

~~~

 

Bobby and Solly perched on top of their statue of Federico Fellini, in the center of one of Venice's more scenic parks.

"Figure it's about time to make our daily threat on Sig. Antonio's life?"

Solly muttered something.

"What?! You say you dispatched the Raven to sauce him? But he was a good man! He never hurt you!"

Solly muttered something else.

"You say it's too late? You say his work is already done by now? But it can't be! You've got to set things straight!"

He muttered once more.

"You say that there comes a time in the life of every youth when he must learn the inevitable facts of life, and that among those facts is the sad, if morbidly amusing, reality that those who don't stay on top of the food chain get eaten, as exemplified by Darwin's 'Survival of the Fittest' theory, which you will now outline for me?"

Solly began to mutter again, when Bobby yelled, "Look out!" He jumped on top of Solly, knocking him to the ground. A masked figure had just strolled into view on the statue, and was firing a gun at Solly. Its contents instead struck Bobby.

"Orange juice?" he scoffed. "What are you tryin' to do, give us sticky feathers?"

Solly mumbled urgently.

"You're allergic to oranges?! And I never even knew...this guy's done his homework." He made a lunge at the figure. The assassin also jumped, in a dazzlingly unsuccessful attempt to dodge Bobby. Bobby grabbed him and the two tumbled onto the concrete surface of the statue.

"Now, let's see who our little Lee Harvey Oswald wannabe is," Bobby smirked. He peeled the mask off, and his smug manner instantly departed.

"Sig. Antonio?"

The old merchant looked considerably older than he had the previous morning. He looked up at Bobby through puffy eyes. "Congratulations, Bobby," he calmly deadpanned. "You've played a major part in the social and financial downfall of an upstanding citizen and his family. Not many boys can boast such an achievement at your young age. I'm sure your parents would be very proud."

Bobby looked stunned. He didn't know what to say or do. He was extremely grateful when Solly broke the silence for him.

Bobby looked at him incredulously. "Really? You mean, we're going to--?" He turned ecstatically to Antonio. "Sig. Solly says that now that his secret weakness has gotten out, it is no longer safe for him here. So first thing in the morning, we depart for America! Just me and him." He beamed.

After emptying all the juice out of the gun, he allowed Antonio up. The old merchant just sat where he'd been pinned down, and put his head in his arms. Bobby and Solly began to plan their trip.

~~~

"And that's the story."

Pesto looked awestruck. Squit gently massaged his throat, having swallowed his mint during one of the more exciting scenes.

"And you think 'O.J.' referred to Antonio?" Pesto questioned.

"The Godpigeon had great respect for Sig. Antonio, as both a businessman and a gentleman. He refused to accept that the masked figure who attacked him was one and the same with Antonio. So, whenever he spoke of the masked assailant, he referred to him as 'O.J.,' for 'orange juice.'"

"So we only know that the killer was someone wearing the same mask," Squit offered after working the mint down his throat.

"It was Antonio," Bobby said tersely. "The question is, where to find him."

"Maybe we could search the Godpigeon's place for clues," Squit suggested.

"Look who's Columbo all of a sudden!" Pesto mocked.

"Waitaminnit! Let's hear Squit out. I'm willing to try anything that'll get the Godpigeon back. But we haven't got much time. There's no telling what that madman will do to him."

~~~

At the Godpigeon's house, everything seemed perfectly natural at first glance. But something caught Squit's attention.

"Hey, guys, lookit this string!" he exclaimed. "This must be the stuff the kidnapper used to tie up the Godpigeon. If you'll note the weaving style and the workmanship...there's only one place this rope could have been made! Follow me!"

~~~

At the Ryan's Rope factory, all seemed to be business as usual. But something grabbed Squit's trained eye.

"Look! A piece of blue Play-Doh®! There's only one place this could have come from--the Play-Doh® factory! Let's go!"

~~~

Nothing in the Play-Doh® factory looked out of the ordinary. But something commanded Squit's field of vision.

"Check this shell out! This is no ordinary shell...it's got gasoline stains on it! There's only one place this could have come from..."

~~~

Things at the Shell station were uncommonly mundane. However, something grabbed Squit by the head and bashed his head into a wall repeatedly.

