It was two o’clock on a Friday afternoon, when the flamingo trainer presented his card. He was a stout, little man with oil-slick hair and a dark woolen suit.
“You may inform your master that Mr. Frederico Ardovini is here,” he announced grandly. “The Greatest Flamingo Trainer in the world!”
The old man who opened the door regarded him skeptically for a long moment with sharp, milky eyes.
“I am the master of the house,” he said finally. “And I have no need of a flamingo trainer, the greatest or otherwise.”
“You are the master of the house?” Ardovini asked incredulously and with not a little scorn. It was a very grand house, after all, with over a dozen bedrooms, four libraries, an orrery in the attic, and over five acres of grounds. The thought that such a man would answer his own door was unthinkable. Almost as unthinkable as a man in possession of a flamboyance of flamingoes not requiring a flamingo trainer.
“I am,” the older gentleman said with all the wounded dignity of a man of sufficient wealth and station to answer his own door if he wished to, and to close said door in the face of any itinerant flamingo trainer.
“Forgive me,” Ardovini said with a bow and a tip of his hat. “I meant no offense, Mr….?”
“Albert Barnett Jennings, esq.” The old man smirked. “And no doubt you were simply expressing surprise at my…?”
“Humble demeanor,” Ardovini interjected without a moment’s hesitation.
“Ah.” Mr. Albert Barnett Jennings nodded with a mocking twinkle in his eye. “Of course. Well, Mr. Ardovini, regardless of my demeanor, I am still not in need of a flamingo trainer.”
“But you have some of the finest flamingoes in the country here,” Ardovini protested. “They are known far and wide for their plumage and their bright color.”
“Indeed,” Jennings agreed, whose flamingoes had, in fact, recently won best in show at the 87th Annual Flamingoes, Finches, and Duckbills Festival. “And while that explains why you might wish to work with me, it does not explain why I would need you.”
Ardovini ran a hand through his hair and smiled far too brightly. “I understand your reluctance, Mr. Jennings, esq, but give me five minutes with your flamingoes and I’ll show you what I can do. Please…”
Slowly and against his better judgement, Mr. Albert Barnett Jennings nodded. After all, what was the harm?
There were forty-three flamingoes in Mr. Jenning’s flamboyance or colony. They were all gorgeous, pink, long-necked creatures with a violent disposition that ranged from grumpy to down-right homicidal. They inhabited a medium-sized pond, which Jennings had commissioned especially for them and equipped with a constant supply of brine-shrimp and algae.
“If I might have a moment alone with these exquisite creatures?” Ardovini asked, his hat doffed in his hands.
Mr. Jennings raised a dubious eyebrow. The flamingoes were all perched on one leg, staring balefully at their would-be trainer.
“It’s your funeral,” Jennings said. “I’ll give you five minutes and then you’re gone.”
“We shall see.” Ardovini seemed supremely, even suspiciously confident.
“Keep an eye on him,” Jennings murmured to his gamekeeper. That worthy fellow nodded silently and put a finger to his nose. He had been Mr. Jenning’s batman in the war and could be relied upon for his discretion and his willingness to protect the flamingoes as if they were his own children.
When Mr. Jennings, esq. returned precisely five minutes later, he found a bewildered groundsman and a grinning flamingo trainer.
“Usually I have more time,” Ardovini said. “To become acquainted with the birds individually, but I’ve done the best I could in the time allotted. Every flamingo is secretly a drama queen, after all. Now, with your permission?”
Jennings glanced at his groundsman who merely shrugged helplessly.
“Very well, Mr. Ardovini. Impress me.”
“As you wish.” Ardovini tossed his hat into the air with a flourish, and cried in a loud, clear, unaccented voice. “Ah one, two, ah one, two, three, four!”
And then, before Mr. Jennings’ eyes, his award-winning flamboyance of flamingoes began to dance the polka in perfect, pink unison.
“So,” the flamingo trainer asked, “are you impressed yet?”