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Today's Story by Alisa Golden

I can talk. Can you fly?

We’ll Always Have Parrots

Most of my pets I won. Except the two parrots. A real estate lady gave them to my wife as payment for doing typing and filing in her office over a bar. The lady had a room full of birds, my wife says, and asked her nosy questions about her love life while she typed. That was before I was involved, and now the birds are ten with forty or more good years ahead of them, which is probably more than I’ve got, due to my sedentary habits. The parrots came with the names Ilsa and Rick, and for some reason they like Mexican food and can weave and braid plastic cord. I don’t really know how to deal with birds, so my wife has the last word on their care. The parrots get along okay, but no baby parrots, yet, which is just fine. My wife taught them to say “I can talk, can you fly?” and “appearances are deceiving” and “reality is the best medicine for denial” so that’s what they say all day when I work at home because they know it bothers me.  I thought about teaching them “time goes by” but I’m not really sure how to do that.

The parrots also talk to the three goldfish in the tank next to their cage. I won the fish the usual way, tossing ping-pong balls into little bowls of water. This year was the third year I won—so, three fish. Halloween’s next month so I’ll have a chance at a fourth. The first fish keeps jumping out. I don’t know how he does this; he’s just a goldfish. The second fish only has one eye, which I didn’t notice until I got his plastic bag home. It’s unnerving to watch him swim to the left, looking like one of those crackers; he’s just plain orange on that side, with no interruptions. I’m sure that the one-eyed fish would roll his good eye at the parrots if he could because their talking is relentless and he is so quiet. The third fish is normal, the way I see it. I named the three fish Jumpy, Aye Matey, and Goldie, for better or for worse, ‘til death do they part.

Sometimes I creep into the kitchen very quietly and wear a Lone Ranger mask as a disguise so the parrots don’t see me and start up their talk-and-fly repetitions—I figured out right that they aren’t sure who I am in a mask. I like watching them from the table when I eat breakfast, second breakfast, and lunch, and I like watching them watch the fish. The parrots can make lanyards, so we keep a good stash of colored plastic cord nearby and have a little online business on the side. Oh, we also have a cat, well, a neighbor cat, but we keep a dish out for him because he likes to sleep on our kitchen table most of the day. I have to elbow him to one side when I eat. He doesn’t have a collar, but one of the neighbors told me his name is Sharky after the San Jose hockey team, the Sharks, which I like.

Unfortunately, today Jumpy doesn’t land in Sharky’s water dish like he usually does; he lands in the food dish, and I can’t get to him in time. In hockey, jumping into an opponent is a minor penalty, but in Jumpy’s case it’s major and the game is over. After his meal, the cat curls up on the kitchen table in the sun as usual.

I’m surprised when my wife comes home carrying three tortillas and asks about the fish at the bottom of the tank and why I’m wearing a mask at my computer.

“You recognized me?” I ask her, removing the mask and forcing myself to stand up and follow her into the kitchen to see the new little corpses. Two more major penalties. There’s fish food everywhere. I scoop out the curled old fish from the tank and wrap them in a paper towel.

“With a spoon?” my wife asks me, incredulous. “Why didn’t you use the net?

“That’s for live fish,” I say.

“I can talk, can you fly?” Rick and Ilsa squawk together when they see me.

“Are you going to bury them?” asks my wife. I toss the damp, limp, fish-package in the garbage, and go outside and down the steps to the work shed.

An hour later, I come back to an empty kitchen that smells like bleach. I see the spoon soaking in a mug. Ilsa and Rick are clattering around in their cage. Rick hits a little bell with his beak, then goes back to working on an orange and black lanyard. Ilsa is poking at the yellow plastic-rimmed mirror. Noticing my re-entrance, they try to hook me again.

“I can talk, can you fly?” says one of the parrots, I don’t know which, they both sound the same to my ears. Ilsa sidesteps across the wire wall of the cage, using her beak for balance and looks right at me.

“Wait,” says my wife coming back into the kitchen and looking straight at the fish tank–she catches on quickly, “Where did those fish come from?” She peers into the tank, then bends down to look more closely at the new fish hanging around at the bottom.

“Appearances are deceiving,” says a parrot.

Then my wife says, “You painted those, right? I thought those rocks you painted were real fish.”

“Well, they are now,” I say, thinking goal! I’ve won, I’ve finally fooled her.

“Reality is the best medicine for denial,” says Rick. That’s when I see the overturned fish food shaker within his reach.

“Time goes by,” says Ilsa. I know it’s her because I saw her open her beak. She just had to have the last word.


This piece was read as part of a production of “Action Fiction!”, sponsored by Fiction365 and Omnibucket.   

Read more stories from Action Fiction! productions.


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