Free Oliver Awesome
By: The Operation Awesome Team
Nathaniel: Oliver Awesome was no stranger to prison. His first time in The Big Cage came practically right after he learned to hold a pen with his wing. When they put him away this time, they didn’t even bother taking prints of his feathers. Last time, they got him for infodumping too much in the opening paragraph of his unfinished manuscript. But he’d violated probation when his editor came across this line in the first draft of his query:
“COPIOUS AMOUNTS OF BUTTER is an Adult Historical Romance complete at 100,000 words. It chronicles the adventures of Julia Child, a KGB spy and a trenchcoat full of gnomes.”
Oliver learned the hard way that an Oxford comma could mean the difference between three characters having a quirky, absurdist road trip and calling Julia Child both a Russian secret police officer and a long emo jacket full of tiny mythical creatures. They were using any excuse to put him away at this point.
He put a tick mark on the wall for every word in the edited version of his manuscript. A cage was no place for a bird, but he wasn’t worried. He knew he would get out eventually. Because the most dangerous animals of all were the creative and carnivorous.
Kate: And Oliver was both. The prison diet of birdseed and water was supposed to weaken him, but Oliver refused to let it. He imagined each stale husk was a mouse, fresh and juicy and delicious. It kept both his strength and his spirits up as he stared through the bars at the lines of cages, each holding a feathered friend.
"What did they get you for?" he asked the cockatoo in the neighboring cell.
"Impersonating royalty," the cockatoo squawked back in his coarse, Australian accent. He tossed his head, showing off the gold crown he still wore, even in prison. "This time... Last time it was pinching sandwiches from tourists."
Oliver shook his head. Typical of Australian birds. They were all crooks. Must have learned bad habits from all those prisoners that settled the country. But Oliver could use someone with a criminal mind. If he was going to escape this cage, he'd need an accomplice. And what better accomplice was there than a career criminal? Someone whose mind was tuned to the nefarious?
"I'm Oliver," Oliver said. "Pleased to make your acquaintance." And to cement the burgeoning friendship, Oliver tossed a few of his choicest seeds into the cockatoo's cage.
J: The cockatoo ate the offering. "Right nice to meet such a generous fella. Name's Quentin Cocky. What's your crime?"
Oliver relayed his story.
"That title reminds me of the movie, Butter. Human friend-of-the-feather, Jennifer Garner, is in that."
Oliver hooted and jumped around in his cage. "That's what I compared it to in my query! Another alleged crime of mine. They said comparisons are meant to be to other books, recent ones with decent ranks, and in the same genre. Not to films."
"Eh, whatda' they know?" Quentin Cocky chewed on his cage.
"Careful, you'll hurt your beak." Oliver twisted and turned his head until, at last, he found a loose feather on each wing. "Can you keep watch for the guards?"
"Mate, that's my specialty!"
Oliver used his quills to pick the lock. A skill he researched for his crime book THE HEN WITH THE PHOENIX EMBLEM. If anyone glanced at his search history from back then, he'd be plucked for sure. He listened to the click of the pins. His mouth opened as he puffed his throat in and out.
The cage swung open. Oliver flapped his wings, preparing for his flight of freedom.
Amren: "Wait!" Quentin hissed, and Oliver paused. "Guard's coming, mate."
Oliver quickly shut the cage door once more and ruffled his feathers, trying to make them look raggedy and unpreened. A huge raven with hulking talons appeared at the end of the hall. Sergeant McBill.
McBill peered into the cages as he flapped past, clicking his beak harshly at any caged bird who looked back at him with the wrong spark in their eye. His talons were long and thin enough to reach through the bars and scrape out a prison tattoo on anyone who stirred his ire. Oliver shrank back with fire in his veins. He'd get free. He would.
"What a preener," Quentin Cocky taunted.
Oliver groaned internally as McBill's flinty eyes turned their way. He should've known better than to throw in his lot with such a flashy bird - and an Australian at that. Did he learn nothing from his debut, WHEN THE CAGED BIRD DOESN'T SING? McBill hovered in front of Quentin's cage, his gaze flicking from Quentin to Oliver.
"What you say, squawker?" McBill cawed.
And as his head swung in Oliver's direction, Oliver realized that his cage door wasn't quite shut.
Dena: McBill eyed the door. “What the-?
“Lenore!” Quentin squawked.
The raven whipped around. “What'd you say, jailbird?”
“Lenore!” Quentin squawked again.
“I ain't no Lenore,” McBill snarled. “But that name does sound familiar...”
Oliver took a deep breath and exploded out of his cage. “Lenore!” Wrapping his wings around McBill, Oliver spun him around and squeezed him tight. “I've missed you so much!”
“Confound it!” McBill spluttered, attempting to extricate himself. “I ain't no Lenore!”
Oliver twirled the raven and conjured a tear. “I can't believe you're back! How've you been? We have so much to catch up on.” Reaching the open cage, he shoved McBill inside and slammed the door shut.
“Good onya, mate!” Quentin cawed.
Hoots and shrieks filled the room. Oliver plucked two more feathers and opened all the cages. The sound of furiously flapping wings filled the air.
“Cheers, mate!” Quentin said, saluting Oliver. He and the other former prisoners disappeared into the night.
Oliver turned a piercing stare on McBill. “We writers don't follow no stinking rules.” He left McBill, never flitting, still just sitting, contemplating the cage door.
McBill shook his head. “Nevermore.”
We hope you enjoyed our story of Oliver Awesome's writing crimes. Be sure to check out the other WEP entries! Click the image:
What writing crimes have you committed that would land you in the bird cage?
📢 The Operation Awesome Team is proud to introduce you to our newest member, Dena! Be sure to check out the introduction post tomorrow. 🎉
Want to learn more about cockatoos? https://www.natureaustralia.org.au