Struthioticus: King of the Birds


By Johnny Apocalypse
Bschin2188@aol.com

“Have the remaining Secretaries been contacted?”

“Yes, Ms. President.  Their video feeds are coming in now.”

“Has the military had any luck?”

“Not yet, ma’am.  The Secretary of Defense is prepared to brief you on the next options.”

Several aides and Secret Service agents surrounded Cassandra Billings as she quickly strode through the halls of the White House.  The emergency meeting was due to start five minutes ago, but nobody ever questioned the President’s punctuality.

One of her surrounding guards opened the door into the conference room as she approached.  The room had a large mahogany table surrounded by sixteen chairs, one for the President and fifteen for each member of her cabinet.  Nearly half of the seats were empty, as the bulk of the secretaries were at various functions and venues across the nation.  These absent advisors were being patched in via satellite, their faces appearing on monitors in front of their respective chairs.

As President Billings took her seat at the head of the table, she thought Great.  Just great.  I struggle for years in politics, lose my marriage and bust my ass to become President.  This is the crisis I get?  Wonderful.

“Okay, ladies and gentlemen,” she said, running a weary hand through her hair.  “You know the situation.  A giant ostrich appeared on the shores of Miami at eight o’clock this morning.  It has proceeded to terrorize and destroy the city, pecking buildings to rubble and eating the public.  Mr Anson,” she turned to a surly man on her left, “what has the military been doing to fight off the bird?”

The Secretary of Defense stood up and straightened his tie.  “No luck, Ms. President.  The Joint Chief of Staff is preparing to move an artillery unit into range, but it will be several hours before they are in place.  Small arms fire is generally useless.  The Air Force has been attacking the ostrich with missles, but they haven’t done the trick yet.”

Missiles haven’t killed the bird?”

“No ma’am.  Apparently the feathers are too thick, and the head and neck aren’t big enough to target.”

“We have bombs that can target a specific brick on a building!”

“That’s special technology.  If we had anticipated this attack, we could have been prepared with those specific bombs.  We’re hoping to have laser guided missiles ready soon, but I would like to propose a solution which I’m sure will be very effective.”

“Well, let’s hear it.”

“A nuclear bomb.”

The President leapt out of her chair.  “Are you out of your damn mind?  You want to nuke Miami?”

“No, ma’am, I want to nuke the bird.  Miami would just be collateral damage.”

“I can’t believe this.  You want to level a high metropolitan city just because your damn missiles won’t kill it.”

“To be fair, Ms. President, it wouldn’t destroy the whole city-"

“Oh, that’s loads better!  I’m glad we aren’t using the biggest bomb we have.”

“No, quite the contrary.  It would be a very small atomic device, just a few kilotons.  About the size of the Hiroshima bomb.”

Billings collapsed back into her chair.  “No.  Hell no.  Just sit down, Mr. Anson.  We’ll have to come up with a better solution.”

The Secretary of Defense returned to his seat, sheepishly hiding his face.  The President turned to the Secretary of State.

“ has experience with dealing with giant monsters.  Have we contacted them yet?”

“Yes, Ms. President,” Lisa Morrison said, standing up. “Unfortunately, when I told the Japanese Prime Minister the problem he began laughing hysterically and hung up on me.”

“Of course.  What do we know about the ostrich?”

“Current intelligence suggests that the ostrich swam here from Africa.”

“Ostriches can swim?”

Morrison shrugged, “This one can. No word on the others.  I’ll get back to you on that.  But the intelligence committee has been researching the old African folk tales and has come up with legends of a giant, man-eating ostrich named Struthioticus.  It’s said that Struthioticus rises from the African grasslands every five hundred years to feed.”

“Does it mention how to kill it?”

The Secretary of State checked her notes for a moment, shuffling papers around.  “Um, no, that’s pretty much all the legend says.”

“So that was pretty much a waste of time, wasn’t it?”

“Well, we know the bird’s name.  But this also tells us that Struthioticus is acclimated to hot climates.  With a bit of luck, we could feasibly throw a harness on it and then airlift it into far northern Alaska.”

“What?” the President demanded.  “You want to hook a deranged seventy foot tall-”

“Seventy-six foot tall.”

“—ostrich to a helicopter—”

“Two helicopters, actually—”

“—carry it through the air for a few thousand miles—”

“Four thousand, three hundred and twenty two miles—”

“—dump it in Anchorage—”

“Fifty miles north of Selawik.”

