The Parrot - A Short Story
The Parrot - a warning!
Peter bought a parrot. A pretty little parrot. Polly had been the pet parrot of Patrick and Patricia Pendleton, but Patrick had gotten rid of the bird shortly after the sudden passing of his wife.
The owner of the pet shop had assured Peter that the parrot was the perfect pet for a person who needed a companion but didn’t have much time to pamper and exercise it. Peter was a writer, and spent much of the day at his keyboard, often neglecting onerous household chores until the dishes and dirty clothes were piled so high that clearing them became a necessity or a matter of hygiene.
The day that Peter brought pretty Polly to the house for the first time, the place was, thankfully, in a neat and tidy condition. He positioned the cage of his new best friend in the corner of his study. Here, he could admire the bird from his desk, and the bird would never feel lonely. It could enjoy the sunlight streaming through the window in the daylight hours, and was adjacent to a radiator, should the evening get too cold.
Polly seemed at peace on her new perch, and Peter was pleased that his pretty new parrot had pride of place in his special room. It was a happy day.
Peter’s publisher was on the phone. “Peter? You promised me you’d have your next paperback prepared and ready for publication by the end of the month. That’s precisely 5 days from now. Please, please, send me something to settle my nerves.”
Peter had practically put aside his paperwork for the past few days and had spent much time pampering and playing with his new pet. But he needed to be practical. The publisher was right. He had to focus on his work.
“Polly, my pet,” he looked sadly at the parrot, “Peter has to pause from the persistent petting and focus on finishing the new novel. The publishing house won’t pay out until the paperwork is presented as a perfectly completed project.” With that, he made himself a cup of coffee, got comfortable in front of the keyboard and began tap, tap, tapping out the final chapters of his latest creation.
By early evening, the single coffee cup had become a collection of seven. There wasn’t time to stop and wash them. His creative juices were flowing, and the dishes could wait. Around the desk, the floor was awash with scraps of paper with notes written on them, and open reference books. In the ashtray was a mountain of dog-ends and ash. Peter puffed a lot when he was writing.
Polly the parrot was perplexed. The place that seemed the perfect paradise when she first popped onto her new perch had now become a rubbish dump.
Peter, engrossed in his task, was oblivious of the fact that he had ruffled Polly’s feathers, but the bird was at the end of her tether.
“Pick up the papers! Pick up the papers!” she squawked with indignation.
Poor Peter nearly fell off his seat at being so suddenly alerted to the bird’s powers of speech.
“Pick up the papers! Pick up the papers!” Polly impatiently repeated.
“Polly? You talked!” Peter promptly paced across the studio and peered into the cage. He was as proud as punch that he had purchased such totally talented parrot.
“Pick up the papers! Pick up the papers!” Polly squawked louder, angry at being gawked at by her impertinent new owner.
“You want me to pick up the papers?” Peter asked, feeling somewhat tickled at the thought of carrying on a conversation with his feathered friend.
“Don’t just stand there! Pick up the papers!” Polly was not a single sentence parrot.
Perhaps it was the unpleasantness of Polly’s tone, but Peter was suddenly unsettled.
“Pick up the papers! Pick up the papers!” she repeated again, and flapped her wings is an aggressive manner to indicate that she was in no mood to be trifled with.
“Ok, ok.” Peter decided that perhaps it was best to humour the irritated bird. “I’ll pick up the papers.”
When he turned from the cage to survey the chaos on the floor, he kind of understood why the parrot was so insistent. The room was a mess.
While he went about the business of organising and carefully stacking his notes, the parrot remained silent, but her head was turning to and fro, examining the scene, deciding what needed to be done next to restore the room to it’s former glory.
As Peter completed his task, he turned to seek Polly’s approval. “There now. Are you happy?”
“Do the dishes!” Polly squealed, “Do the dishes!”
“The dishes?” Peter turned to examine his desk, and wondered how he had managed to accumulate so many empty cups.
“Do the dishes! Do the dishes!” the bird persisted.
“I’m supposed to be working.” Peter wasn’t good at concentrating on more than one thing at a time.
“Do the dishes! Do the dishes!” Polly wouldn’t let up.
“Alright, alright!” Peter bellowed back at her, “I’ll do the bloody dishes.”
Without further ado, he gathered up the empty cups and took them through to the kitchen. He had no intentions of actually washing them, but he was sure that by just getting them out of Polly’s line of vision, she would be contented. He set them on the shelf beside the sink and returned to his study. He and Polly eye-balled each other suspiciously as he made his way to the desk, but before he could get seated the squawking started again.
“You haven’t done the dishes! You haven’t done the dishes!”
“Oh bloody hell!” Peter stormed out of the room and decided to end the confrontation by being obedient. He washed and dried the cups and returned them to their cupboard. Now perhaps he could get back to his writing.
Entering the study, he defiantly glared at Polly, almost daring her to find further fault with his surroundings. Polly raised her beak and nonchalantly turned her head away.
Peter pondered on how precocious a pet he had purchased, but putting such thoughts aside, he turned his attention once again to the completion of his composition. He was now working on the last chapter and planned on having it completed by bedtime.
Without a thought, for most addicted smokers perform the act of lighting up mechanically and then gasp in shock when they discover that they’ve gone through 20 cigarettes in an evening, he lifted a half empty packet, and pulled out a cigarette. Without taking his eyes from the screen, he groped on the desktop for his lighter, found it, flicked it into a flame and brought it to the tip of the cigarette. Even before that first satisfying puff of smoke had billowed out into the room, Polly went berserk!
