The Cardinal and the Preying Mantis

by Adventure Wynn

This story started like so many for Steve, by eating a tab of LSD. Steve was not exactly a contributing member of society. He wasn't a thief or drug dealer like many he knew but he didn't hold a job for long and his hobby was drinking beer. On the whole he probably subtracted from the sum total of society rather than adding to it. But like he liked to say, ''It takes all kinds.'' And he had planned on that all changing very soon but first he had this last tab of acid to dispose of.

He popped it in his mouth as he went out for the evening. He knew a particular band was playing a few streets over so he decided to make that his first stop. It took about 15 minutes to hike there and as he did the sky reddened and the robins perched on lamp posts began there evening serenade.

It was springtime and he thought to himself as he walked the air had a crisp, fresh, clean uoma. Repeating the word uoma several times out loud as he continued, he wondered if that was a real word or did he just coin it. He crossed the street and mounted the opposing curb. A flash out of the corner of his eye caught his attention. As he looked to his left he saw an incredible site, between the road and the sidewalk in the little grassy median separating the two was a bird fighting a large green insect. The bird was a bright red Cardinal and the large green insect was a Preying Mantis.

The Preying Mantis was huge and magnificent with several sets of wings puffed out and it pincers raised for combat, it was equal in size to the Cardinal. Steve couldn't believe the sight. The fresh mowed grass made a perfect plane for the contest. The Cardinal would rapidly dart in at the Mantis who would leap into the air and parry the Cardinal's thrusts. This repeated a few times with Steve only a few feet away, the competitors being to locked in this life and death struggle with each other to notice the witness. And as quickly as the Cardinal thrust it was over with the limp body of the mantis hanging from the Cardinals mandibles it immediately flew off into a tree.

''Far fuckin ' out!'' Steve exclaimed as he walked on. What a start to an evening he thought. With the few moments spent watching the death match between the Cardinal and the Preying Mantis Steve looked up and noticed it was indeed progressing rapidly into night.

Onward he trod across the brick streets toward downtown. He hears the familiar sounds of skateboards echoing off the houses. He spies the source of the noise and walks that direction intent on bumming a smoke. Turns out he knows a couple of them and he strikes up a conversation as he hits one up for the smoke.

The kid asks him if he knows someone named Perry to which Steve answers no. As the kids hands Steve the smoke he says, ''Well Perry knows you and he says he's going to kill you if he sees you.'' Steve just lights his smoke and tosses the lighter back saying, ''Oh well. Thanks for my last smoke then.'' Everyone chuckles as Steve shuffles away.

As he nears his destination he detects the familiar sounds of electric music pulsing nearby. He rounds a corner and sees a line of people entering the bar of his choice. He slinks around back and enters the kitchen door. Passing several friends on his way thru saying, ''Hola!'' When he enters the bar the place is already packed and the music is deafening. He fights his way to the end of the bar and waits for the bartender to see him. He receives his beer on the house as is the custom and pushes into the scrum.

Steve's not really sure why he gets free beer here but it never occurred to question it. He was just very thankful for it. He has saved $1000's of dollars over the years drinking draft beer here. Just then he sees someone he knows, a giant of a man head and shoulders above everyone else. The guy motions him over with a paw at the smoke cloud above eveyones head and Steve angles over. As he reaches the guy they embrace in the manly handshake with a slap on the back. The guy motions for shots from the bar and starts yelling something at Steve.

Steve cant hear a word but he nods at what he feels are the appropriate times. The shots arrive and cheers are made as they throw them back. Steve drains his draft and instructs the bartender for another as he heads to the john. As he's waiting in line at the john a girl walks up and starts talking. The bathrooms are off to the side so he can at least hear some of what she's saying although it doesn't appear all that interesting. As the guy in front of Steve enters the bathroom he turns to this girl to say something and it becomes obvious that shes very intoxicated because as he looks at her she moves her glass to her mouth to drink shoving the straw right up her nose. When she realized this she moved the glass away from her face and the straw is left dangling from her nose. Just then someone exits the bathroom and he hurries inside.

