The Cafe Irreal: International Imagination

Issue Thirteen

Alice Whittenburg
G.S. Evans

This issue went online
February 1, 2005

copyright 2005 The Cafe Irreal
all rights reserved

Čeština Translations into Czech


irreal (re)view #4

The Parrot
by Ezra Kyrill Erker

The parrot was average--brightly feathered, bursting with song at inopportune times, keen eye watching--except existing purely in illusion. The droppings to be cleaned, feeding, bouts of moroseness when he refused to say hello, the three months it took to teach him to whistle the theme to "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly"--all equal in substance to the illusory bird. What had seemed great amounts of feed to go through had in fact been seeds and pellets set out for that lack which the parrot represented, and rather than being consumed they were thrown away each day and set out again anew. The parrot made others believe he ate too much when in fact he ate no more than any other phantom creation could on the best of days. When visitors arrived they appreciated this unique pet, especially those allergic to dogs or cats, because on his perch opposite the television he offended no one, though often he sang and squawked through mornings songs of notes haphazardly coupled and off-key. Those with an ideological aversion to animals confined as pets--especially jungle creatures who should be free to hunt and be preyed upon according to the fortunes of the food chain--lost the hard edge to their belief under the grinning vigilance of the African grey, and spent hours gently teasing him, watching his perceptive black bead eyes, extending a finger only to retract it as the beak made a move to bite. The parrot had his favourites, those he would sing for or even let stroke his feathers with one finger, but he did not care for children as much because sometimes they tried to poke him with long objects when others were out of the room, and some merely looked at him suspiciously from afar. One girl, shrewder that the rest, once even said, "But it's not real! There's nothing there!" and the bird was forced to change the texture of her statement so the others heard it as, "But he has no meal! It isn't fair!", so that the feed tray was again replenished and the group could happily watch him eat while the girl, arms folded, watched disdainfully as grown people gathered together in the act of feeding an illusion. The owners of the bird, a childless but happily married urban couple, were proud of their whistling social investment; dinner parties had never been so successful or their circle of friends so extensive.

But one day one of the visiting children must have undone the parrot's ankle chain, and the window had been open, and the adults gathered in the kitchen for the dramatic unveiling of a stroganoff, and the bird had flown. The distraught couple roamed the rooms and scanned the skies for a trace of their beloved pet, but the dinner had to begin under an air of tragedy and tension. The couple interrogated the two children, a boy and girl, accusing them of social sabotage, which was deeply resented by the parents who had faith their children would know the difference between right and wrong enough not to tamper with the birds of others. No, they reasoned, this must have happened through some fault of the bird's owners, who were taking out on defenseless children a frustration at long-harbored personal inadequacies.

When the party left and the couple was alone with neither pet nor air of triumph at another night of social fulfillment, they somberly cleared dishes and on the balcony under a clear night sky held each other consolingly, thinking that nothing would ever be able to replace what they had lost.

Ezra Kyrill Erker has published poetry in British journals (Stand, Envoi, Orbis, Psychopoetica, etc.), translations of German political theory (he was born in Berlin), and educational materials (he teaches medicine and English at a national university in Japan).

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