“—and freeze it to death?”

Morrison paused for a moment, then simply said “yes.”

“That’s ridiculous!” yelled the President.  “Any one of a thousand things could go wrong with that, unleashing the ostrich onto some other city.  And if it got loose when we were airlifting it over Canada it would cause an international incident.  We’re going to have to come up with something else.”

Before anyone else could speak, Charles Orville, Secretary of Health and Human Services, leapt to his feet.  “Madam President, I must speak with you.”

He was a rail-thin man with salt-and-pepper hair and glasses big enough to fit the ostrich.  His eyes were wide with urgency as he spoke.

“While I certainly understand how important the current crisis is, I have another one that is equally pressing.”

“And it is?” Billings asked.

“The Surgeon General has just alerted me to the fact that the ostrich is literally crapping all over the place.  We need to get this cleaned up before we have a health epidemic.”

Oh my God, the President thought, People are dying right now and he wants me to start a shit-shoveling campaign.

“Okay, Secretary Orville, why should this take precedent over the immediate problem?”

“Because bird guano is particularly germ ridden.  If this feces reaches Miami’s public water system the results could be catastrophic.”

Particularly germ ridden?  How much worse is it?”

“Much worse.  It could be riddled with naegleria fowleri, for instance.”

“Na-whajya foolery?”

“It’s a parasite that attacks the brain after entering the nasal passages.  It’s quite deadly.”

“Through the nose?  You’re worried that people are going to start snorting the ostrich crap like it’s cocaine?”  She glared at Orville for several seconds, her hands frozen in the air before her, questioning the sanity of everyone in the room.  “Okay, I agree that this is a problem but I think the bird itself is a bigger one.  Do you have any suggestions as to how we deal with it?”

He was taken aback for a moment, “oh, well, I, uh, I hadn’t really thought about it.  I, er, I suppose we could convince it to start smoking and eating plenty of fatty foods.  That should do the trick in twenty, thirty years.”

“Oh, my God, I’m surrounded by idiots.”

Secretary Anson raised his hand before speaking. “Actually, I think that the nuclear bomb would solve both of the problems.  It would damn sure kill the ostrich and likely vaporize the majority of the bird crap, along with the nasty germs hiding inside.”  He turned to Orville, “Right, doc?”

“Oh, it sure would.  That sounds like a great catch-all.”

President Billings dropped her head onto the table with a loud thump.  “No nuclear bombs,” she muttered into the desk.  She wearily raised her head, eyes fatigued.  “Does anyone have any good suggestions?  Something that won’t spell the end of my presidency?”

“Actually, Ms. President, I may have a workable solution.”

The speaker was the Secretary of Agriculture, Damon Johansen, coming live via satellite from Omaha.  His voice was slightly tinny but otherwise coming through well.

“Mr. Secretary, if you suggest some sort of solution through farming or irrigation, I’m flying you back here so I can kick your ass.”

“Now this may sound a bit ludicrous but I am reasonably certain that it will work.  A banana peel.”

The President was quiet for a moment, tilting her ear towards the monitor.  “Excuse me, did you just say ‘a banana peel’?”

He nodded, “yes.  To be exact, a giant banana peel.  You see, throughout history all manner of walking life has been tormented by slipping on banana peels.  It stands to reasoning that a giant ostrich would slip on a giant banana peel.  Then it’s up to Secretary Anson to have the military coordinated to trap the bird, say with high-strength wire.”

“Has working with all of that produce destroyed your mind?” Billings demanded.  “Just where do we get a giant banana peel from?  If you say a giant banana, you’re fired.”

“I was thinking that we get a team of seamstresses assembled to stitch together just over 700 regular banana peels.  A forty square-foot peel would surely be large enough.  Twenty seamstresses, thirty five banana peels each, shouldn’t take too long at all.”

“And what would be do after we’ve hogtied the bird?”

“Well, I was thinking that then we could airlift the bird to Alaska, like Secretary Morrison said.  We’ll have the bird amply restrained, it shouldn’t be nearly as much trouble then.”

Billings simply sat in her chair, staring into space.  “This is insane.  A giant banana peel.  Does anyone else have another idea?  Anyone?”

The room was silent.

“So this is the best we can come up with?  A room full of ivy league school graduated and we‘re reduced to this?” The President sighed loudly.  “Okay, screw it.  Let’s give it a shot.  Call the Florida governor, have him get some banana stitchers.  Secretary Anson, how soon can an infantry unit be ready with the wire?”

