Habitat Spat

by Kate Maxwell

He has no money, no voice, but struts into the cafe with a defiant head thrust. The barista glances up from his steaming, and grinding, slams down the espresso head to release used coffee, then offers a small grimace. Barista’s seen his type before; twitchy necked, wanting, and ragged. Eyes him coldly as he pushes the silver machine into a whining squeal and froths milk into a white bubbling frenzy.

You dare to enter my cafe, barefoot? His eyes glare.

There’s a short stare off. Barista wins as the other scans the room, scratches, and half raises his wings. But he remains. Pecks at crumbs on the floor.

Bloody Bush Turkey, piss off, says the Barista’s sneer.

A woman sips her latte and smiles at the matte black bird. Her husband flaps newspaper pages at the fearless foul. Turkey just fluffs out feathers, dark button eyes darting about to settle again on the Barista.

You piss off. We were here first. You think this coast has been concrete, metal, and exhaust fumes forever?

Barista throws a used paper coffee cup at him.

Hey, when you pay tax or wear underwear, you’re welcome to order a flat white.

Turkey pecks at the cup, inhales the caffeine. It only makes him bolder. He opens his beak, jerks his neck back and forth, makes a low gobbling sound.

You think I’d pay tax on something that’s already mine? Wouldn’t even be foraging here if your swarms hadn’t bulldozed the whole shoreline to make ugly brick nests.

Barista clenches his eyebrows.

Flea-ridden thing. Better piss off now or I’ll throw hot water at you.

Turkey sniggers.

In front of all your customers? I think not. A piece of bread. That’s the cost of my departure.

#

The Barista has at least five coffee orders to finish and a queue of customers feigning patience. The waitress, rushing around with plates and cups, throws out a foot, and cries, ‘Shoo’ at the turkey. Turkey flaps but scuttles forward again once she’s back behind the counter. He pecks up toddler debris beneath a highchair.

‘Get outta here,’ cries the Barista finally, frothing away behind the machine.

Customers, look on, mildly amused, but let the Turkey be.

Barista scowls again.

I swear, I’ll introduce you to the cook if you’re not outta here soon.

Turkey gobbles.

You know serving wild game will get you shut down. May as well be a street vendor.

Barista’s face reddens.

Nothing wild about you, you dirty scavenger. Feral’s a better word.

Then, with a barrage of barking, a pull on his lead, and bared teeth, the approaching Labrador finishes the dispute. His owner yanks him back from a fast-moving drumstick as the Bush Turkey sails onto a table. Turkey eyes the Barista briefly.

This isn’t over.

He flutters awkwardly off into the trees in a clatter of crockery. Barista throws the Labrador, now waiting with his owner in the queue, a piece of bread.

There’s the cost of departure, you Turkey.

 


Kate Maxwell is a teacher and writer from Sydney. She’s been published and awarded in Australian and International literary magazines. Her first poetry anthology, Never Good at Maths was published in 2021, and her second anthology will be forthcoming in 2023. Kate’s interests include film, wine, and sleeping. She can be found at https://kateswritingplace.com/