― Joyce Carol Thomas
Poet, playwright and author
(b. May 25, 1938)
From, “Skins: Poems”
Word on the street is the flockers are back.
Efforts to confirm said rumor with Flamingo Queen Zandra Whaley, aka The Pink Lady, who likewise is a top-notch civic servant by anyone’s standards, have met with less success than a three-legged tortoise running Lane 3 against Usain Bolt.
For the innocent who are not privy to such shades of pastel skullduggery, I speak of the “Flamingo Flock,” an odd ritual whose popularity over the past two years has exploded across the yards of even good people throughout Cleveland proper.
Yet, proper is hardly a word to be used in the same breath as this 2-year-old mayhem in pink feathers.
The Flamingo Flock is a cold practice best left to angels of the night who feed on the unsuspecting by leaving an army of flamingo figurines in the lawns of those whose “friends” have paid for the service. It is an overnight assault conducted by teams of spirited volunteers whose sole purpose is to spread awareness of breast cancer during this tell-tale month of October.
It’s all a part of Volley for a Cure 2012, so I am told.
As far as good causes, they come no better than Volley for a Cure. Yet, as with all things pretty, look deep and one might find its counterpart — the ugly.
Assuredly, the sight of 20, 30, 40, 50 or more pink flamingoes at one’s front steps at the crack of dawn will shake the coffee cup right out of a nervous hand. Those who place these pink puppets of prey under the cloak of darkness are the midnight legions known to the knowing as “flockers.”
It is not a practice for the weak. The task of the wayward flocker comes fraught with great risk.
What if a porch light flicks on smack in the middle of a midnight flock? What if piercing headlights shine an unexpected path into the driveway of a flocking victim? What if Neighborhood Watch squeals “pink” to a 911 dispatcher? What if such shades of pastel are not the passion of the pretties at home?
These are but a few of the questions I had always wanted to ask of a confirmed flocker. But never have I met one; at least, not of my knowledge.
But most will say, “Flockers can be fiends.”
It is why mine was a coup in pink the night I stumbled upon a verified flocker. I didn’t recognize her face. We spoke in hushed tones in the still of a frosty night. Her testimony came unforced, her presence an unspoken surprise. She wore pink sweatshirt and black pants. A short and somewhat round girl, her pink turtleneck offered her the appearance of ... a pink turtle.
I didn’t speak my mind. I was too polite. And Mama didn’t raise no fool.
Fumbling with my reporter’s pad in the dark and struggling to control the ball-point pen in the cold air, I asked her name.
I said “please.”
She refused again.
“Pretty please,” I added.
“Not even with sugar on top.”
We settled on ... Deep Flock.
I had dreamt of this moment. I have slept with visions of triple bylines ... Woodward, Bernstein and Norton. Can anybody say, “Pulitzer?”
“OK, Deep Flock,” I began. I was cool, calm, perhaps even smooth. “Why do you ... flock?”
She smirked under the dim light of the streetlamp. Why she chose this clandestine setting I had no idea. The street was quiet, the sidewalk barren of all life. Our meeting was arranged by a third party. I didn’t know the caller’s name ... Pink somebody, I think. It wasn’t Floyd.
“Why does anybody flock?” she responded to my first blistering question with one of her own.
“I don’t know,” I answered. “It’s why I asked.”
“You like pink?” she quizzed.
“It doesn’t complement my skin tone, if that’s what you mean,” I said. “Not to worry, though. Black, blue, green, yellow, red and white do little for me as well. But this is not about me. I want to talk about you. Why ... flocking? Why not, say ... walrus wrestling?”
“Do I look like I give a hoot about walruses?” Deep Flock asked.
With a thoughtful ponder, I answered, “No, I guess not. Walrus wrestling takes a special breed. And you’re just ... a flocker.”
Fearing I had crossed the unseen line of trust between dastardly reporter and anonymous source, I quickly redirected.
“So this flocking ... does it go back to your childhood?” I asked. “Did you hate your parents?”
“Huh?” Deep Flock asked. “Get a grip, Lois Lane.”
“Excuse me?” I asked. “Was that ... some kind of shot?”
“Never mind,” she continued. “So look ... you want to know why we flock?”
“I want to know why ‘you’ flock,” I corrected, further creasing the furrow between my brows. In the day before social media answered all questions of life, we called it reportorial intimidation.
“Something wrong with your eyes, Sherlock?”
“Er ... no,” I stressed. “Just a little strain. Long day in the newsroom.”
“I’ll bet,” Deep Flock chuckled. She reminded me of Roseanne Barr. I wondered if she could sing.
She continued, “Look. You seem like a decent enough guy. Get your pen ready and I’ll tell you the whole sordid truth about flocking.”
“And ... and you’re going to tell me why you do it?” I beamed, my smile piercing the dark.
“Kolchak, I’ll tell you anything you wanna know,” she said. “But one warning ... it ain’t pretty.”
I could feel the lump rise in my throat as her story began.
And Deep Flock talked.
The sky seemed darker. The stars grew dim. And the night stood still.
Next week, folks.