"This isn't just any bear, guys! If you look closely, you'll note that he's--OW!--the same bear from the sticker on the Great Bear bottled water! There's no time to lose! To the--OW!"

~~~

At the Great Bear bottling plant, Squit scoured the floor for clues, and found several pieces of twig that looked as if they might have fallen from a nest. Meanwhile, Bobby and Pesto came across a nest sitting in a window a few feet above the floor.

The three flapped into the nest. The bird who was sitting there had his back to them. "Alright, you old kook," Bobby announced. "Where's the Godpigeon?"

The bird turned around. "Mommy!" it yelled, as it grabbed onto Bobby's leg lovingly.

"What?! Blessed macaroon! Get this thing offa me!"

"Hey, looky that!" Pesto laughed. "Bobby's a regular pork-chops-an'-apple-sauce don't-forget-to-wear-your-scarf-and-muffler 'Ward-I'm worried-about-the-Beaver' Marion Ross-type mom over here! Heh heh heh!"

Squit, glad not to be the butt of the joke for once, joined in laughing. "Yeah, ain't that cute?"

"You want cute?" Bobby yelled. "I'll give ya cute in the giblet, ya flippin' sparrow!" He kicked the kid off his foot. The Little Bluebird went flying, and landed smack on Squit's beak, where he grabbed hold in a savagely loving embrace.

"Mommy? Mommymommymommy!" he sighed happily.

"Well, following Squit has gotten us absolutely nowhere," Bobby scorned. "Time is ticking away...we can't--" Squit, struggling with the bluebird, nearly kicked Bobby in the face.

"Wait. What's that? On your foot?" Bobby queried.

"Oh, that's that stupid sticker I stepped on outside the Godpigeon's house. I can't get it off there!"

"You birdbrain, that's the logo for the Clockwork Orange Orchards! *THAT'S* where Antonio's taken the Godpigeon! C'mon, let's get going!" He and Pesto took off. Squit, still struggling with the infant, did his best to follow suit.

~~~

Bobby landed at the edge of the orchard, and waited for Pesto and Squit to catch up. Once he was sure they were both behind him, he turned to the orchard. "SOLLYYYYY!" he screamed.

He flew into the orchard. Squit and Pesto, shrugging at each other, followed. "SOLLY! SOLLLLLLYYY!"

"Sssh! Don't you know this is a private neighborhood?"

Bobby turned to the voice angrily, and his jaw dropped. Recovering himself, he perched on the branch next to Caprice.

"We happened to come across this," he began nonchalantly, grabbing Squit's foot to demonstrate the sticker. She glanced at the picture of an orange with a clock's hands overlapping it.

"Yes, that's the orchard's logo. I shouldn't consider it unusual that your friend came across it. Our oranges are enjoyed all over the town. They have a wonderful consistency, very juicy, very free of pulp, that makes them incredibly popular. Here, do try one." She tried to work a fruit off the branch above her.

"Nah, we didn't come here for victuals," Bobby said. Then, recalling that he hadn't eaten since the previous morning, decided to take her up on the offer after all. Sheepishly, he helped her get the orange down and took a huge bite.

With his mouth full, he informed her, "Our Godpigeon was kidnapped this morning. We found the sticker at the scene of the crime. Is you father in?"

As she realized the implication of the statement, a look of pain crossed her face. "My father died a long time ago. Largely thanks to the actions of your Godpigeon, I might add." A tear crept into her eye, but she quickly blinked it out. Bobby looked at her. She was in her 40's by now. She'd obviously been hardened from the pure, innocent girl he'd known. Her feathers were dirty and ruffled; she had deep wrinkles under her eyes. But just looking straight into her eyes and ignoring the rest of her, he could have easily believed that she hadn't aged a day.

"Well...bygones be bygones, I guess," she said, managing a smile. "How would you and your friends like to swing by for dinner? Mum's making orange patties tonight."

Squit and Pesto nodded their heads enthusiastically. Bobby, shrugging, voiced his consent.

