Photo of a cassowary. Caption reads: “The cassowary, also known as the psycho murder chicken.”

Cassowary short story by Iris Carden

Greg hated the zoo.  He only worked there because there was nothing else available. He wasn’t naturally a social person, and having to smile and answer dumb questions people asked really got on his nerves.

Today was an especially bad day.  He’d finally asked Kaitlin out.  She’d turned him down, when he tried to persuade her she’d told him to leave her alone. She’d said she was here to do her job not to be harassed, and not that it was any of his business but she was happy in her marriage, and wouldn’t even consider throwing that away for a loser like him.

Then at the last minute, he’d been put on the tour.  The tour was the worst part of the job.  He preferred cleaning out enclosures over the tour. He preferred feeding big carnivores to the tour.

He rushed through his talk at each enclosure as fast as he could, trying not to hear the questions asked. 

He decided he was going to quit. That would be better than this awful job.  It would be better than seeing Kaitlin every day knowing she despised him.

If he was going to quit anyway, why follow the script?

“OK everyone,” he said as his tour reached the enclosure. “This is the cassowary, otherwise known as the psycho murder chicken. It got stuck somewhere on the evolutionary ladder between dinosaur and bird, so it’s got savage dino armour plating on its head, and huge razor-sharp ripping talons on its toes. It’s bigger than an emu, taller than most humans even, can run fast enough to be pulled over in a school zone, and hates the world and everything in it. A cassowary will rip your guts out and play with your entrails just because it feels like it.”

“I love the pretty blues and red on its neck and face,” a woman said.

“The pretty colours are meant to lull you into a false sense of security, as is the whole body and rump that look like a plain old emu.  You’re meant to look at it and think, oh it’s only an emu with extra colours. The emu being known as the less psycho murder chicken, and slightly less likely to kill you.”

“What do you do if you meet one in the wild.  Do you stay still? Run away? What?” A man asked.

“Unless you can run faster than fifty k an hour, there’s only one thing to do if you meet one in the wild,” Greg said.

The man asked, “What’s that?”

“Die in a very painful and messy manner. Right, get your photos. Don’t get too close to the cage if you want to keep all your extremities.  You at the end. Do you like having fingers?  Keep them out of the cage. … And now we’re moving on to the snakes.  We’ve got ten of the most deadly snakes in the world in the zoo here. Six of them are native to this area.  You might not be able to see the six locals because they’re much better camouflaged than the imports, but they definitely are there.  These silent killers are known as the giant invisible murder worms.”

While you’re here…

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Note: I took this photo at Australia Zoo, where, unlike Greg in the story, the staff were all very nice and very patient with all of the questions they were asked.


By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.

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