Saturday, January 24, 2015

Feral Parrots Part 3

Here is the third and final part of my rough draft entitle "Feral Parrots," written in response to my friend, Ann Dulhanty's crow story.  

Here's a link to her blog where you can follow her story about loud birds: Country Life part 1.

You can find links to the first and second part of my loud bird story in the Previous Posts section to the right of this entry.

Hope it was worth the wait...
Akiko lay on the sofa.  The lights were out.  The blinds pulled shut.  She was curled into a ball, tucked as tightly as she could into the corner of the cushions.  She would have burrowed underneath the sofa and hid there if she had been able.  It was too narrow, though.  She had scratches on the back of her hand to prove it.
The front door opened.  Akiko winced.  The light from the lowering sun burned her eyes like someone pushed wasabi into them with their thumbs and rubbed them in.  
"Doa wo shimenasai!"  
Mari couldn’t hear her over the screeching of the parrots.  They had fallen quiet for a time, but were screaming at her again now that the door was open.  They were clustered so thick on the branches of the tree that faced their door Akiko thought they would crack and snap off at any moment.  
She pushed herself from the sofa.  She held her hand up to block the light.  At least she hadn’t turned into an American Vampire, Akiko thought as she pushed her daughter aside.  They would burn up if struck by light.  Japanese vampires weren’t bothered by it, though they did stupid things like counting every grain in a bowl of rice.  
Akiko slammed the door closed.  The screeching of the parrots stopped.  Akiko thought she could smell them, even through the door.  A musty, pungent order like piles of soiled newspaper pulled from the bottom of a bird’s cage.  
“Mama?  Doushite no?”
So, seeing her curled up in self-pity brought out the Japanese in her daughter?  Resentment started to boil inside her.  Why should hers be the language of weakness? 
“It ‘doushita’ no.  do-u-shi-ta.  Ta.  What happen-ed.”  
Mari crossed her arms over her chest.  Her breasts were just starting to poke out.  She hadn’t said anything, but Akiko had spotted her checking them out in the mirror after her bath.  Probably hoping she was more American in that way, too.  
“Nanika ga atta no?”  Her daughter kept her eyes firmly locked on hers, demanding an answer.  
“Okaasan to isshoni Nippon ni hikkosu.”  
“Eh?  Moving to Japan?”  
“Good to hear you understand.  Get more practice for your Japanese there.”  Akiko felt drained of energy.  Darui.  She forced herself around and labored her way back to the sofa.  
“Marichan Nippon ga suki darou ne?”  Mari was following close behind her.  She wanted to lay back down but something kept her standing.  Maybe it was to be more The Mother now.  Her head was spinning.  Her eyes felt like they were going round and round and round.  “Nippon no kazoku ga iru shi...”  
“But my friends are here.  Daddy...”  
"Is dead."  She turned to face Mari.  There, she thought.  I showed you English can be used for bad things too, ne? 
“And that just makes you so happy, doesn’t it?”  
Akiko’s breath wheezed out of her.  She was going to suffocate.  She stared at her daughter in the semi-dark.  Like a shadow puppet, she was.  The shape of something human, but...  Were her eyes turning green...?  
"You never once cried since he died.  You never said you missed him.  I never, ever heard you say you loved him."  Sobs escaped her daughter's mouth between each sentence, but the words themselves were strong, well honed and thrust between her ribs and into Akiko's heart with power and purpose.  "You always berated him.  You did nothing but point out everything he did wrong."
The spinning in Akiko’s head picked up speed.  Faster and faster, like a top slapped by a child’s hand.  Of course she pointed out her husband’s flaws.  She was his wife.  She did it BECAUSE she loved him and was close to him.  He was so close to being the perfect man.  So funny.  So kind.  So very gentle.  Treating her like she was so precious when she so often felt clumsy and unadorned.  If she had tried to say her feelings about him out loud she would have melted into a puddle of tears.  Even now, she could feel her skin turn hot at the blush that came when she thought about his touch.  A touch she ached for every day since...
“You looked down on him.  You didn’t really love him.”  
That made the spinning stop.  And it turned the shadow puppet of her daughter into one of a little demon.  
“You only married him to get out of Japan.”  
Mari’s head snapped around, pulling her body with it, from the force of Akiko’s slap.  It was harder than she intended.  She felt her fingers tingle from the sting of it.  How it must feel on Mari's cheek.  
Mari caught herself, keeping herself from falling.  She staggered back, one hand plastered to the side of her face where Akiko had struck her.  Outside the parrots screamed in rage.  She had called her daughter an idiot before hitting her, but it was her own stupidity that she could smell.  Like the stench of unwashed bodies, it clogged her nose and made her sick.  
“I hope you like Japan!”  After screaming at her, Mari ran to the door.  She flung it open.  Akiko, blinded by the light, could only hear the door slam into the wall and rebound back to the opening.  
“Send me a postcard when you get there!”  She could see her daughter’s silhouette in the doorway for a moment before the rebounding door blocked the view.  Akiko could feel the reverberation of her feet as they pounded down the walkway and then the stairs.  