“An hour or so,” he said.

“Great.  Wonderful.  Meeting adjourned.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get drunk and try to legalize marijuana.”

***

“What a complete disaster,” groaned the President.

It had been nearly a week since Struthioticus had rampaged through Miami before slipping on the banana peel.  Billings’s approval rating had plummeted since then, the polls looking worse every day.

“Is the ostrich dead yet?” she asked the closest aide.

“No, Ms. President.  It escaped it’s bonds early this morning and is swimming across the Bering Sea right now.  Russia isn’t terribly happy about the fact, ma’am.”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t be happy about that either.  What are the polls saying today?  Aside from the fact that I screwed up royal?”

“Surprisingly, most of the country thinks you should have just nuked the bird.  That’s pretty much what everyone except those living in Miami is saying, and if we had used a nuclear weapon they wouldn’t be voting in the polls.”

“What is Miami saying?”

“About Struthioticus?  Not much anymore, they’re just upset about the Naegleria Fowleri epidemic.”

Billings nodded.  “That’s nice.  Am I still being blamed for the ostrich hitting our shores in the first place?”

“Not so much today, only sixty percent is holding you responsible for its existence.  The rest think it’s because of under-funded public schools and a lack of socialized medicine.  The good news is that the animal rights activists are glad you didn‘t kill it.  That‘s keeping your approval up about half a percent right now.”

The President spun around in her chair and stared out across the White House lawn.  It was a beautiful day outside, just enough clouds to give the sky a bright dash of variety.  In the last few days a record number of protestors had gathered outside the west wing, carrying signs, screaming profanity, constantly mooning her office.  More then enough to destroy the good mood that such a sunny day should bring.

“It was the damn orphanage that Struthioticus landed on, wasn’t it?  That’s what’s killing me in the polls.”

The aide nodded, “Yes ma’am, the pictures of a crushed orphanage are across every newspaper.”

“And it doesn’t matter that the orphanage had been evacuated for hours?  Nobody got hurt, but the sight of a crushed orphanage is all it takes to ruin everything.”  She sighed loudly, gave the finger to the protestors outside the fence and pulled  the cord to close the drapes.  “Okay, so how do I get my approval rating back up before the next presidential election?  Fight some civil wars?  Ship food to a starving country?”

“Those are always good standards.  Want me to see what the United Nations has along those lines?”

Billings nodded, “yeah, that’s a good start.  Ask Russia if they want any help with the bird.  And tell the chef that I’m in the mood for a hamburger and cheetos for lunch.”

“Yes, Ms. President.”

Author’s Note

Okay, raise your hand if you think I was trying to make fun of the old Godzilla movies?  Good, you‘re right.  Now raise it if you think I was trying to make a mockery of our political process, president or anything of that sort?  This wasn’t my goal at all, but it certainly looks like a side effect from the way I wrote this.

I really have no plans to ever bust out political commentary in my writing (partly because I‘m not the type of person to try to convince everyone that my way is right, and partly because politics have really started to bore the living crap out of me).  After reading the story you probably think that’s the biggest self-contradiction in the known universe, and perhaps it is.  But my point is that I never intended to say anything political in this.  I just wanted to tell my own little story about a giant monster trashing the place.  Along the way I decided to use a female President, an all-moron cabinet and an absolutely ridiculous method of doing away with Struthioticus.

So why do I go through all the trouble of mentioning this?  Because when I was editing the story, I noticed that this could indeed be compared to all sorts of political mishaps and misdealings.  So why didn’t I rewrite it in a way that people wouldn’t draw these conclusions?  Well, I tried, but I ended up losing all of my jokes.  In the end I decided to keep the above version and just say that all of that commentary crap in unintentional.

Furthermore, the only research I did in writing this was figuring the distance from Miami to Selawick, Alaska, and I measured the length of a banana peel.  I did no fact checking on anything else I said here, so there’s bound to be huge mistakes all up in this story.  Oh well.  In fact, I’m not even certain why I did the research mentioned above.  I could have just made that crap up, made two more mistakes and slept just fine.

So, in closing, any and all political commentary is accidental and this story is probably chock-full of ungodly mistakes.  If you want to complain then my thinking is “why are you taking a silly tale about a giant ostrich that seriously?”

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