"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Friday, April 18, 2008

Not So Funny Noises

Not So Funny Noises

Pablo the parrot woke up on the wrong side of the perch this morning. It’s something that seems to be happening more and more frequently, but this time was the worst yet.

As I approached his cage this morning to remove the dark green towel I drape over it at night, I knew something was wrong. The towel covers only the top, sides and back of the cage, so I could see him right away. He was sitting on the lower perch, and there was something about his body language, something depressed, something down-hearted. If parrots could weep, I have no doubt this tough, ornery little Green Amazon would have had tears flowing from his orange eyes and down the yellow feathers on his face.

He looked at me as I began to lift the towel from his cage, then moved his beak towards the right side of his breast, and made a perfunctory plucking movement without actually touching his feathers. I had seen a discoloration on his breast, but it took a moment for my sleep-puffed eyes to focus on the green and white smear on his green feathers. Pablo had once again fallen out of bed and this time he had landed breast down in his own droppings. He was one sad little parrot.

It is our custom, after I remove the towel, for me to move my fingers to the side of his cage, next to his favorite perch. If he’s in a good mood, he’ll let me briefly scratch his head. If he hasn’t had his morning cup of sunflower seeds, so to speak, it seems to take entirely too much will power for him to allow touching, and he will move away. Then he watches while I drink my morning cup of tea and read the newspaper. He waits patiently, until he decides I’ve dawdled long enough and it’s time to cook his breakfast.

“Hello,” he says. “Hel-lo-o.” I can gauge his mood by his tone of voice. I cook an egg and give him a piece. After that, if I’m not wearing the wrong color, he’s my buddy and I take him out of the cage. Sometimes he gently pushes my proffered hand away with his foot, and I leave him in the cage. Otherwise, I take him upstairs with me where he sits on the back of a chair while I work at my desk.

This morning, though, was different. I opened the cage and he stepped onto my hand immediately. I took him to the kitchen sink, and he knew what was coming. There was no resistance when I set him in the sink and began to wash the mess from his breast. He tried a couple times to climb out of the sink, but made no move to bite me. I wrapped a towel around him when he was clean, dried off most of the water, and put him back in his cage. He stayed there all day. Clean, but dejected.

He sits flat-footed on the perch, front toes sticking straight out, rather than curling around the perch. He’s done that as long as I’ve had him, since he was fourteen. He’s 36 now. Parrots sleep centered over one foot; the other is curled up into the feathers above the leg.

When he first began falling off the perch, he would make a growling noise and look around as if looking for whomever had pushed him out of bed. Nowadays, I hear a crash, then see him standing, confused. on the bottom of the cage before he begins the climb back up to the top perch. If I carry him upstairs, I hold him in one hand and brace him so he can’t fall. He has stopped objecting to this the past month. Before, my holding him was an affront to his dignity, and Pablo has a great sense of dignity. While his new demeanor protects my skin from parrot punctures, it saddens me to see him accept this so meekly.

The frequent falls have a side effect, and I have no doubt that Pablo is as aware of this as I am. As he falls, he sticks out his wings to try to catch his balance, or flaps them to regain his position on the perch. As a result the ends of his wing and tail feathers are being frayed and battered. The beautiful reds and blues and maroons and aquas and yellows are being shredded away.

I have no idea why he’s been falling so much lately. I have no idea what to do for him. I have been away from home more than I’ve been home this past winter, and I’m leaving again for four weeks. In the past, it would take Pablo at least a day before he stopped punishing me for being gone, and even then he was sure to tell me about my transgression for days afterwards. Now, as soon as I change into my staying-at-home clothes, he seems to forgive me and wants my attention.

Years ago if I told my husband Ken about a funny noise the car was making, and he couldn’t hear it, as he usually couldn’t, he’d say, “Well, wait until it breaks. Then I’ll know what it is.”

I think Pablo’s trying to tell me he hears a funny noise. I hope I don’t have to wait until he breaks before I find out what it is.


April 17, 2008 Gullible


  1. The cursor is blinking at me, waiting for a comment. Your story, here, about Pablo and love, loss, the damned infirmities of age or illness, our inability to do much except to be present with each other and to love unstintingly (and isn't that the point of everything).

    Incredibly fine words, Gully.

  2. Gully's pet and friend Pablo
    Colorful as the setting sun
    Watching life come and go
    Through the bad and the fun
    I wish you well little friend
    That you will be on the mend.