"Great! The house is right over here..." She flew to a tree a few feet away, and landed on the porch of a very well-off looking birdhouse. "Six rooms, two floors," she explained. "Mum's been working awful hard to support us ever since Daddy died. Every day, she makes orange casseroles and orange stew for the birds around the city. They're very appreciative...it's quite preferable to the stale popcorn the old humans in the park throw at them."

They walked into the house, and looked around in amazement. It was warm and lovingly furnished. Bending over the table was an old woman, probably in her 60's, although she looked much older. But her dusty feathers still revealed some of their former golden luster, and through puffed eyelids, Bobby recognized the same beautiful blue eyes her daughter had. She smiled at him.

"Ah, you've brought some friends home, Caprice! Would you be dear and set three extra places? I've got to get the patties off the fire before they burn."

"Yes, Mum," she replied obediently.

As she set the places, Bobby rather suspiciously asked, "So, eh...why did you folks come over to the States?"

"Well, after the handkerchief incident, Dad had to hand over everything he owned to Sig. Maridono. He tried to rebuild his life in Venice, but as you no doubt know, once you were on Sig. Maridono's bad side, you didn't have a chance of getting anywhere in Venice. So, in 1972, we came over to America to start a new life. Dad got a job with the local law enforcement..."

"You mean, the cats?"

"Yeah. He wanted to devote what was left of his life to making sure the birds over here got a fairer shake in life than he did. He acted as an inside man. But about four years after we arrived, he was assigned to a mob case. He realized too late that the big boss was John Maridono."

"Oh, no," Bobby said.

"Maridono's boys roughed him up pretty bad. He left us the next morning."

"I'm sorry." Bobby reached out his wing to console her, but Pesto grabbed it and dragged him to the far corner.

"Have you flipped your feathers?!" he demanded. "You're not actually buyin' that sob story, are ya? 'He wanted to make sure the birds here got a fairer shake than he did.' What kinda dodo would fall for malarkey like that?! Look, her dad kidnapped the Godpigeon, and she knows we know. You told her so first thing! What was she gonna say, 'Sure, let me lead you right to him so's you can beat the stuffin' outta him'?! She's obviously covering for him."

Bobby looked rather forlorn. "I guess you're right."

"'Course I'm right! Remember the sticker?" He grabbed Squit's foot and shoved it in Bobby's face. When he let go, Squit collapsed to the ground.

Bobby brightened. "Hey, I got it! Howzabout I take Capri out for a night on the town, and you an' Squit can search the place? It should be a cinch with just the old broad around. She probably can't even see past the tip of her beak!"

Pesto thought about it. "Yeah, that works. I like it! Smooth thinkin', Bobby!"

"Great!" The two marched back to the center of the room. Squit, deciding he was sick of taking even more abuse than usual in this story, decided to just sit in the corner of the room until he was needed.

"You know," Bobby cooed suavely, "What with takin' care of the mom an' keeping house an' all, you probably don't get many nights to yourself. Whatsay I take you for a good time, and you enjoy yourself for once? Pesto an' Squit'll take care of the mother, no prob. They're the most upstanding of citizens, I assure you."

Pesto assumed his most upright pose. "Sure, that's us! Upstanding all the way! No slouching here!" He glanced down and noted Squit still plopped on the floor. He kicked him in the head. "Hey! Get up, you moron!" Squit obediently got up on his feet and straightened his posture. He topped the effect by putting on one of his trademark Squit smiles.

"Wellll...alright," Caprice decided. "I have missed those good times with you." She smiled.

"Great! Have a good time, Pesto, Squit, Ma! Ciao! Arrivederci!" Putting his wing around Caprice's waist, he whisked her to the door, and the two flew off.

"Alright," Pesto whispered, "I'll stay here an' keep Mommy Dearest occupied. You go search the house for any trace of the Godpigeon or the father."

"Awww...why do I hafta do the hard work?"

"'Cause if you don't, I'll rip you open an' take back that mint."

"That's highly unlikely, Pesto. By this point, the mint has doubtlessly been broken down into unrecognizable particles by my gastrointestinal juices, and is well on its way to--"

"Just search the house."