“Dirty, filthy habit! Dirty filthy habit!” she bellowed, louder than all her previous squawking, and then, would you believe it, she coughed! Not a real cough, but one of those obnoxious fake coughs that non-smokers do when they’re trying to make a point.
Peter looked up in disbelief.
“Dirty, filthy habit! Dirty filthy habit!” and another fake cough. “Empty the ashtray! Empty the ashtray!”
This was getting ridiculous, and Peter’s patience was wearing thin.
“Listen beaky!” he rushed towards the cage. “This is my house and my study, and if I want to smoke six cigarettes at a time, I’ll do it. And if you don’t shut up with your squawking, you’re going in the garage! You understand?”
Polly stared back at him defiantly.
“Empty the ashtrays! Dirty filthy habit!” she yelled. “Dirty filthy habit!”
“Aaaarrggghhhhh…!” Peter let out a wild scream of agitation. “You annoying pain in the ass. Alright. I’ll smoke outside.” Without another word, he grabbed his cigarette and stormed out of the study, slamming the door behind him. He went out to the back door step and sat on an up-turned bucket, huffing somewhat that he had to suffer the chilly breeze of the evening to enjoy a peaceful smoke. He had only taken a few draws on the cigarette when he was sure he could hear the parrot muttering inside. Curiosity got the better of him and he quietly extinguished the cigarette and tiptoed back into the house. Sure enough, the annoying creature was saying something, but from the kitchen, Peter couldn’t make out the words. He took of his shoes, and crept silently to the door of the study and put his ear to the keyhole.
“You don’t love me. You’ve never loved me.” Polly appeared to be crying. “You don’t love me.”
Peter was suddenly overcome with a feeling of guilt and remorse. The poor bird was probably still nervous with being in a new environment, and he had yelled at her. No wonder she was feeling unloved. He resolved to try to be a more considerate owner. Opening the door, he sheepishly went to the cage and raised his eyes to meet Polly’s.
“Look, I’m sorry. I know I was a bit agitated, but I’ve got a heap of work I have to get finished and I’m a bit stressed out about it. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
Polly opened her beak and emitted what could only be described as a sob.
“There there.” Peter spoke gently. “You’re my pretty Polly, and I do love you. And once I’ve got this work out of the way, I’ll let you have a little fly around the room. Eh?”
Polly cooed like a dove, seemingly accepting the kindness.
Happy that peace had been restored, Peter returned to his desk, determined not to be distracted any further. As he sat, he threw a caring smile in the direction of the cage. Then his head went down. Well, he had not finished typing the next word of his novel when in a calm but infuriating tone, Polly started up again.
“You didn’t empty the ashtray!”
Without raising his head, Peter’s eyeballs rolled upwards to glare at the bird over the top of his laptop screen.
“Typical. You make promises, you break promises! You say you’ll do things, but they never get done.” The bird was having a tantrum. Peter was shaking with anger, but the bird ignored him. “Empty the ashtray! Empty the ashtry! This place stinks! Dirty, filthy habit! You didn’t empty the ashtray! Typical, typical, typical!”
Peter stood and roared. “Shut up! Shut up now!”
“Don’t you yell at me!” the parrot squawked back, “Empty the astray! Empty the ashtray! Typical! Typical! You don’t love me! This place stinks! You’re a pathetic excuse for a man!”
“What?” Peter was infuriated by the final comment! How dare she talk to him that way, after him saving her from the pet shop and giving her a warm and cosy home.
“You ungrateful bitch!” he screamed into the cage!
“Squawk!” the bird reared up with wings flapping furiously. “Bastard! Bastard! I hate you! You don’t love me! You’ve never loved me! Get off your fat ass and do some work for a change! This place stinks! Empty the ashtray! Lazy bastard! Lazy bastard!”
If there had been a coffee cup, or a pot, or even a cabbage handy, Peter would have grabbed it and hurled it at the obnoxious noisy demon-possessed creature. But there was no cup, no pot, and certainly no cabbage, so he grabbed the only think that was close at hand. His cigarette lighter.
“What ya gonna do? Hit me?” the bird taunted. “Lazy bastard! Lazy bastard! Grow some balls. Get off your lazy ass!”
Without a thought for the consequences, Peter adjusted the lighter flame to maximum and ignited it through the bars of the cage. Polly’s wing feathers caught fire.
“Bastard! Bastard!” she was screaming now. “Get off your lazy ass!”
Peter moved the flame closer and Polly’s other wing was on fire as well. The more she flapped, the quicker other feathers began to ignite.
“Bastard! Bastard!” she kept squawking, now hysterically, until she was a complete ball of flames.
Peter stared with a half crazed look of glee as the annoying, nagging, obnoxious lump of bird brained flesh fried itself to death, and eventually fell silent and toppled of it’s perch.
Peace at last, thought Peter. Satisfied that he had resolved the situation most effectively, and was now once again the king of his own castle, he lit another cigarette, and pointedly blew the smoke over the glowing ember of what used to be his new pet parrot! He then returned to his laptop and completed his new novel without further interruption.
The next morning it was delivered to his publisher and everyone was delighted.
Peter poured himself a cup of coffee, picked up the morning paper and settled himself in his favourite armchair. It was with a horrified shudder that he read the feature story on the front page of the paper.
“Patrick Pendleton verdict. Husband found guilty of murdering nagging wife in arson attack.”