The jobless recovery was making me crazy. I had so many questions! Is there a place for me in this new economy? Are all the creators doomed to be creatively destroyed by the Internet experiment in free everything? Am I the harbinger of great things to come or road kill on the freeway to the future?
And where can I find one wise soul who can scent the winds of change and tell me if they’re blowing pure, sweet air or uranium hexafluoride?
The answer flew to me on a wing and a prayer. I went in search of humanity’s original smoke detector, that ancient oracle of human peril, the Canary in the Coal Mine.
I found him in a rusted cage, tossed like garbage into a dumpster behind a boarded-up Borders Books. The canary was in bad shape, hanging upside down like a bat, black as a crow in an oil slick, with X’s where his eyes should be.
Desperate times call for desperate measures. Risking a lifetime of shame on the sexual offenders list for the crime of bestiality, I bent over that poor bird and administered mouth-to-beak resuscitation.
“Sing canary,” I commanded when he came to. “But not about this,” I said, removing lips from beak. “Keep that to yourself or it’s back down the mineshaft with you.”
“The name is Tweety, human,” he coughed. “What do you wish to know?”
“I am a writer and I’m worried about the new economy. I wish to know the score.”
“Ah, I see. Another underemployed wretch. Take me home and prepare me a birdbath. I will tell you a story.”
I brought Tweety back to my place and polished him up until he shined like a banana. Once the bird was clean, he began to sing.
“You have saved a very important bird,” he said. “I come from a long line of ‘service canaries.’ My great-great grandfather Ochre guarded Pharos’ copper mine in Thebes. We’re in much more than coal, you know.
“Wherever humanity screws up, we keel over. All through history we’ve sacrificed our lives for you. But you never listen.
“My uncle Tweetledolf went claws-up during the Munich Beer Hall Putsch back in ’23. He could have stopped World War II if anyone had noticed. But his demise was in vain.
“My aunt Boopytweet hit the bottom of the cage in ’29, two weeks before the big crash. Her passing went unheeded.
“My country cousin Yaller Bird was working the Texas Book Depository in Dallas ’63. She joined the big flock in the sky in October. To this day you guys talk about the grassy knoll, when all you had to do is look in the cage.
“Now you want to know about the new economy? You came to the right canary.
“I was an artsy bird; I pursued a career among my fellow creative types, writers mostly. I even had dreams of my own—you didn’t happen to see a screenplay in the dumpster, did you?
“Yeah, I know. Me and every bird, duck and gull in California. Anyway, I knew I was in trouble when AOL came around. Things went downhill from there. Every new start-up I dropped another feather. Meanwhile my tech-canary cousin Codechirp is getting fat as a goose.
“I interviewed for the Twitter job. I figured I was a shoo-in with my name being Tweety and all. But those bums ripped me off. They went with a lowlife sparrow name of Larry instead because he worked cheep.
“But the joke’s on him. They replaced him with an app.
“I picked the wrong field, writer boy, and so did you. If it’s any consolation to you, the rest of humanity is in the same, sinking boat. Pretty soon one machine will make everything you guys need and everybody will be out of work. Except maybe the pizza delivery guys. My nephew Peep-a-roni tells me that’s a growth industry.
“Speaking of which, I’m famished. Got any birdseed around this dump? I mean, you should. Isn’t that what they pay writers nowadays?”
I wish this story had a happy ending, and it might, for us humans, if we learn the lessons Mr. Canary was trying to tell us. But not, alas, for the bird. My cat, who cares nothing at all about the new economy, ate him.
Let that feline slacker have the final word about our avian friend.
“Tweety was a deliciously diverting bird, with savory undertones of bankruptcy and asset bubbles and a lingering grace note of anthracite.”