I got in my truck and Tara hopped onto the passenger seat head rest. She didn't make a sound for the half hour or so it took me to drive down to the Pike Place Market. Not a peep out of her. Not a peep out of me.
It took about four loops driving around the market before a parking place opened up. I parked the truck and gathered Tara up. This time no chocolate pretzel. No coffee. No cookies. I ran past the brass pig and down the hill climb to Charlie's Bird Store.
Tara finally perked up when we got to the door. "No. I'm not going back in there," she emphatically said. "You're not taking me back? What are you doing?" she pleaded.
"I need to talk to Charlie."
"I'm not going in there."
I opened the door. Tara suddenly flapped her wings and before I could think to grab her feet she was fifty feet in the air and flying out of sight back over the top of the market.
I ran out into the street in front of the shop screaming, "Tara!" An oncoming car slammed on its brakes. The driver laid on his horn and yelled before swerving his car around me, "Get out of the road you stupid fuck!"
Charlie appeared at the door. "Tara?" he asked, looking around when he didn't see her with me. He already knew the answer. "You can't bring her back here, boss," he added. "I have a 'No Refund' policy."
"She flew off my shoulder and up over the building when I tried to go into your shop. I've got to go look for her."
"She'll be okay, son. Take my word for it. So why did you bring her back here?"
"Well, I didn't want to leave her at home unattended," I said. "Something strange happened to me last night. And I think you might have an idea what it is," I added.
"The weirdest thing happened with Tara last night," I continued. I know you're going to think I'm nuts, but. . ." I paused, trying to think of the right words. "I might as well just say it straight out. Tara raped me last night." There, I said it. I paused. "Maybe rape is the wrong word, but she took certain liberties with me, and I'm not talking about the god-damned parrot."
Charlie looked at me for the longest time without any noticeable reaction. Okay, he hasn't fled into his shop and locked the door. That was a good sign. Finally he asked, "Tara show herself to you as she really is?"
"Yes, she did." I replied. Charlie leaned back behind his door and flipped over his 'Come In' sign to the 'Closed' side.
"Buy me a beer," he said, "and I'll tell you a story."
"Okay," I agreed.
We walked up to the next level of the hill climb and dropped into a Mexican dive called El Puerco Lloron. Apparently Charlie was no stranger here. Charlie called out to a husky tattooed Latino guy with a goatee and spiked black hair behind the counter, "Buenas tardes Raúl. Necesitamos cervezas. Dos para mí y dos para mi amigo."
"¿Su amigo está pagando por la cerveza Señor Charlie?"
"Igual que siempre hermano."
The guy named Raúl deposited four ice cold glass bottles of Negra Modelo on the counter. Charlie grabbed two. I grabbed the other two. We sat by the windows, looking down over Elliott Bay where we could see the ferry boats coming in and out of Coleman Dock.
"This is going to be a two beer story," Charlie offered. He spread his lanky body over the metal folding chair and propped his back against one of the concrete pillars in the room. We drank in silence for a few moments.
Charlie finally broke the silence. "So you know there's more to Tara than meets the eye?" he asked.
I wanted to say, 'No Shit Sherlock!' I said, "she made somebody disappear last night." Charlie didn't show the slightest surprise. "We were in downtown Ballard and some old bag lady tried to attack her. Kept calling her a devil. Then suddenly she just vanished. Into thin air. And that wasn't even the strangest part."
"There's more?" Charlie asked.
"After we got home," I continued, "she scared the shit out of me. She transformed herself from a parrot. . . a parrot that just by the way can make people disappear, she transformed herself into some sort of freak that can bend time and space."
I half expected some kind of reaction from Charlie. Nothing. "Not a freak," Charlie interjected. "Not hardly."
"Maybe that's the wrong word. Extremely beautiful in a very frightening way. Did I mention she was totally naked?"
Charlie looked up at me with a bemused look. Finishing one beer he started the other.
"She had this skin that glowed blue like cobalt," I added. "And then she made love to me. Or at least I think she did. That's when I passed out."
