The barking parrot
I lived in South Africa for many years. I had a good job there with, USIS, the United States Information Service. Then I came to Italy, to Rome.
In South Africa I had a parrot. You can say that it was my best friend. I don’t have a family, only my parrot. I talked to him every day and he talked to me. He could say a lot of words and phrases. Very often they were really sensible. He waited for me to come home and always said, “Hello. How are you?” When I came through the door. And he never said, ‘Good evening!’ in the morning.
Then I got a new job in Rome. I arrived in Rome with the parrot and the customs officer took the parrot. He said, “This parrot has to stay in quarantine for three months.”
Anyway, I was very unhappy. I arrived in a new country and started a new home without my parrot. At last, the three months were over and I went to collect my parrot. The man was nervous so I thought my parrot was sick or even, dead. I got really upset.
I said, ‘You are not making eye contact with me! You are hiding something from me about my parrot. What is it?’
‘Madame, your parrot is healthy.’
‘Then why don’t you look me in the eye? What is wrong with my parrot?’
‘Madame, your parrot…’
‘Your parrot…Well, you see we don’t have a separate section for parrots, nor even … any cages. So, Madame, your parrot has been living in a kennel… with…dogs.’
‘And, Madame, it… no longer talks… but barks like a dog.’
‘Madame, it barks… whines, whimpers and growls like a dog. It is a very considerable linguist, if I may say so.’ He looked sideways at me, expressing very reasonable fear that I might do him an injury.
Anyway, I took the parrot home and sure enough, it was an audial dog albeit a visual parrot.
The stress in my new job was as much as I could take and this was too much. In these circumstances there is one thing a New Yorker can do, find a shrink.
I looked up in the yellow pages for a pet psychiatrist and found one. This was Rome. New York is full of them.
So we went along. We didn’t each have to lie on our own sofa. Sorry to disappoint you.
Basically, the dude said, ‘Go home. Be relaxed with him. Give him time to get used to you. Give him freedom. Talk to him. He needs to be given respect, personal choice, and so on. He’s a clever guy.’
I took him home, whining in the car. I tried to take it easy with him…talked to him…gave him the freedom of the whole apartment.
One day, I went out and left the window open. When I came back he’d gone.
After a few days I began advertising in several newspapers in Rome. ‘If anyone sees or hears a barking parrot, please let me know.’ There have been occasional reports of a barking parrot hanging out with a pack of stray dogs in Parco di Villa Glori, I went a couple of times but heard and saw nothing.
Then I got an idea, ‘I rang up the dog quarantine stables for Rome and asked for the man that I dealt with originally.
‘Oh, yes, Signora! I am glad you have phoned. Yes, he’s back here. He seems to have made close friends with an unclaimed mongrel. We wondered if you would like to come and collect him…and perhaps you would consider taking the bitch which he seems so attached to, quite literally, at times.’
‘Well, I will summarise the situation in my life now, I have got the, not my, parrot back and his new partner and I find myself very much classificed as the junior wife in the relationship. He has carried on barking and all that pouch lingo but does speak to me occasionally like, ‘I’m hungry.’
‘So am I!’ I tell him.
Now I go to the shrink by myself.