I don’t hate all animals. I only have loath for cats, horses, parrots, goldfish and monkeys. Yeah that’s right monkeys. Notice I specified goldfish because I really like most other fish. All of this started at a really young age. I guess I was about 8 years old when I came in contact with my first parrot. It was a beauty too. It had the multi-colored feathers and the proud yellow bill. It had those saucer-shaped eyes that seem to be looking both ways at once. It had a squawking voice.
My Aunt Margaret had brought this beautiful bird home to her house from Mexico. Basically, when she arrived at the Mexico — U.S. border with the bird tucked safely away under the seat covered with a blanket, they asked her if she had any fruits, vegetables or parrots. Well, she said no to all of the above and proceeded on home from there. This parrot was highly skilled in the art of articulate communication.
Bird communication that is. They say that if you train these things to talk they can actually learn to mimic your voice. Well, I am not sure how many times I said “hello” in that annoying little voice that day, but all this thing did was talk bird. Why do we talk to these birds in that voice anyway? You know the voice — scratchy and high-pitched. Sort of like if you use this voice the bird will automatically key in on the sound of our words and begin talking to you in English as if he had known you for years.
Well, all this bird seemed able to produce was a loud, irritating squawking sound that only served to startle every one in the room. I was beginning to have the feeling that while in Mexico this bird drank straight tequila as a staple. Still, I was curious. Being a tactile child I had the urge to touch everything I saw, all the time. I was one of those hyper kids of whom most parents say, “we can’t take him anywhere.” Every time we would go to Kmart my Dad would ask me in all sincerity and as if he did not know the answer, “Why do you have to touch everything in the store?” Well I just couldn’t help it. My son does the same thing.
That bird was made to be touched, I thought. I stared at its awesome feathers and something boyish inside of me wondered what it would be like to grab one of those feathers and take it home. The bird was huge though. I mean this thing was bigger than my head, neck and torso put together in a box. I only watched the bird the first hour of my visit.
Later that day I approached the cage to take a closer look. I stayed a good four feet away. Ya see, My Aunt had already warned me to stay away. She said “John, that bird might bite you, So stay away.” I understood the risk of getting closer. I kept my ground 30 minutes longer until I had to go to the bathroom. I really think that some men get their greatest ideas in that room. The bathroom. What a place to just sit down and think.
I grew courage on that toilet. I was going to approach the bird and pet it just once. I would leave the feathers intact. I would stand close to the cage and wait. I would wait for the bird to turn its head and then quickly touch its neck with my small fingers. Well I finished up in the thinking room and ventured on to where the bird was kept. Since I forgot what the bird’s name actually was , probably because it had a Spanish name, I will refer to him henceforth as “killer.”
Killer’s cage was one of those tall black iron cages that had the dome on top and was cylindrical in shape. Killer could have had a partner the cage was so big. But, this bird was alone. I walked right up to the cage and the bird saw me. It back pedaled on the stoop until it was as far from me as it could get. I stood with my face pressed up against the cage and began to get a renewed sense of power as the bird cowered in its corner. “Hee-ee-ee-re liddle bewdy.” I said in a whisper.
If Mom and Dad caught me I knew I would be in trouble. The bird turned its head and stared at me with those dead eyes. It was a look of curiosity. It cocked its head left, then right. It’s feet side-stepping moving his body forward on the stoop. I backed up a little so as to avoid losing my nose if he decided to strike. It came right up to the cage where I was and cooed. It was a purring sound. I was thinking that this wasn’t so bad after all.
My heart began to pound in my chest as I raised my small hand towards the cage. I was unconsciously breathing deeper as well. I could feel the adrenaline level flushing my small form. I brought my hand right up to the cage by the bird’s head. He remained still. I waited. I did not want to spook the animal; otherwise I would have to go through this again. The bird continued to stare right at me. I needed a decoy.
I remember thinking if he would just look away in the other direction I would have time to touch him on the neck quickly. With my other hand I reached around the cage to the other side.
I began snapping my fingers to distract him with my left hand while readying the right. The bird flinched a bit, but continued to stare right at me. I snapped my fingers some more. I was never really good at snapping my fingers. Other people sounded like they were knocking two stones together when they did that. I felt like my fingers were made out of burlap. When I snapped those small fingers it sounded like someone was pounding together two cotton balls. I decided that I had to tap on the cage with the other hand.
I ran my fingertips across the small bars and the bird turned its head. My right hand moved forward as the bird turned back. I stopped. I ran my fingers once again across those tiny bars and the bird turned again. This time my finger jutted between two of the bars and I touched the feathered back of Killer.
So soft, I thought. The bird did not seem to notice at first. Then he turned and saw my finger. I had pushed my finger in just far enough to go past the first knuckle. It was stuck there. The bird began to eat.
AAAAGGGHHHHHHH!!!! I yelled trying to pry my tiny finger out of the raptors’ mouth. I yanked my finger and the bird kept biting. It was like trying to wrestle free from a Rottweiler’s grip. It’s little face lit up at the flavor of little boy digit. It was as if the bird was made to eat people. It had the eyes of a well-trained predator.
My Dad was now behind me grasping my small arm. I was out of the monster’s grip finally, but it took the strength of the strongest man I knew to free me. I remember the sheer terror of knowing I will never be the same. I pictured myself with a prosthetic hand trying to brush my teeth and eat. I cried and refused to look down at the nub that was now my hand. “John!” My dad said. “John,” he said with a chuckle “Look.”
“No I can’t,” I whimpered.
“What did you say?!” He exclaimed in an angry voice.
“Uhh… yes Sir” I said reluctantly.
My eyes looked down at the would be mangled appendage and to my surprise…
“See, it didn’t even break the skin,” Dad chuckled. Heck everyone chuckled. Mom was there. Aunt Margaret was laughing as well. “I warned you,” she said. It was a regular “everyone-laugh-at-the-stupid-kid” event. My tears stopped eventually, but the memory of being bitten has remained to this day. If given an opportunity, Parrots would absolutely eat people to death. I don’t care what they say. Just look in their eyes, and you will see it too.