"We may need more beer, son," Charlie said.
Charlie started on another beer. "Then the most powerful of these witches, these gods, decided they would enslave mankind to do their bidding. They started hiding among us in positions of authority and power. Those they couldn't subvert they killed. And took their place. See, these witches are shapeshifters. They can take animal or human form and hide among us. The only checks on their powers, the only protection people had, were the ancient shamans who knew how to counter their magic. Now, even the shamans aren't strong enough to stand up to these witches."
Thirteen years of graduate school down the drain, I thought to myself.
"So this Indian guy lets out that these warriors only reveal themselves when there's a threat to their existence. Which means a threat to our existence. And apparently there's a threat. A bad threat. A god of war, a warlock, a really bad hombre, killed his shaman on the Canuck coast and escaped his homeland and is extending his empire over the world of men. This god of war is called Winalagalis."
Okay, I thought. What the hell have I got myself into? "You know anything about him?" I asked Charlie.
"Only that he comes from a race of warriors in Canuck Land, called the Kwakwaka'wakw."
"So what do we do?" I asked very rhetorically.
"That's where Tara comes in," Charlie said. "Apparently there's a whole passel of Taras. Twenty-one different kinds of Taras. But the Blue Tara, what Tara is, is top dog. . ."
"Or top parrot," I interjected.
Charlie continued, "Tara is one of the fiercest and most powerful warriors of them all. Did she have a battle axe?"
"Yes she did," I responded. "And just one eye and one breast."
Charlie reached across the table and grabbed my hand. "Tara is one of the most powerful and one of the most secret of the warrior witches. She only shows herself to special people." The hair on the back of my neck bristled. Hell, all the hair I had left on my body bristled. "That's why not everybody can see her the way she really is. But the people she shows herself to, those people have a special role in whatever game she's playing. Your seeing Tara as she really is is both a blessing and a curse. For your sake," Charlie whispered, "I hope to hell she's flown off and you never see her again!"
I didn't know what to say. "And you know what else?" Charlie added. Oh My God, there's more, I thought to myself. "There's more than one of her. Blue Tara that is. Something about the birds that bred her. . ."
"Duke and Duchess, you mean?"
"Yeah, Duke and Duchess. There's something about them that's magic. The magic that's in Tara and the others comes from them."
An old proverb came to mind. When you find yourself in a hole, you should probably stop digging. Okay, maybe not completely germane, but something along those lines. Charlie polished off his beer. "You know where to find me," he said. "I got to get back. Whatever you do, you be careful boss," Charlie said shaking my hand. "You're getting into a whole world of shit like you've never believed possible."
"And I've got to go look for Tara." I paid the tab and headed up to the top of the market. I figured I'd stop by Starbucks to pick up a coffee to counteract all that beer I just drank. Up top, I found my truck surrounded by a crowd of people. An assortment of tourists, hobos, and vendors. I forced my way through the crowd. A crowd of people surrounded my truck because they were staring at Tara perched on the bed of the truck.
I was relieved but in no mood to show Tara off, let alone talk to anyone. I skipped the coffee. I stepped Tara up and we climbed into the truck and drove off.
"We need to talk," I said. To Tara.
But first I needed to see Jean. I dropped Tara at the apartment. I poured leftover caprese salad into her dish and told her I'd be right back. I decided to risk leaving Tara unattended. I couldn't go through the rest of my life with a parrot attached to me.
I hustled down the street to Caffe Umbria. The hour was just past closing but I hoped that I could catch Jean before she left work. Jean was locking the door when I ran up.
"Jean!" I almost yelled in her ear. "I need to talk to somebody," I told her. "It's things about Tara I can't make heads or tails of. I think I'm going nuts, and I just want to talk to somebody I know is sane. Like you,"
Jean took my hands and blurted out before I could continue. "Am I glad to see you." You are? I thought to myself. Things are looking better already. "Where's Tara?" she asked.
