When Peter hands me the turkey, it looks like the animal is wearing a pink padded push-up bra. "Here's your bird. Nice bra, by the way."
I'm frowning. The bra looks better on the turkey. As we talk a few cars pass by. "What's the matter with him?" I look at the thing, but I can't tell. He doesn't flinch when I touch him, like his wings are hurt. "Are turkeys supposed to fly?"
"I don't think so, but I'm not sure. I'm not into livestock."
"Well, it's good to know you haven't screwed everything on two legs." Peter mutters something, but I ignore him. "He doesn't look like a turkey, except for his gobbler thingie here." I point at the red lump hanging from his beak.
"Gobbler thingie?" I give Peter a look and head back to the car with the bird in my arms. "Where are you bringing that?"
"To a vet. He should have flown away."
"Sidney." Peter grabs my elbow and turns me around. "You can't bring that with us."
"It's a wild bird. If he takes that bra off, he'll peck out our eyeballs."
"You couldn't get my bra off, so I don't think he will. I'll buckle him into the backseat. It'll be fine."
Peter follows after me. "I did get your bra off, mostly."
"Mostly doesn't count," I say as I lean into the car and put the bird on my back seat. For a wild animal, he really doesn't seem to mind the car, or being held. Maybe he's somebody's pet. "Do you think he's a turkey? I mean, he's really dark." His feathers are so brown they're almost black.
Peter sighs. "I'm an English teacher, Sidney. It's not a raven or an albatross. After that, I'd be guessing."
I laugh lightly. "Ah, famous birds in literature."
"Something like that." Peter glances at the bird. "We're seriously going to drive to Jersey with a bird wearing a bra in the backseat?"
"Yeah, I know someone there who will patch him up for free."
Peter slips into his seat and pinches the bridge of his nose with his fingers. "Wonderful. Now's a great time to become a philanthropist."
I slam his door and lean in through the open window. Peter glances over at me. "Who says that I wasn't before? I almost had pity sex with you. Talk about scraping a carcass off the road." I wink at him and walk around the car.
When I get in, Peter is watching me. "How flattering."
"I'm all about the flattery."
"And I'm all about the chivalry. I saved a turkey for you, you crazy person."
I glance in the rearview mirror. My turkey is looking out the window and wearing my best bra. I start laughing and can't stop. Every time I look back there, the image hits me hard like I've never seen it before. I have a turkey doing boudoir poses in my backseat.
Peter won't recline his chair. Instead he sits there in the passenger seat with his eyes mostly closed. I can tell they're still open because his lashes flutter every now and then when he blinks. It's well into the second day and the sun is setting. I'm so tired, and I know Peter is exhausted since he won't sleep with the turkey behind his head.
"It won't bite you."
Peter keeps his eyes sort of closed with his arms over his chest when he answers. "That's very comforting, but I'd rather not risk it."
"I'm starting to think you have a bird phobia." The corner of Peter's mouth twitches like he wants to laugh, but he swallows it back down. The turkey shifts in the backseat and settles down again. Peter's eyes open until the animal stops moving. "Did Big Bird give you nightmares or something?"
"Or something," he says and closes his eyes when the bird stills.
What the hell does that mean? I glance over at Peter. The dashboard casts a soft glow on him and showcases the definition in his beautifully sculpted arms and face. The pit of my stomach fills with regret, and I have no idea how to get rid of it. I decide to press him a little bit, but I doubt that he'll answer. "So what made you decide to be an English teacher?"
Peter lifts his head and glances at me out of the corner of his eye like it's a stupid question. "I like to read."
"Wow, what a wonderfully profound and elaborate answer. Thank you for shedding light on that decision. I think I'll be a teacher when I graduate so I can be like you. You changed my life." I'm teasing him, and right up until that last point my words feel light and playful, but those last four words are real. I don't realize it until they tumble out of my mouth and fill the air like lumps of lead.
Peter watches me lazily from under dark lashes and shakes his head. "Nice, Sidney, real nice."
"We've been sitting next to each other for two days and you've hardly said anything."
"Neither have you. The only time you talked to me like this was when we were getting your passenger back there." Peter jabs his thumb behind us.
