It was the Parrot’s Fault – by Kevin Bucknall

Primrose Hill Short Story Entry

If I am going to be honest, it was the parrot’s fault. I admit that maybe I am a bit to blame, and certainly I am the one that might, just might, be punished. But then again how can one punish a parrot? Teach him “Who’s an ugly boy, then?” The obvious downside of this is that people will think that he is talking to them. Or more likely he’s talking about me behind my back. I suppose that I could threaten to hide his cuttle bone or perhaps not clean out his cage for a week. But then again, how do I know that he would not prefer this? Or maybe he would tell on me when a visitor comes round. If a visitor ever comes round. If a visitor is ever allowed to come round again. Curse you, Covid!

Lockdown is for the birds. I was in the middle of telling my parrot this and then I stopped. I knew he already knew. In total he has faced more lockdown than I ever shall. At least I hope this proves to be case. Not that he spends all his time in his cage and, to be fair, it is a really large cage. Each day I let him out and put him on his free-standing perch. He is out of lockdown! Well, not really. He now has a chain on his leg and has the freedom to shuffle up and down, looking cynical, bordering upon evil, and scattering rubbish, such as seed husks, around. All this without doing anything in the way of work or earning his keep.

One day during lockdown I sat quietly in the corner and secretly watched him, hoping that he would not notice me. Or if he noticed, that eventually he would forget I was there. I remember reading somewhere that parrots are like elephants: they have very good long-term memory. I imagine that is the only way they resemble each other. I do hope so. For instance, I remember a monologue from my student days about a woman standing too close to an elephant in a zoo. Actually it was part of a song, “We’re off to see the Wild West Show”, and after each chorus a verse was spoken, usually by a different member of the group. The elephant part of “the Wild West Show” involved the zookeeper advising this woman not to stand too close to the rear end of the elephant. He warned her three or four times then stopped, sighed, and said “Oh dear! Well, I did warn her! Joe – go and get the shovel again!” It seemed amusing at the time; maybe you had to be there. Perhaps a dozen students holding beer glasses and singing in unison adds to the atmosphere. Anyway, we were really quite good at the singing. Mostly this was because half the rugger team was usually present and two-thirds of the team were Welsh anyway and two-thirds of a half is, well, quite a lot. I was never good at fractions.
But supposing a parrot behaved in similar fashion? Ouch! Yuk!

Anyway, of course the parrot did see me in the corner of the room but he chose to ignore me. He kept muttering under his breath and I could not make out what he was saying. I quietly, and I thought discreetly, crept closer, trying to catch his words. Now I know that he could not really talk sensibly and he just repeated things that he had learned by heart, like, well, like a parrot. There is no real meaning involved. But the fact that it was important to me to hear what he was saying shows that by this stage the lockdown was really beginning to get to me. OMG, I was suffering from lockdown breakdown.

When I was perhaps a metre away he rudely turned his back on me and I thought I heard him say “Lockdown!” Well, he must have heard the word often enough on the TV. But did I really hear him go on to say “Lockdown! Why don’t you go outside?” I think I did; and even if I was wrong, this was starting to seem like a good idea, even though I had already been out once that day (this was the legal limit at the time). So I put on my shoes and went out for my second walk of the day.
How was I to know that my nosy neighbour had seen me outside earlier? Or that he would be a total snitch and ring the authorities? Blabbermouth! I was wearing a mask and it’s not as if I did anyone any harm.
And I swear, Your Worship, that this is what truly happened.
So you see, it really was the parrot’s fault.