The bathroom is filthy as always. Management has considerately nailed some plywood to 2x4s to stand on so that you don't stand in the pool of urine at the base of the toilet. As he stands allowing the pressure to release he reads some of the graffiti on the walls. He reads, ''Whats the difference between a Harley and a Hoover? The location of the dirt bag!'' Which causes a chuckle causing urine to spray the wall and run down into the pool. That's when Steve feels the tingling effects of the LSD for the first time.

As he exits the john he is relieved to see the girl has wondered off. He fights his was back to where his beer is waiting. As he arrives the song ends and the band announce a short recess. Steve's giant friend is still there and he has corralled a couple young lovelies he notices. When the big guy sees Steve he leans over and yells at him, ''Perry's looking for you!'' As Steve finishes a drink the guy is already introducing the two girls to Steve as Steve's asking, ''Who the fuck is this Perry guy?''

The big guy either doesn't hear or doesn't care to answer and Steve drifts off through the crowd. He see a girl that he slept with a few times standing at the bar and she motions him over. Of course he goes over to be polite. So as he's talking to the girl he see's a huge fellow at the bar beside them and he notices the guy glancing at them a little too much. Just then the girl shouts at the guy to tell this guy to fuck off! And she's pointing at Steve when she says it?! This prompts the big lumberjack to turn and mumble something to which Steve answers by slinking away.

As Steve slips thru the crowd he wonders if his night is a bust. He emerges from the crowd facing the door and takes the cue and exits. As he stumbles out of the cloud of smoke into the glare of street lamps he sees a crowd of people standing around smoking which reminds him he needs a cigarette. He bums one and walks off into the freshening breeze.

He makes his way down to the river and walks along it until he finds himself in the river park. The place is empty and that's good cause Steve can really feel the acid kicking in. For the first time Steve notices the smell of rain in the air as he walks along a bicycle path. In no time at all the breeze increases to a steady wind and Steve wonders if he should head home.

Before Steve can extricate himself from the park the wind severely kicks up and the rain starts to come down. He sees a gazebo in the park and hot foots it over to wait out the rain. As he is standing there under the conical roof he notices if he stands directly in the middle no rain reaches him. The rain continues to increase to near frightening levels. It would be frightening Steve thought if he wasn't tripping on acid right now. But thankfully he is not a part of what was happening outside in the rain because he was protected by his cone dome. He chuckles at the thought.

The rain continues to strengthen to hurricane force and Steve stays dry as he's huddled under the gazebo. He notices a spot directly under the center of the gazebo roof that amplifies the sounds of the storm outside and it also amplifies his voice. It makes it sound like it is in stereo. So he starts chanting some forgotten tongue and even throwing in a tribal dance move or two.

He noticed that the rain was so intense that he could barely see the street lights whipping furiously in the wind just a few yards away. And still he remained dry for the most part. He could feel the mist on his ankles as he danced around chanting but that was the only rain that reached him.

The storm was at full rage for about 5 minutes now and Steve couldn't believe how intense it was to stand there completely engulfed in this storm but be so completely separated from it. As he stood there thinking that, out of the wall of water just beyond the shelter of the gazebo an exhausted red Cardinal flew in and crashed landed directly at his feet.

It made no effort to escape as Steve bent over and picked it up. Now Steve was absolutely tripping beyond belief. He was definitely tripping completely from the acid but the storm was real. The wind, the rain and noise was all real. He carefully looked in his cupped hands and saw the little shiny black eye of a Cardinal looking back at him. In that second he even saw his reflection with the light of the gazebo behind him in the birds eye.

He stood there frozen trying to make sense of this. And as he stood there gentling holding this bird, a bird that seemed completely content to ride the storm out in Steve's hands, the storm stopped. It didn't slow down it completely and what seemed to be instantly, shut off.

The only water now was dripping out of the tattered trees. And the only noise now was the same water dripping off of everything that surrounded the gazebo. It got noticeably brighter too from the street lamps illuminating the surrounding park unimpeded by the deluge. It seemed that everything was over and the thing to do was open his hands and release this lucky Cardinal back into the world and when he held his hands up and opened them a huge green preying mantis flew out into the night prompting Steve to say, ''I need a smoke!''

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