Awkwardness creeps up my spine. It feels like there's a hand on my jaw, forcing it open and making me speak. "I don't know how to talk to you anymore."
Peter straightens a little. "You realize what you've done, right?" I glance at him quickly and wonder where he's going with this. "Unbelievable. You don't know, do you?"
"Then educate me, teacher-man. Tell me what I did that was so hideously wrong." My hands grip the wheel tighter. This is why we haven't spoken in two days. It's because every time I open my mouth, we fight, and I'm sick of fighting.
"You turned on me. As soon as I told you my name, you acted like one of them." Peter stares straight ahead and works his jaw. I know he wants to say more, but he doesn't.
I keep my eyes on the dark road, watching the dotted white lines zoom by. "I did not. You didn't lie to them, whoever them is."
Peter cringes. "Nice grammar."
"Fuck you, Ferro. You lied to me, like majorly lied to me. You pretended to be somebody else from day one and never clued me in until you had to."
"That's not true."
"Psh, right. If my brother didn't show up with Dean, you wouldn't have told me at all. I would have found out and felt just as stupid and used later when some reporter figured out who you are. After everything that happened between us—" I press my lips shut and lock my jaw. Stop talking. I know I'm going to say things that I shouldn't say, things that I'll regret.
Peter sighs and tips his head back against the seat. "I would have told you, Sidney. I wanted to tell you, but it's not easy to talk about. You out of all people should realize that."
"Yeah, I do. I get it, but the thing is, I told you what happened to me. I told you all of it. You only told me half. If you don't trust me—"
"That's not it."
"Then what is it? Oh my God, say something! You just sit there brooding all day like a disgruntled supermodel. What the hell is wrong with you? Just say whatever it is you have to say!" I'm so mad at him. I haven't spilled my guts to anyone the way I did with him, and Peter held back. I can't stand it. I can't tolerate the notion that he knew me inside out and I don't even know his goddamn name.
"I can't, Sidney! I just can't!" He's yelling now, his hands flying like they don't know where to go. "I screwed up, I know that. Nothing I say will fix it. Nothing I do will show you how sorry I am. I lost you, but you're sitting right next to me!" He grips the dashboard and turns to look at me. "You've destroyed me. I thought I could handle this, I thought I could—"
Peter's rant gets cut off. He glances behind us at the same time flashing lights do the disco in my rearview mirror. Peter glances at me and slides down into his seat with his hand over his face. "Shit. How fast were you going?"
I cut him an evil look as I pull over. I have no idea. I want to scream and punch. There are a million emotions that are fighting to break free inside of me. I lock my jaw as I stop the car and pull over on the grass at the side of the road. I put down the window and sit there with my hands on the top of the steering wheel where the cop can see them.
He takes his time walking over. It's a state trooper. He's an older guy, skinny with weathered skin and angular features. He leans in and looks into the car. "License and registration please…" The man blinks like his eyes are broken and then tips the end of his pen at the backseat. "What are you two doing with that animal?"
Oh my God. I forgot about the bird. "Taking it to the vet. He's hurt."
The man looks at me like I'm crazy. Then his gaze shifts to Peter. "Sir, what are you doing with that bird?"
"What she said. It can't fly and was wandering back and forth on the interstate. My friend didn't want it to become roadkill."
The officer gives me a strange look as I hand him my cards. He looks at them and says, "Not many people would save a bird like that, Ms. Colleli."
"I know. They would have asked for a fork and eaten it."
The trooper's face scrunches together and he leans forward. He looks at the bird again. "No one eats those things. They're living garbage bins for roadkill."
"What do you mean? It's a turkey."
The man straightens and laughs, like big loud belly laugh. Peter glances at the bird and then back at me. He shrugs. The trooper is still smiling when he bends over again. "That's a vulture, a turkey vulture." He tries not to smile, but I can tell he wants to. "Can you tell me why he's wearing a bra, miss?"
"My friend is afraid of birds and I didn't have anything else to tie him up with."
The man's eyebrows lift up to his hat. He addresses Peter. "Is that true, sir?"
"Yes." Peter gives me a look. The officer's eyes narrow as he looks at Peter. "What's your name, son?"
Peter leans back into his seat like he doesn't care. "Dr. Peter Granz."