Our Plastic Menagerie
by Gail Denham
We found two wobbly pink flamingos in a flea market,
where a woman with a tight scarf and earrings up her
earlobes held out be-ringed fingers for our dollars. There
was an odd aroma in the area, which grew stronger
at a stall of two young men, sporting enough piercings
to set off airport metal detectors. I couldn’t see where
they put the stubby smokes which clouded the air blue.
Installing the flamingos attracted neighbors. One showed
us how to steady the skinny legs without detracting from
their beauty. We loved the birds who held their pink hue
through strong rainfalls. Wasn’t long before three owls
joined the herd, dangling from the porch eaves.
Two plastic deer were added to the company, and raccoons
held tight to our ancient oak. Soon we set out to find our
strange flea market, but the space now housed an upscale
coffee shop with wire chairs and round tables. No one knew
of our garish vendors.
We wandered other sales, but found no more punctured young
men. But at another sale, a woman with wild gray hair
and paisley shawl sold us the final piece to our menagerie.
“This will bring luck,” she said quietly, “and keep marauders away
from your creatures. How did she know about our zoo? “Especially
the flamingos,” she finished. “Mind you, don’t let your guard down.”
I never got used to the large brown bear we tied to our car top
that day. Some days I swore the bear moved near the window
as I poured morning coffee. A few weeks later, the flamingos
vanished, prop sticks and all. “Too bad,” said a neighbor, walking by.
We seldom visited flea markets and funky craft festivals for awhile
and then we rushed past as if we didn’t notice flocks of pink birds
still decorating booths. One by one, all our creatures wandered off.