Zaya and the ostriches

by Bruce Anderson,
Anderson Valley Advertiser

"Is this that political-type paper," a tentative female voice asked when I picked up the phone.

"I suppose," I answered, forever not knowing what might come next.

"Oh. Hi! I am Zaya. I saw an article in your paper when I was at Harbin Springs maybe a year ago about ostriches flying. Everybody said it was a big joke — the ostriches —but then I met a lady from Las Vegas — I live in Antioch, don't ask me why because it's the end of the world and I don't like it at all — but anyway, the Las Vegas lady told me there really is an ostrich park in the Panamint mountains near Las Vegas where they have ostrich races. Do you write about ostrich races in this paper?"

"Probably," I said. "We're kinda eclectic."

"No, no," Zaya said. "Real ostriches. Not electric ones."

"I don't think Vegas ostriches fly, Zaya, But if they do, what happens, say, if they fly into the nickel slots or something?" I was neck-deep in the spirit of the conversation.

"Silly you!" Zaya exclaimed, as if she'd known me for a hundred years. "How could they have ostrich races in the casinos?"

"They have everything else in the casinos," I said.

"Well, they don't have anything in Antioch, I can tell you that!" Zaya assured me. "I don't know why I live here!"

"I think you might like it in Albion or Mendocino," I suggested. "No ostrich races, but plenty of people with their heads in the sand, so to speak."

"I'm very small," Zaya explained, ignoring my little joke. "I think I'd be good at riding ostriches. I'm pretty tough, too. My dad was a lightweight boxing champ in Detroit in 1929. I can't imagine falling off one, even if they flew up pretty high. I'd need a parachute, but I would like to try it."

If Zaya's father was boxing in '29, Zaya probably shouldn't have been thinking about ostrich-jockying, obviously a young person's sport. I suggested maybe Zaya ought to consider a safer pastime.

"Well," she said, "I was thinking about going down to the Embarcadero and making walking sticks. I could sand them down and make up political rhymes while I worked and see if people will toss money in my hat."

"That's more like it," I said.

"I want to ride an ostrich, though," Zaya insisted. "If anybody can help me find the ostrich races, they can write to me in Antioch. Zaya Jhalsa, that's my name. I used to be an American Sikh."

I imagined her secure in a shell-shaped ostrich saddle, maybe in the pole position, but breaking out of the flock just before the tape, and it's Zaya by a beak! Zaya and her ostrich in the winner's circle, garlands of festive feathers around their victorious necks!

"Do you promise to let me know about the ostrich races?" Zaya asked, a life-time of disappointment in her voice.

"Of course," I said. "I might want to ride an ostrich myself some day."


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  1. I'm sure Marco will read it this Friday night on his show, Memo of the Air Nighttime Ride. It's too delightful not to.

    - Zeke Krahlin

  2. Replies
    1. It's by Bruce at the AVA, of course. All I did was love it and cut and paste. :)


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