Saturday, December 13, 2014

Feral Parrots Part 1


Last week, I posted a tweet about the flock of feral parrots that live around my apartment in Pasadena, CA, being much more raucous than normal.  A writer-friend of mine, Ann Dulhanty commented on that post with a link to a story she had posted on her blog last March that seems to have been inspired by the crows in her neighborhood in Northeastern Canada exhibiting similar behavior (sorry, Ann, can't remember where you live.  You gotta remember that Canada is just a thin strip above the U.S. on most American's mental maps).  
You can read Ann's posting here: Country Life part 1.  
I like the start of Ann's story.  It made me wonder why the parrots in my neck of the woods (or around the nearest street corner for a more urban take on that saying) were acting up the way they were.  I promised myself and Ann that I would see what I could come up with in that regard.  
Well, I'm going to start to fulfill that promise with this posting.  It's just the opening.  I'm going to do my best to finish it and post the rest sometime soon.  All I have is the working title, which is based on the most obvious element of the story.  
Hope you like it and look forward to more.
Feral Parrots.
Akiko Tomlinson hated the feral parrots that lived around her one bedroom apartment.  
"Urusai..." 
She could barely hear her own whispered epithet as they squawked and swooped and flapped and dove and circled about.  They were loud and annoying to begin with.  Their cries were like a rusty hinge on a metal gate being twisted back and forth by naughty boys.  Today they were worse.  Something had agitated them into a cacophony of screeching voices and flapping wings.  
“Dameru...”  
“They’re not going to hear you if you just whisper like that.”  
Her daughter, Mari, was beside her by the railing of their second story walkway.  Akiko had not heard her open the screen door and join her over the noisy birds.  
“Huh.”  Akiko nodded.  Her daughter had a point.  Like her, the parrots had been brought to Pasadena, California from other parts of the world and then let loose by circumstances.  Unlike Akiko, they were fully Americanized.  Loud, pushy and impolite.  She felt like saying this, but didn’t want to see her pre-teen daughter roll her eyes at her.  A habit she had recently picked up.  
“Grandmama was on the phone.”  
Akiko tightened her grip upon the railing.  
“She said to ask you if you’ve made up your mind.”  
Akiko tightened her jaw.  She had asked Daniel’s mother to keep the matter between the two of them.  As she had in the past, Mrs. Tomlinson had found a way to break a promise without really breaking it.  
“Is something up?”  
“Tabun...  Aru neko ga omu no akachan wo tabeta.”  
“I was asking about you and grandmama.”  Mari leaned forward over the railing and looked around nonetheless.  “I don’t think they’re angry at any cats taking a chick, though.  It seems to be something over...  That way...  Oh.”  
“Nani?”  Akiko leaned over the railing herself.  She spotted what her daughter had noticed.  There was a man standing there.  Next to the fence that circled the yard of the private elementary school on the street.  About the same height as her recently departed husband.  Not as fat, though.  He was wearing a dark windbreaker against the early morning chill of a December morning.  A blue floppy hat sat on his head.  He was just standing there, not moving, as the parrots swirled around him like an angry green tornado.  
“Ano hito...”  The man was not unfamiliar to Akiko, but...  “Dare?”  
“That’s Derek.”  
Akiko turned to her daughter.  “Dereku?”
“Yeah.  Derek...  Something.  I forgot his last name.  He moved into the apartment across the way.  Behind us.”  
Yes, yes.  The one that kept his backdoor light on at night since moving in, lighting up the bedroom where Akiko slept.  She gave him another look.  
“Yoku shitteru no?”  
“Not really.  I’ve talked to him a couple of times in the laundry room, that’s all.  He seems like a nice guy.  Listens good.”  
Akiko gave her daughter a look.  “Nihongo de kotaeraru no?”
Mari rolled her eyes.  “Why don’t you ask me in English?  We live in America, right?”  
Akiko pursed her lips.  She did not answer her daughter‘s challenge.  Mari had stopped answering in Japanese since her father died.  A way of staying close to him, Akiko thought.  
There was a horrific shriek and a metallic rattle.  Akiko looked back to see one of the parrots had flown into the middle of the chain-link fence.  It’s clutched the strands of the fence and screeched and screeched and screeched into the face of the neighbor-Derek person.  For his part, he stood there.  He stared at the bird.  He didn't move at all.    
It was...  Almost, it was...  As if he were...  Listening to it.  As if it had something to say to him.  
Akiko shook her head.  That was crazy thinking.  She’d been doing a lot of that.  Entertaining a lot of crazy idea.  Like on her nightly walks.  She found herself looking into back alleys and business doorways and see herself sleeping there.  She would imagine her and Mari searching for safe places to sleep at night after losing what little means she had.  Daniel's survivor benefits only just covered the rent.  
“Tabun tonari no dereku wa nanika omu ni okoraseru koto yatta daro ne?”  
“I don’t think he’d do that.  He likes the parrots.  Knows about about them and stuff.  He wouldn’t want to upset them, I don’t think.”  
Hmm.  He must have done something, Akiko thought.  Maybe they were annoyed about the back light being left on, too.  As she watched, the bird on the fence leapt away.  Another one crashed into the fence, holding on and taking its place, screaming and squawking at the man.  Who just stood there.  Listening.  
Akiko set aside the decision she had promised Mrs. Tomlinson and made another in its place. 

End of Part 1.

3 Comments:

Anonymous AnnD said...

NIcely began. I'm looking forward to the rest.

And I was in Nova Scotia when I wrote the crow story. I imagine the parrots sound worse than crows, at least their caws are more musical than parrots. Their call is evolved to carry over a long distance. What about parrots?

December 14, 2014 at 5:11 PM  
Blogger Erick Melton said...

Parrots are worse than crows. There is nothing in their calls I would call "musical." It's an angry, ratchet-ity, annoying noise storm.

I don't know about the evolution of the parrot's call. It makes me wonder about their ability to mimic what people say. Given that they're not predators, it wouldn't have anything to lure prey (by matching a mating call or something). Something to look into.

December 20, 2014 at 1:02 PM  
Blogger Erick Melton said...

Parrots are worse than crows. There is nothing in their calls I would call "musical." It's an angry, ratchet-ity, annoying noise storm.

I don't know about the evolution of the parrot's call. It makes me wonder about their ability to mimic what people say. Given that they're not predators, it wouldn't have anything to lure prey (by matching a mating call or something). Something to look into.

December 20, 2014 at 1:07 PM  

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