Tank fried the steaks on the stovetop. He boiled some potatoes and put together a green salad with lettuce, tomato and cucumber.
I sat at the kitchen table with an open beer while he cooked. "I guess you'll expect me to put out after the fancy meal," I said.
He laughed and poked at the steaks. He was smoking a cigarette, and he had an open beer and a cup of coffee going. "Hey, I'm not a bird-o-sexual. I don't know. Are there bird-o-sexuals?"
"Probably," I said. "There's everything."
"Yeah, I guess so. Well, don't worry, this isn't a fancy date. I always eat like this. I'm an athlete. I have to take care of myself." He finished his beer, dropped his cigarette butt into the empty bottle, and got a fresh beer out of the fridge.
"Well, it's fancier than I usually see guys cook," I said. "Most of the guys I've met barely eat at all. Just junk food, or twenty-five cent hamburgers."
"You can't live on that stuff." Tank set the two plates on the table. He watched as I used the knife and fork to cut everything into small pieces, and then began pecking up the bits in my beak. The steak was good. I hadn't eaten much steak before.
"This is weird," he said with a chuckle. "I mean, I guess I've seen birds eat before, but not like this. Sorry if I'm being rude staring."
I wiped the tip of my beak. "No big deal," I said. "I know we're different from each other."
"If you don't mind me asking," he said, "how come you... oh hell, I don't even know how to ask this. How come you're not a regular bird, you know? How come you're person sized, and you talk and everything?"
I shrugged. "Lucky, I guess." I had a drink. "There's just something that happens. Some people think it's because of the government testing atomic weapons or something, but it's actually been going on since, I don't know. The twenties. Maybe earlier. Sometimes animals figure they're not just animals. They grow up to person size, walk among the humans, figure out how to talk, drive cars, or do whatever. There's quite a few of us around, actually. Not many in this town, but I hear New York has a big community of...talking animals, I guess you call us."
"Huh," he said. "How come you don't move to New York then?"
"I visited. I didn't like it. Too noisy."
"Yeah," he nodded. "I'm not a big fan either. I heard about the animals when I was there, actually. You could go to like, animal shows. Not a zoo, but like a night club or something, and the animals perform. Even some kinky shit, like for guys who want to get it on with animals. Hey, like you said, there's everything, right? Everybody has some kind of kinky fetish."
"Right. That's not really for me. I'm not saying I don't like human women. I just mean that I wouldn't want to be with someone because I fulfill their fetish."
He put a piece of meat in his mouth. "You said you were common law once, right? What was that like? Was that with a girl? I mean a regular girl?"
"Yeah," I said, "a regular human girl. That was a strange relationship. My first and only with a human girl, actually. She came onto me in a bar, and ended up moving in with me. That was in St. Louis. We were together for about two years. She was a drunk and a pill popper. I didn't know what the hell was going on with her most of the time. She ran around on me a lot, I know that for sure."
"Man, that sounds like shit," Tank said. "You kick her out?"
"Nah," I said. "I had a hard time getting work, and I eventually lost my apartment. She just went and shacked up with another one of her boyfriends. I said to hell with it all and left town."
"That's rough." Tank hesitated, put a piece of meat in his mouth, and then made a show of thinking hard about something while he chewed. "This is another weird question," he said, "but you guys, did you... you know?"
"Well, you're a bird and she was a regular girl. Did you guys, you know, sleep together?"
I cocked my head to one side. "Are you asking if we had sex?"
"Yeah, 'cause I mean, how would that work? You guys, you wouldn't exactly match up, right?"
"We matched up well enough," I said, smiling my little smile. "I think that's all I really need to say about that."
"Sure, sure," Tank said, nodding and smiling. He reached for his beer and took a drink. He looked embarrassed. "It's just funny, right? Because if you guys got it on, what would happen? Ha ha, if you knocked her up, would she end up laying an egg or something? I'm just joking around."
"Right," I said, poking around the salad with my fork. "What about you?" I said, hoping to draw the conversation away from my interspecies sex life. "You seeing anyone now?"
"Me? Hell no," he said. "I'm still settling in. Too busy with the team. We're just wrapping up training camp. I'll probably start meeting some girls once the season starts. There are always girls hanging around teams. You're going out with that Penelope girl now, right?"
My eyes popped wide open. "What makes you say that?"
Tank shrugged. "You guys left the party together. I just figured, you know."
"No," I said. "We just left at the same time. We each went to our own place."
I poured some beer into my beak. "But since you mentioned it," I said. "I uh, I've been thinking about some way to talk to her. Some reason to knock on her door and say hello, if you know what I mean."
"You're shy, huh?" He grinned. "That's funny. You weren't shy about knocking on my door."
"That was a different circumstance."
"Yeah, I'm just kidding." He sat up and opened his eyes brightly. "I've got it, Jerry. My team's opener is this Friday. Invite her to the game."
"Sure. A hockey game is a great time. It's like taking a girl to a movie, except better, because you can talk to her all the way through. And the two of you can drink beer."
"I guess," I said. "I've never really watched a hockey game. And I don't know if she likes it either."
"Ah," he said, waving away my concerns. "It's zero risk. If she says no, at least the invitation is a conversation starter. I'll get you a pair of tickets. They always have tickets available for the players, and I don't have anybody else to give them to. It's not like my wife is going to make the trip. I wish she would, though. I'd like my kids to see me play at some point. I mean, it's not the big league, but even so."
I thought it over. "Okay," I said. "I guess it's worth a try."
* * * * *