The Wingless Wingman by Douglas Sterling

An immigrant shopkeeper consults his nephew on how to improve business, by Douglas Sterling.

I do not like the ones that walk around with the parrot on shoulder trying to impress the girls. They demean the noble creature. They teach the parrot the pick up lines.

Parrot says, "Braawk! Is your father the baker?"

Parrot says, "Braawk! Is you wash your clothes in Windex?"

I wish parrot would tear earring out - patooie! - fly away up in sky. But wings are clipped, parrot is trapped. Parrot is the wingless wingman. He only dreams of flying over his jungle, singing his song. He is stuck here now forever.

Boys, girls, all are animals here. There is no self-respect. No dignity. When they come in shop they cannot look me in eye. When they ask question or want to get t-shirt they stay looking down at floor.

But here I am selling slop to animals. I ask nephew what shirts will these kids buy? He says shirt that says Who Farted In Here or FBI Is Female Bodies Inspector. So I buy these fart shirts and he is right. They buy Who Is Farted and Beer Is What's For Breakfast and for this they pay fifteen, twenty dollars.

They are playing boom, boom, boom out of trunk, driving car down street. Animal noises. I ask nephew why they like this racket. This is not music. I play for him Maria Callas.

Casta Diva, che inargenti queste sacre antiche piante, a noi volgi il bel sembiante senta nube e senza vel!

He says for me to turn it off that it is scaring the kids away, Uncle! And he is right. The kids are leaving out the door, sticking fingers in ears. So I ask what music they like. He says the Rick Ross. Okay. I turn on the music that says Every Day The Hustling, Every Day The Hustling, the rapping music. And I am broken. I am beaten. I am every day the hustling.

Some day I feel like land of freedom, land I escaped to, is just new slavery. Some day I feel I am parrot sitting on nephew's shoulder. Now freedom is everything I left behind. Now I am wingless wingman too.


  1. Beyond just the underlying commentary on immigration, there is something here to be said about the "next generation." For each of us there is a tendency to hang on to what we best know from our world, our time. Glenn Miller, Buddy Holly, The Beatles...with this generation entralled with rap. For those from the previous generation the only justice comes in knowing that the shopkeeper 20 years from now will not be able to play his rap, but rather be forced to play whatever future twangs of the guitar hold, otherwise risk the kids poking their fingers in their ears and running to another store.

  2. i found this interesting and agree with jim.
    i wonder if this man´s nephew cares about his uncle, he is already totally integrated and this man is looking for a world which in many cases does not exist anymore, 'boys, girls all animals here.....'

    michael mccarthy

  3. I wonder why this is tagged as "funny stories". I think it is a very sad story with grains of humour and irony. What's funny if a man feels like a wingless wingman.

  4. Very well done! I felt the frustration, the longing for things gone by, and the terrible sadness of the man,how low he thinks he has fallen in his attempt to make a living.... . Great title.

  5. I love the analogy the writer makes between himself and the parrot. You can pick up on it all the way through the story. It's brilliant. But I also agree, this is not a funny story at all. It is sad but honest. The shopkeeper has no respect for the customers that come in and buy the trashy t-shirts and he is trying to keep his nephew pure with the sounds of Maria Calas. Nice touch.

  6. Culture changes, learns new phrases and tricks everyday, new songs and memes, new celebrites and boots out the old, but, ultimately, it's only a parlor trick. It doesn't really understand.