The Cockatiel Shrieks at Four-Twenty A.M.

by Gregg Pearlman

Zoom! Pablito's quivering thighs blazed and popped in the cankerous midday sun.

"Glertsch!" he exclaimed, as the last of the red-hot waves rippled over his loose-fitting speedo.

"Ibble gribbity-grupt?" inquired Carlo, as the soul-searing wind gripped him by the backs of the thighs and propelled him into the land of few returns.

"Snorble bumbledumb!" answered Pablito, late of the "Glertsch!" exclamation, as his steamy hemoglobin danced a mambo in his well-muscled carotid. "Flib!" he added, and "Szolnat blopzo roopspleep?"

Carlo answered in affirmation, but his mind was at the bank with Ambrosio. "Flemly zling..." he murmured dreamily.

Riko's rock-hard forehead shone in the bright, misty fog. His pelvis quivered and ached as he thought of all he'd lost.

Till now, he'd had it all: cars, money, fame, fresh vegetables, glamour, proportion, power, power steering, livestock, jewelry, vibraphones, astrologers, Swedish furniture, a Rubik's cube, paddles, chains, felt-tip pens, masonry, staples, rice, badminton rackets, nose filters, scissors, magazines, analgesics, marshmallow bits, corn, rubberware, carpeting, gold, buses, cheese, index cards, herring, paperweights, cutlery, handkerchiefs, fleas, buttons, combs, paint, typewriters, spackle, wicker baskets, porcelain parrots, pewter clipboards, detergent, copper wire, long underwear, miniature vacuum cleaners, antlers, spice racks, simulated wood-grain cabinets, photo albums, antique bottles, runcible spoons, dogs, tortilla chips, cold cream, fire extinguishers, cardboard, plastic wrap, three-legged stools, silver polish, waistcoats, spats, rings, valves, rainbow suspenders, cube calendars, in/out baskets, hoop skirts, palm fronds, radar guns, bakeware, Siamese fighting fish, okra, adobe, green plastic "slime" in a little plastic bucket, marbles, sextants, glass flamingoes, paisley dog sweaters, and hemorrhoids.

Yes, Riko was one self-satisfied man until that fateful evening. The sun glinted off his bronzed nails as the scene came back to him in vivid polychromatic color: the throwing back of the door, the shriek, and Magdalena's livid skin as she saw Riko -- her own true Riko -- and that hateful, spiteful, catty twirler, world authority on the "Danish Corkscrew," that horrid, horrid woman whose repute was less than savory.

"Riko!" she had cried. "How could you? You meant evewything to me!"

And then the sinful head of that scullery maid popped up and gaped at Magdalena, who had little choice but to scream -- almost spittingly, and filled with hate and mucosa --


Monroe Harlow was no ordinary private dick. He had the usual complement of eyes, ears, noses, throats, what have you, but there the resemblance to an ordinary dick ended.

Well-muscled he was, with a long, lean shaft of a torso, veins bulging -- quite a dashing figure in his purple crash helmet was Monroe Harlow. He was what the ladies called a "long drink."

His rock-hard body and firm manner -- punctuated by alternating stiffness and aloofness -- contrasted with his occasional staccato bursts of violence, wherein he would spew forth an endless stream of obscenities, after which his manner would immediately soften, and he'd seem almost to shrink away.

Harlow was one complex private dick, but by no means was he untouchable, least of all by Lula, that dusky vixen from his dank past.

But enough about Lula.

Harlow waited all day on that dusty, murky beach/swamp, tasting the burnt-okra flavor of the sweaty, stale air.

His swollen pancreas thudded against his insides as rivulets of bile coursed through his kidneys.

All day he waited, crouched down in an all but forgotten suggestion box inhabited by only one suggestion -- "Eat me!" -- a seventeen-year-old wad of gum, a six-day-old wad, and now Harlow himself.

His guts groaned and glowered. His spasmodically bloodshot eyes fought to stay open, but it was like trying to lift a medium-sized oil tanker with a severed rhesus penis. A greased medium-sized oil tanker. Laden with century-old pot-stickers.

Lord, he was tired.

His lips ached for the September Penthouse.

His hips ached for a comfy chair. And the September Penthouse.

Silently, Harlow continued to wait. His prey should show up at any moment. "Stay in the suggestion box," he'd been told. "It's crucial!"

