My parakeet attempted to snap the lead off the end of my mechanical pencil as I attempted to grasp the concept of Calculus. Blue was a welcomed distraction and I paused mid-thought to sword fight with the little bird.
“En Garde!” I said as I raised my left hand in the fencer’s stance, my right hand brandishing the pencil. Blue squawked fiercely. I fought with the mighty mythical Roc, while with his beak, he parried with me, the Warrior Queen.
The phone rang. I sighed, set the pencil down and walked over to my desk to answer. It was a friend calling, so I sat back down at the table, put my feet up on a vacant chair and settled in for a good chat. Where was Blue?
As I finished the phone call, I looked around the room to seek out my little companion. He had helped me through many college courses that I didn’t think were possible for my undisciplined mind to complete. Physics at two o’clock in the morning, while mumbling out loud to myself, Blue would interject his opinions. The way he chattered, one could almost believe he was speaking human words. Maybe if I hadn’t muttered so much while studying, he would have learned to speak more coherently.
Study groups at my house were constantly enlivened with Blue running up and down people’s arms, chattering or sitting in the Ficus tree saying, “Here Kitty, Kitty, Kitty. Meow,” that he had learned from a “Teach Your Parakeet to Talk” tape.
My favorite game with him was “Bird Baseball.” It had begun on Easter Sunday. There was a basket of jellybeans on the table. I was studying as usual, and Blue flew over to keep me company. This time I was irritated, so I took one of the jellybeans, set it on the desk and flicked it at him. He squawked, flew up in the air and landed, legs straddling the yellow bean. He eyed it, moved it around, as though trying to decide whether it was edible, an enemy or an egg to sit on. Finally, with his beak, he gave it a mighty whack and sent it flying off the edge of the desk.
Laughing, I retrieved the jellybean and tried it again. Blue whacked it off the desk. We got pretty good at the game and tried different angles and maneuvers. Funny thing, he would only play with the yellow ones. Bird Baseball was great fun and helped me stay awake on some of those late nights. I found lost jellybeans on the floor and in corners for months after that.
My playful bird was in to everything, but the worst were the mechanical pencils. I couldn’t leave them lying around anywhere because he would play with them and I inevitably had to spend time before studying trying to find what dusty corner they ended up in. That’s when I usually found the jellybeans.
Stretching after the phone call with my friend, I stood up and began cleaning off the table in preparation for dinner. I turned around and picked up my pencil that had fallen on the floor and then I saw Blue. The pencil must have fallen from the desk and onto my chair when I had gotten up to answer the phone. Blue must have followed to snip off the lead. When I sat back down to talk to my friend, I sat on him and killed him. His neck was broken. So that was the muffled squawk sound I had heard.
I was shocked and I was saddened. I was also embarrassed that my big butt had squashed the poor little thing. What was I supposed to tell my daughter. I picked Blue up, and with tears in my eyes, smoothed down the soft feathers on his lifeless body.
I realized that this little bird meant more to me then the sum of his antics or his personality. He lived intensely in the present. Whether he was trying to pull my earring off or rip the binders off of my library books, he used every fiber and muscle in his body to do so. He did not waste time dallying with his life.
I waste time. I dally in life. I fritter away friends and passion and hope. I don’t take the time to play with the same intense abandon that Blue did. As a result, it has taken me much longer to find my true calling. I saw then a glimpse of my potential, and I knew I would have to pick up my pace, so as not to lag behind my dreams. At that moment, I determined to work harder to make my life count.
My daughter came downstairs and I told her that our parakeet was dead. It wasn’t easy. We shed tears, hugs and comfort. Then we found a shoebox and lined it with soft flannel. We were about to leave the house and find a nice spot in the park to bury him, when with a spark of genius, she ran upstairs and collected two Barbie dolls and one Ken to be buried with Blue. She was very selective in the ones she chose. The dolls, like Blue, had had their necks broken in the line of play.
At the park, with a few more sniffles and a great sigh, my daughter looked sideways at me in slight disbelief and with a quirky smile in one corner of her mouth. “Did you really sit on him and squish him, momma?”
I knew then that we would be okay.