"'k."

~~~

Bobby and Caprice sat at the bar, chatting and laughing.

"...I thought he was a high-profile winemaker. Turned out he was just some bird with a bizarre fetish for stepping on grapes!"

Bobby laughed. "And you actually dated this guy?"

"I had to! Mom thought I should attach myself to some respectable bird, so she's know I'd be taken care of. I even went out a few times with the famous movie star, Al Pigeono? But he was two wrapped up in his work to ever be serious about me. I swear, he boss was Lucifer himself... I'm sorry, am I babbling?"

"You wouldn't be Caprice if you didn't." He smiled, and she returned it. "So, how would you feel about comin' back to my place?"

"Why, Robert!" she mocked. "You wouldn't take advantage of a trusting, naïve girl like me, would you?"

"Only one way to find out." He wiggled his eyebrows.

"You're lucky I'm so curious." She smiled.

The two flew off.

~~~

Happy People.

Lookit that. Didn't even touch their drinks, Joe thought.

If there was one major threat to his line of work, it was Happy People.

He glanced around at the endless loop of disgruntled, disgusted, disadvantaged, disconsolate, disappointed, disenchanted, disheveled, discolored drunks surrounding him all around the birdbath. He breathed a sigh of relief.

These were people who'd seen life. They knew there was nothing to be so bleeding happy about. These were real people. These were people he could relate to.

But that girl. There's been something about her. Something about her eyes.......

!!!

"Alright, bar's closed. Everybody outta here! C'mon, flock off!"

And then, he did something he hadn't done in fifteen years.

He left the birdbath and flew off into the light of the waxing moon.

~~~

It was a gorgeous, starlit night, without a cloud in the sky. The moonlight bathed the statue of Martin Scorsese, giving the two figures perched atop an unearthly glow. Bobby noticed what a spectacular view the statue provided. He'd seen this park every day for years, but for the first time in his life, he looked at it.

The tiny spots of dew on the grass glistened in the moonlight. The tree branches swayed ever so slightly with the gentle breeze. Suddenly, a stronger gust shook the leaves. The figure next to him snuggled up closer. He took her wing and looked at her. She smiled lovingly. Neither of them said anything. Nothing needed to be said.

Her golden feathers were softer than silk in his hands. He noticed that one feather had slipped out of place and fallen over deep blue eye. He pushed it back gently. Something about the way she looked at him...when the moon hit her eye...

"Where's the Godpigeon?"

"What?"

"You heard me."

"I'm sure I don't know."

He pushed her away. "You're lying to me. I can see it in your eyes."

She slumped on the statue unhappily. "Mom kidnapped him. She's holding him on the second floor, at the far North of the house, in the guest room. She was going to dump him into a tub of orange juice tonight, with his wings and feet tied. She wanted to keep him around for a few hours first to torment him. I have no idea what she'll do with your friends. We weren't expecting company. Bobby, please. Think of what Solly did to my family. I don't care, I haven't cared in years. But if Mummy wants her revenge so much, let her have it! Forget about it. We'll leave everything behind...family, friends. We'll go back to Italy together. It'll just be you and me, like it always should've been. We don't need them. I need you and you need me. Please, Bobby!"

"I gotta save my Godpigeon," he said simply.

"Think of how crummy your life has been thanks to him! Think of how crummy my life has been! Stay with me! We can both finally be happy! You deserve it! *I* deserve it!"

He turned around just in time to prevent her from being the only breathing life form ever to see him shed a tear. Composing himself, he turned back to her for a moment. "Hey," he smiled. "Thanks to the Godpigeon, I've gotten exactly what I deserve: a life that's for the birds. What more could I possibly ask for?" He flapped off.

She thought for a moment. She glanced up at the moon. So, peaceful, so removed from everything.

She flew off in the other direction.

A third figure landed on the statue shortly after. He looked at the two departing birds: one flying inland, and one towards the sea.

After a moment's hesitation, he followed the one going inland.

~~~

The floor creaked under his foot.

This was all the excuse Squit needed to dash back towards the stairs. Pulling himself together, he screeched to a stop and turned back around.

Calm down, boy. Only one more door to go. The northmost room.

He tiptoed up to it. Seizing all the courage he had, he gripped the doorknob, and turned it.