"At the apartment chilling her paws, I hope."
"Did you catch the news today?" she asked.
"News? No, what's up?" I don't watch television anymore ever since Dear Leader imposed his New American Order. "Too depressing," I told Jean.
"That bag lady that was here last night. She was picked up in West Seattle by the cops and taken to the psych ward at Harborview for evaluation. She kept raving about devils and parrots. So it was true, what you said about her." Just then I glanced across the street. The shopping cart stacked with plastic bags still sat parked next to the bell tower.
"I've got something to tell you," I told Jean, "that's going to blow you away." Jean kept holding my hands. I took a chance. "You doing anything? You want to come by for a glass of wine and see Tara?" I thought I'd throw the bird in for good measure. "I just live up in the old St. Charles Hotel."
"Love to," Jean responded. My heart raced. We walked back up the street holding hands.
Back in the apartment I poured some wine and we sat at the dining table. "Okay, here goes," I said, taking a deep breath. "Buckle up."
"Okay," Jean said as she took a sip of wine.
"Tara is a witch."
Jean slammed her wine glass down on the table. "She's a what?"
"Witch. Goddess. Diety. Take your pick. She does things that witches and goddesses do. You know, if it walks like a duck. . ." I paused. "And that's not the weirdest part. Tara is not a parrot."
We both turned to look at Tara perched quietly on her stand.
"Well, she looks like a parrot," Jean tentatively offered.
"Okay, she's a parrot. But she's not just a parrot. The parrot is just the form that people see. In reality. . ." I pondered whether reality was the word I was looking for. "In reality she's an Amazon."
"You mean like Amazon parrot? Now I am confused."
"No, I mean Amazon warrior. Like in Greek mythology. Hercules and Achilles, and all that. Battle axe and all." Jean seemed somewhat incredulous. "Tara revealed herself to me last night. She took human form. If you can call a being with one eye and one breast human. She carried this huge battle axe. And did I mention, she was completely naked?"
"Now you're putting me on."
"I went to see Charlie today. He's seen what she does. He knows what she is. He knows how powerful she is. And he knows why she's here."
"Apparently the shit is about to hit the fan."
"So how do you fit into all of this?" Jean asked.
"Oh, no big deal. Fate of the universe. Survival of Western Civilization. End of the world as we know it. Just your average history professor at work."
"You used to teach at the U Dub, right?" U Dub is what Seattleites euphemistically call the University of Washington. Another method to differentiate true Seattleites from interlopers.
"Charlie said the people Tara chooses to reveal herself to have a special role to play in whatever game she's up to. But I don't think it's a game at all. It's real. Myself, I just don't see me wielding a battle axe any time soon."
"I like guys with battle axes," Jean joked.
"Now you tell me."
"I'm trying to make sense of this. Either you're feeding me one load of bullshit, or this is the greatest pickup line any guy has ever come up with."
"Or maybe it's all true," I offered. Jean stood up and bent over to kiss me. "What's that for?"
"I like guys who save the world."
I stood up and kissed her back. Lips to lips. Tongue to tongue. She tasted like a fine coffee liqueur. I put my hand up her sweater. Why you fox you, I thought. No bra. Instead I found a pair of perky breasts. Jean squealed as I fondled her nipples.
Jean unzipped my pants and pulled down my pants and shorts. Then she pulled down her skirt and undies. She pushed me back on the chair. Kicking her clothes off she put her arms across my shoulders. She straddled my thighs. I gasped as she slowly slid onto me.
It was hard to differentiate whether the skreech or the blackness came first. I thought I heard Jean scream. Or maybe that was me. Jean got to experience the entire space and time shift from blackness to whirling blue orb to Blue Tara's effervescent crystalline blue form.
When some form of reality reestablished itself, Tara stood before us just as I had described to Jean. Tara stood fully naked. Jean and I stood half naked. We stared at each other. This just isn't going to do my sex life any good at all, I thought to myself.
"He is mine," Tara finally spoke. Looking directly at Jean.