It was Sunday! John groaned as he rolled over in bed trying vainly to avoid early morning sun rays creeping into his room through an open window by the bed. But soon the room was a blaze of the sun’s dominating rays and he sat up grumbling. He’d been up until the wee hours of the morning with friends and was now paying a penalty.
He stretched and stood up. Perhaps a shower would deal with the dull head he was experiencing? He felt stubble of an emerging beard reminding him a shave first may help him feel more comfortable. The sun laughed a happy laugh and the white cockatoo resident by the fence opposite his window noticed a head appear at the window. John was his mortal enemy!
Joe the cockatoo burst forth with several rasping blasts. It was enough to wake the dead, and Joe saved these blasts for an early morning wake up call, or when it observed could be most irritating. John picked up one of the cans sitting on his window sill and threw it expertly. The empty can hit with a metallic thud against the wire cage and Joe ceased his raucous scream. It was all a game for Joe and he scored again against his enemy. He was an expert at mimicking and produced an accurate version of a human laugh.
“Watsa Matta!” Joe called good naturedly but lurking under that innocent question was a voice dripping with malice. Joe had a limited vocabulary, but could be quite entertaining when visitors came and he’d dance to entertain them. Of course, payment after entertainment was an expected scratch to his head extended close to the wire. The invitation was given, “Cocky wanna skratccch!”
John shrugged and turned to his radio. He liked to listen to the early country music program and his face brightened at one familiar tune. Joe and his point scoring was finished for the day and John began thinking of how he would use this Sunday.
In the kitchen, John heard a familiar early morning clinking of crockery. Pop was making a cuppa for Mom. It was the only kitchen duty Pop assigned himself, and it had been a fixed habit from John’s earliest memories. The spoon clinked against the side of both cups in turn signalling it was time for Mom to appear. They’d sit in silence as they sipped their tea.
John turned off his radio and entered the kitchen greeting his parents. He’d moved beyond early teens now so viewed his parents differently. He’d now acknowledged the sum of all knowledge didn’t reside in him, and parents did have an advantage of experience and wisdom. He approached respectfully and took his place at the table.
They smiled in acknowledgement and offered to make him a cuppa.
“I hear you were making friends with Joe again?” Stephen chuckled and Joan smiled.
“You really shouldn’t throw things at the cage. It only makes him want to irritate you more. What have you done to him anyway that would single you out for this treatment? He doesn’t do that to your siblings!” Stephen studied John’s face for the answer, and when that was not forthcoming shrugged his shoulders and returned to the tea ritual.
But John was processing the question and the reality was, he didn’t know. His mind went back over the period Joe had been with them all. He remembered when Stephen came home with the parrot. In those days, the one who wanted to get rid of Joe kept him on a wooden stand with a chain over one foot keeping the bird from flying away. Stephen had been incensed at this form of cruelty and built a chicken wire mesh cage around posts holding up a rain water tank. The chain was removed and Joe surveyed his spacious kingdom gratefully.
John frowned, in those days the bird seemed friendly enough. In fact, his sister had entered the cage once and played with Joe and it became a habit for her. If Joe got out of hand she would pull its head feathers and Joe would scream in protest, but would never bite the girl and was always glad to see her in the cage with him again.
However, when Joe was not being entertained he could be destructive. Stephen inspecting the cage one day paused in alarm. He entered the cage for a closer look. Joe had been at work on the wooden stumps holding up their rain water tank and was making more progress than was wise for the safety of their water supply.
The inspection had been made necessary by Joe’s recent escape. His powerful beak had worked on chicken wire until he made a hole in the wire out of which he marched majestically and testing wings not used for a very long time learned he could fly a few feet. Attempts to coax him onto a stick so he could be returned to the cage would result in him becoming airborne from one side of the back yard to the other until to everyone’s surprise he sailed majestically up onto a tall tree. There he sat stoically for several days without food or water despite Stephen putting out favourite seeds to try and coax him down. Eventually an extending ladder was produced from neighbours and Joe rescued. Apparently, he was frightened of heights and would have starved to death had he not been rescued.
Joe was transferred to a cage made of more substantial metal with wider gaps through which he could extend his head and fluff up his crest in anticipation of a scratch. He loved his new home. The bottom of the cage was of substantial metal of the same material. Tree branches placed in the cage for him to climb, sit on and chew on would have to be replaced regularly, and seed husks would fall through gaps at the bottom of the cage to be cleaned regularly. It was then this intelligent bird found ways to entertain himself. He’d heard Joan and her neighbour Mary call each other over the fence and learned to call them with an excellent accent. The poor women made regular pilgrimages to the fence searching for the calling neighbour to find on one occasion Joe let the cat out of the bag calling one of them while they were talking at the fence.
Joe also learned the language of chickens ranging the spacious back yard and would call them feeding corn through holes in the bottom of his cage until he had the whole chicken run gathered underneath for a feast. Then with raucous blasts he’d send frightened chickens scurrying in all directions. The chickens never learned and Joe was constantly entertained.
John nodded in sudden inspiration. As his mind scanned the history of Joe he realized what may have changed a benign relationship into a contest from which Joe would always emerge the winner.
At the time a change in relationship started John had been watching this chicken game with irritation. What if this constant scaring of chickens inhibited their being able to lay eggs he thought? He was young at that time and not up on a concept like stress, but he imagined the possibility. He’d been using the rotary tiller to prepare a garden in the back yard and paused to watch. Then in sympathy with chickens he picked up a clod of earth and threw at the cage. The clod hit the cage and exploded showering Joe with dirt. He looked up with surprise and climbed his perch to sulk and consider. What weapons did he have in his armoury to return the favour? He’d bide his time!
That was it! It was the bird’s revenge for a clod of earth thrown long ago. The sounds that scared the chickens were now shared with him. As an additional act of scorn Joe would attempt to bite John whenever he was close enough to the cage for the bird to extend his head through holes and attempt a hit. Now it was cans, no more clods of earth were available but the important thing was John was irritated and Joe had won.
John smiled grimly. The cycle needed to be broken. The bird screeched it’s early morning wakeup call outside his window but there was no reaction any more. Screeching frequency increased when he was around but John shut his ears until at last a disappointed parrot turned to other forms of recreation. Now and then an early morning test screech was tried, but with no result.
Then one day Stephen announced they’d be moving to a place closer to town. There’d be no more room for a noisy bird at this new location. A new home had to be found, one that would cherish this unique pet, and one was found.
John watched as the cage was loaded into the back of a truck. Joe was to be moved to a farm where he could make all the noise he wanted. The bird eyed its former owners stoically as it was lifted and the cage tied down. His eyes locked onto John as he moved forward toward the truck.
“I’m sorry we’re not friends.” John whispered while the bird read his lips.
The parrot laughed as the truck moved away toward its new home.
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