And the parrots screamed.  Screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed.  There was no air around her.  No atmosphere.  It was replaced by the thick, gooey, overlapping sounds of parrot rage.  Akiko released what she thought would be her last breath and let it wash all over her.  
There.  All done.  First she had ruined any chance of compromise with Mrs. Tomlinson.  Now she had made certain her daughter would never want to return to Japan with her.  There was nothing left for her but to vanish.  Inaku naru, ne?  Disappear and be forgotten as soon as she was out of sight. 
It was only after a few dozen heartbeats, and several raspy breathes that scratched the back of her throat, that Akiko noticed that it was quiet enough for her to hear her heart thumping in her chest as well as feel it.  There was silence.  
The parrots had stopped screeching.  
Akiko's body moved on its own accord toward the door.  Her hand raised itself, pulling it open.  Her eyes squinted against the light.  
The parrots were there.  All of them.  Sitting on the branches.  Staring at her.  Hundreds of beady little eyes, glaring at her in accusation.  Judging her.
“Nani ka?  Nanimo iwanai no?”  What is it?  You have nothing to say?  “Before you want so much to say, now you say nothing?”  
The parrots fluttered their wings.  It made the branches sway as if moved by a warm breeze.  Akiko felt her skin crawl and pucker, and not from the cool evening air.  The shudder across her skin made her wonder if Mari had been wearing her sweater before running away from her, probably forever.  
The parrots started making a soft, clicking sound.  Like a bunch of gossips in the check-out line or or at the laundromat.  Akiko could imagine what they were saying about her.  What does she do all day?  Why doesn’t she get a job?  Doesn’t she have anything to do?  She just lays about all day, feeling sorry for herself, doing nothing, saying please, please, please, but NOT doing ANYTHING to CHANGE THINGS!  
Akiko closed her fists.  She prayed for a thousand cats to descend on the neighborhood.  She would toss them into the tree and laugh as they tore the parrots wing from wing, beak and claws from body.
But...  They were only parrots.  They were only repeating back to her what she had said to herself.  Said to herself while berating her poor, dear husband to keep from hearing what things she didn’t want to hear about herself.  
“That all you do, ne?  Say what you hear back.  That all you can do, ne...?”  
The parrots clicked and fluttered.  It sounded like they were talking to themselves.  Cars wooshed past on the street below and they mimicked the sound like fans at a baseball game.  
“I do what I was telled...  Told to do.”  That sounded so false now that she said it out loud.  Like the harsh voice of the parrots when they cried out.  
There was nothing inside of her.  She had tried the ways she had learned in Japan.  She didn’t know the ways of America, despite the time already spent her.  What else was there, but...?  To jump?  Leap out into the air.  Was the apartment building even high enough?  Perhaps if she timed it as a car was about to drive past?  
A parrot screamed.  Then another.  Then a third and fourth together.  One of the screams sounded like Mari’s voice, hidden amongst the voices she didn’t know.  
Would her daughter scream for her?  It didn’t matter.  She couldn’t leave without seeing her daughter first.  Apologizing for what she had done.  And...  And tried... 
To keep her.  It was still what she wanted.  It was still what she wanted to do. 
There was silence again.  Akiko looked at the parrots.  They looked back at her.  And waited.
“You make this your home, no?  You not belong here, but you make yourself belong, ne?”  She opened the screen door.  It squeaked like a small baby parrot might when first poking its head from its shell.  She stepped up to the rail.  She stared at the parrots.  They stared back.  
She had done what she had done.  Fine.  Now, she would do what she would do.  She would jump.  Not to end her life.  But start a new one.  She would be like the parrots, who weren't born here, but made their lives here whether other people liked it or not.  
Yes.  She would learn to squawk and cry and complain.  She would learn to be rude when she needed to.  She would tell her mother-in-law, Mrs. Tomlinson...  Grace.  She would tell Grace that she could keep Mari to live with her, but only for a time.  Until she could get a job and keep her daughter herself.  She would get it in writing, too.  She would use a lawyer the way Americans did if she had to.  And if Grace didn't like it, Akiko would tell her...  She would tell her...
That she could see her granddaughter whenever she wanted.  But that she would stay with her, her mother.  No matter what. 
Akiko shuddered.  It went through her arms and legs.  It went out her back and grew and billowed and caught the cold breeze like wings.  She was scared.  So very, very scared, but...  Expectant.  Waiting for the day when she would fly in a sky she had never thought to fly in.  
When she opened her eyes, she looked down and saw Neighbor-Derek on the sidewalk below.  He was looking up at her.  When he saw her looking down at him, he waived.  Akiko smiled and waved back.  Neighbor-Derek nodded at something then carried on with his walk.  
Akiko jumped when the parrots, all at once, leapt into the air.  They circled about, screeching and crying, squawking and calling to each other.  It was unintelligible noise.  But, it sounded good.  She smiled and waved at them, then turned around and went inside to find her cell phone.  There was a call she had to make.  


Anonymous AnnD said...

I love a happy ending. Nice story.

January 24, 2015 at 2:36 PM  
Blogger Erick Melton said...

Thanks. Glad you like it.

January 26, 2015 at 8:32 PM  

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