He let out a huge breath.

"Godpigeon! Oh, you have no idea how happy I am to see you! I've been looking all over for you and Pesto's downstairs talking to the old lady and he'll be so happy when I tell him I've found you!" He began to dash out of the room, but the Godpigeon muttered something crankily and stuck out of his foot.

"Oh...am I supposed to do that now? I mean, you are all tied up, and I should really go get help so we can save...you....." He decided to stop talking, and just bent down to give the foot a quick kiss. Then, he dashed off toward the stairs, shouting, "PESTO! PESTOOOOO!"

The Godpigeon smiled.

~~~

Pesto sat slumped in a chair, staring wearily out the window, as the elderly woman read him entries from her diary.

"'November 23, 2000--I got out of bed at 7:00 this morning. This was followed by a brief washing in the community bath. For breakfast, I had Orange Flakes and orange blossom muffins. We had Mrs. Red Robinson over for Thanksgiving dinner. All the poor dear had to eat was some old cupcakes in her pantry. But I made her some yummy orange stuffing and orange cranberry sauce and'--"

"PESTO! PESTOOOOO!" Squit came tripping down the stairs. "I just found--"

"Wait, wait. Hold your horses, dearie. Let me read you and your friend my entry for today. I think you'll find it particularly...informative." She said the last word with a sneer, in direct contrast to her previous droning manner. Both looked up at her sharply.

"'August 15, 2001--I got out of bed at 7:00 this morning. This was followed by a brief washing in the community bath. For breakfast, I had Orange Flakes and orange blossom muffins. Then, I went out and captured Solly, the Godpigeon. I am now keeping him in the guest room upstairs, and plan to eliminate him this evening. I don't suppose anyone will think to look for him here, but if any unexpected visitors should happen to drop by, I'll give the same treatment, naturally. Never let it be said that I played favorites with my guests!'" She shut the book and smiled sinisterly at the two. They gulped simultaneously.

"What were you gonna tell me, Squit?" Pesto asked.

"Just that the Godpigeon's in the guest room on the second floor."

"I know that, you mook!"

"Alright. Upstairs!" she ordered, pulling a human-sized letter opener from behind her desk. She began jabbing Squit in the back with it.

"Ow! Quit it!"

"Yeah! We didn't have nothin' to do with what happened to your hubby! We came in later!"

"Shut up and walk."

"Get the harpoon outta Squit's back, Granny. I'm the one you want." Bobby walked in the door

"Oh, back so soon, dearie? I thought you'd be able to keep him busy a bit longer than that. Well, no matter. Be a doll and get me some string to tie these mugs up, would you?"

"Caprice isn't here," Bobby said coldly.

She seemed a bit surprised for a moment, but then dismissed it. "Well, no matter. I'm more than a match for the likes of you." She redirected her harpoon at Bobby. Bobby squared his shoulders, ready to fight. She charged.

But before she could get to him, a damp rag came flying out of nowhere. It hit her in the beak, and the force sent her plummeting to the floor. With lightning speed, a dark figure popped in the window, seizing the letter opener and throwing it out of the house to the ground far below. He then removed the barcloth from her face, and looked at her, rather fascinated.

"Hey, Florence."

"Joe!"

"Why did you leave me? I could have made you happy. Look what's become of you."

"When I met you, my husband had just been killed by gangsters. For the whole six months we were going out, I lived in constant fear that the same men would come after me and Caprice. I couldn't drag you into that. I loved you too much."

"Well, it's all over now. C'mon...let's get you outta here. We can go to Canada or something."

She mustered a smile. "Oh, that'd be nice. I hear Quebec is lovely."

He picked her up and began to carry her to the door. "Oh, yeah! I've been there! It's a rather interesting story. You see, through a bizarre series of events, I wound up locked inside a barrel of pickels on a ship piloted by a man who wore the most intriguing Hawaiian shirts...it was 1979...or was it 1980? Anyway, it was an extremely happy period for me..." She looked at him lovingly. He set her down gently on the porch, and the two flew off together.