How was he to know that Ymelda would show at the crack of dawn, just as he'd leapt out of the box to take a leak?

"Well, bless my jennies!" burped Harlow. "So dusky, exotic Ymelda is really an albino pants-legs cufflinks designer, and Riko no more than a glorified nut-hawker at the roller derby. But what was he doing that night with Pablito at the Quivering Thigh? And why did he wear two chicken hats instead of just one? Or three?"

Lula Crunt, in her three-volume epic, Memoirs of a Latvian Winklesniffer, points out the profundity of the topography of the planet Skerajaktafoid, noting with alacrity the entire lack of visible land structures or bodies of water.

By day, Benilda Imviskie was drab, almost wretched. Five afternoons a week, she could be found slumped on the settee, her legs propped on an old laundry tub, her sunken, colorless, rheumy, myopic, almost crossed eyes following the movements of the characters of her ABC soaps. Her two VCRs, for which she had hocked what was ostensibly her virtue, grudgingly but obediently recorded the CBS and NBC soaps. The notes she kept were copious, even voluminous, and definitely detailed:

"Tuesd. Jun. 4, 1 pm ABC: Biff had a 'boner' all thrugh (sic) Lays of our Lives," and "Thursd. Augu. 15, 2 pm NBC: Colbert and Taylorette dry-humped for 30 sec., Love in the Mire." All day and every day.

From the time she arose at six to view the NBC and CBS soaps on tape from the previous day until six o'clock in the evening when she had finished reviewing highlights of the ABC soaps she had just seen live, Benilda lay in a dowdy heap in front of her Quasar. Yes, this was Benilda by day.

"If I'd only seen it coming!" opined Harlow. "Lula's obviously connected to someone in a very unusual way. But who? And how? Eee!" he snorted.

"Look, Monroe," said Footspee. "I don't think Lula even figures into it. I think it all dates back to Carlo and Pablito babbling at the beach. Somehow Ambrosio is linked up with Ymelda, and Magdalena has no clues. I want you to spend some time waiting for Benilda Imviskie. We have a tip that she'll be at the Dripping Deadeye at three tomorrow morning. She will wear a gold lam? halter, green and red plaid miniskirt and lighted platform shoes. She will speak to the bartender, once saying 'G and T,' and eleven times saying 'Same again.' You are to approach her at this time, and -- "

"Let me interrupt you, there," said Harlow, cutting in. "I mean, be serious, Orrin, Benilda never leaves the house. She vedges in front of the TV watching about sixteen hours of soaps a day. And, assuming she stays in to watch St. Elsewhere, three hours of NBC Thursday night shows, Miami Vice, old Laverne and Shirleys and Letterman, or even assuming she watches Dynasty, Dallas, Falcon Crest and all the rest of those night soaps, even if she doesn't watch St. Elsewhere or the NBC Thursday shows, it leaves her only about five or six hours a day without the TV. Doesn't she sleep? Or are her eyes TV-shaped?"

"Oh, she sleeps all right," belched Footspee in a tone of voice that suggested that there was more to come.

Harlow broke the ensuing half-hour silence. "She does?"

If one strained, one could almost hear the all but inaudible "One, two, tree, pibe, anudder, anudder, anudder, anudder" as Ambrosio counted the enormous amount of money he had taken that day from one of the other tellers' drawers.

To you and me, the amount would have exceeded $2,800 -- a slow day for Ambrosio -- but to him, it was "Many Moneys."

Meanwhile, the other teller, one Saralinda Factotum, joined the other dozen tellers that had been sacked that month for "outrageous shortage, possibly due to embezzlement."

No one ever suspected Ambrosio. Actually, one teller did, but the laxatives in his coffee for three weeks took care of that. "Too many breaks" was his cause for dismissal.

And in the meantime, Ambrosio had managed to purchase a Cadillac and a large condominium on his $150-a-week salary.

And no one ever caught on.

"One, two, tree, pibe, anudder, anudder, anudder, anudder..."

The Cockatiel Shrieks at Four-Twenty A.M.

The first book in a hot new monology by Gregg Pearlman


Copyright ©1985 by Gregg Pearlman

Last updated 7/15/96
Gregg Pearlman,

Back to It's Not the Giants