The scene began when my old aunt Mildred called and ask if I'd come over and get her dog and bird for safekeeping over the weekend while she was gone to Hot Springs with a couple of friends . It seemed simple enough, just take both animals to my house on Friday night and she would come pick them up late Sunday afternoon.
I first must explain a little bit about Mildred. Mildred met my now deceased uncle Alvin in college long, long ago and at the time processed just enough looks to charm the guy that she had hand-picked for his future potential and possibilities. So she snares this timid and unassuming soul not so much because of lightening-bolt love but because she was a shrewd young lady and saw the future of a young man that was soon to hold a chemical engineering degree as a means to achieve her lifelong dream that she envisioned and cherished even at that tender and early age. A dream apparently of living alone without really having to worry about where the next meal was coming from and playing bridge with other old ladies twice a week and meeting for lunches in hotel restaurants with names like "Scruples" and " Cross City Café". Well, that may not all be entirely true, but that's how it looked to me. Mildred seemed to bloom in her own sort of way the year after Alvin died and she never looked back. I've never seen somebody so eager and willing to plant a corpse and head to the house as old aunt Mildred, but like I said that's just how it looked to me. So that leads me to now. You see I've sort of become of late, the second button on Mildreds life alert bracelet, the next number on her speed dial after 911. I'm sort of 912, or the number to call for "little emergencies" like tearing down a wasp nest, or in this case, keeping her dog and her bird for the weekend.
When Mildred introduced me to her doggie, a dachshund by breed, as her "dash hound", I politely supplied her with the correct way to pronounce the breed name so as to save her a little embarrassment in case she ever ran across somebody that might have a lick of sense to which she immediately replied "Oh, my. Well then it looks like I've committed a faux pas" which she pronounced "fox - paw". With this, I gathered the "dash hound" ( named Toby) and the mangy old bird (Taco) and headed to my house.
The hound was on his best behavior; just no trouble at all. He just did what a good dog does. He scouted out the house, ate his fill, curled up on the floor atop a throw pillow I had put down for him and went to sleep watching T.V. Actually that's the kind of thing I like to do too, so we got along well.
The bird went hay-wire as soon as we walked in the door. This was no ordinary bird. It was an African Grey Parrot. Now I've read that some of these fowl can live 100, 200, maybe even 250 years. Didn't mean much to me until I had to spend the night with one of em". This thing never shut up. He immediately started spewing forth the most vile and disturbing stream of free-flow bull shit I had heard in a long time. Mimicking stuff ( at least I hope he was mimicking) from the side streets of Lisbon, curse words from the sewers of Paris crap he heard on boats, in church lobbies, on trains. This thing had apparently been around the block a few times. In his life time I imagine this damn bird had probably been traded for seal skins, lowered into a mine or two, witnessed domestic quarrels, bar fights and probably a steam locomotive. Throughout the night, and the next day, and the next night he just kept talking and talking and talking. He talked about bawdy wenches and bloody whores, he talked about prize cattle, puffy clouds, and some boy named Billy. He threw in a squawk and a whistle here and there, he mimicked some ones' laughter, and stopped just long enough to catch his breath then would light right back in with "Tacos' a pretty bird" "Yes he is!" Sometimes he'd say "Mercy...merrrrcy! " or "Close the door!" then again..."Tacos a pretty bird" "Yes he is!"
Now this crap went on until I realized that I was never going to get to sleep so I covered the cage with a sheet and turned the thermostat down thinking that might take a little of the sass out of him, but it just didn't seem to faze him a bit.
I awoke the next morning to sounds coming from the cage that best as I could guess sounded like some kind of Choctaw threats or curses "Yalo-re-ma- tubbie" "Re-ma-ha-ish- tibbie!"
Well after about 30 solid hours of sleep deprivation, I'll be damned if I didn't start to like or at least appreciate his attitude. I began to think that maybe I was starting to "get" where he was coming from. This "Taco" bird....and keep in mind that "Taco" was just his name for the time being, hell this thing had probably had 4 dozen names over the years, ….this "Taco" had probably been through hell and high water only to end up on a table in a cage listening to Mildred and her "fox paws" for the last years of its miserable life. Staring out the window onto a subdivision and looking in the other direction at a dog that would rather sleep than eat. Hell, I thought about just killin' it right then and there. But I didn't....
And the next day Mildred came by to pick the animals up. I said "Does this bird not keep you awake all night" "How do you get any sleep"? And she said " All Taco ever does is flutter his wings and sometimes he says "Tacos a pretty bird" And I said "Oh. well. Did you have a good time in Hot Springs"? She then asked "Thanks so much. If the need ever arises do you want to keep them again sometime"? "I'm so glad I have a nephew like you. You're the best!" I said "Sure, any time. I'd be glad to."