The three Goodfeathers stared after them for quite some time. Bobby cleared his throat and said, "Anyhow...the Godpigeon's in the guest room on the sec--"

"We know," Pesto and Squit replied in unison.

"Right. Well, let's go get 'im, eh?" The three trod up the stairs. When they got to the room, the Godpigeon muttered unintelligibly. Squit and Pesto looked at Bobby expectantly.

"The Godpigeon asks...'What kept you?' I abandon the one chance for happiness I'm ever gonna get...and he asks what kept me."

Everyone stood silently for a moment. Squit broke the silence by offering, "You really loved her, didn't you?"

"What do you mean by that?" Pesto demanded. "Are you callin' my buddy a mushy-gushy Rodolfo Alfonzo Raffaelo Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d'Antonguolla-type Romeo lovebird here to play kissy games with you? Is that what you're saying?"

"Nah, nah! I was just sayin' maybe he had some real feelings toward this chick!"

"That's it! You've had this comin' for the last seventeen pages!" Pesto jumped him, and a huge dustcloud erupted. Bobby began to snicker. Then giggle. Then guffaw. Then chuckle. Soon, he was doubled-over on the floor with laughter. The Godpigeon joined him. Pesto, still beating Squit into a pulp, began to cackle as well. Squit, in spite of his predicament, also began to crack up.

"Family," he thought. "Gotta love 'em."


Disgruntled, Disgusted, Disadvantaged, Disconsolate, Disappointed, Disenchanted, Disheveled, Discolored Disclaimer

Bobby, Squit, Pesto, Solly the Godpigeon, the Little Bluebird, and all other Animaniacs characters, names, and related indicia are ™ and © 2001 Warner Bros. Inc., an AOL Time Warner company. Used without permission.

"Mack the Knife" English lyrics by Marc Blitzstein.

The Barber of Seville music and lyrics by Gioacchino Rossini.

Other acknowledgements: Harry Warren & Jack Brooks ("That's Amore"), Louis Prima ("Angelina"), Harold Arlen & Johnny Mercer ("One for My Baby"), William Shakespeare (The Merchant of Venice), Elia Kazan (On the Waterfront and the film version of A Streetcar Named Desire), Walt Disney (Lady and the Tramp), and Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather).

Mentos: The Freshmaker.

Luigi: Popular nominee for "Best Grimace, Prolonged Sigh, and / or Huff in a Fanfic" at the Second Annual Harley Awards.

Groucho Marx: Did a great "huff" pun in Cocoanuts.

The Great Bear bear appears courtesy of: Great Bear.

Can I say "bear" a few more times?: Bear bear bear bear bear bear bear bear.

Winnie the Pooh: Silly old bear.

Fuzzy Wuzzy: Was a bear.

Fuzzy Wuzzy: Had no hair.

Fuzzy Wuzzy: Wasn't very fuzzy.

Was he?


Coming Soon From This Author

"Slappy's Choice"
A heartbreaking drama in which Slappy falls in love with Bingo, a wannabe Hollywood screenwriter who can't get any work because of his horrible name. As she trusts him more and more, she tells him the devastating secret of her past--when she entered into Warner Bros. Studios in 1943, she was forced to choose which of her nephews would live...and which would die.

"Sweet Parody"
A heartwarming musical comedy spoof, in which Dot and her siblings decide they're sick of doing spoofs of heartwarming musical comedies. But will a one-dimensional cartoon character ever be able to find true love? Includes the showstopping song-and-dance numbers: "There's Gotta be Something More Original Than This," "Baby, Scream Your Scream," "I'm a Glass Gland," and "I Love to Cry at Bat Mitzvahs."

Also keep an eye out for the continuation of the mostly heart-neutral "Roboo-Cop" series!:
"Roboo-Cop 2: D.U. Know What I Did Last Summer?"; "Roboo-Cop 3: Blood Wings and a Side of Slaw"; "Roboo-Cop 2 ½: The Missing Chapter (That is to Say, the Chapter That Had Been Missing Before It Was Released as the Missing Chapter)"; and "Roboo-Cop 4: This Time It's Highly Impersonal, But There's Still Enough Gratuitous Gore and Fight Scenes to Satisfy Our Target Demographic"

See you then!
-C

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