The Parrot

The youngest of three sons woke with a deep thirst for he was very ill and couldn’t keep any water down. His name was Giles. Gile’s skin had dried to a crusty surface like the crust of a cracker.

His father slept unaware of his son’s thirst. In the morning, the boy listened to his two older brothers wake and dress and stamp their boots to check their laces. After they left, Giles listened to his father cough and prepare coffee.

The water sang as it fell down the drain. The father had lost his ring down the drain. In his desperation to recover the ring, he’d removed the drain screen, and lost the screen as well. Fruit flies filled the apartment living off the pipe sludge, unhindered by the drain screen. When the tap turned on it fell, unimpeded down the pipe where it sang and hummed until it landed somewhere under the earth far under the apartment where the father’s ring lie.


Lacking apple vinegar, the father and his two oldest son’s made flytraps with rolled up bill circulars and the last of the honey. They fixed them down with Scotch tape and used all of the water tumblers in the house. The only cup left was the father’s coffee mug, a piece of promotional merchandize from a company where the father no longer worked. The father kept the cup next to the sink with the missing drain screen and the coffee percolator on a hot plate.

After the father woke and drank his coffee the father implored his son to stand up and put his sickness behind him. His sickness was caused, his father said, but his lazing around in bed all day.

I can’t talk all day, the father said. He left for his job collecting grocery store shopping carts that been lost from their parking lots, collecting them in ditches, vacant lots, and weedy dead end streets.

After the father left, Giles invariably rinsed out his father’s mug and filled the cup with tap water. He waited by the open window for a beautiful parrot that would visit him at noon. The parrot had crisp yellow and blue and gold feathers. It had a bright red knot on its beak where the nostril holes were. The parrot came to talk to the boy because it is a well-known fact that parrots can talk. The boy worried about the parrot because winter was coming, and the parrot would become sick in the cold. But it was summer now and the parrot came and he would talk to the boy. As the parrot talked he asked the boy about his troubled and the parrot shared his water with the boy and for the time they talked the boy’s thirst began to lessen. The parrot told knock knock jokes.

“Knock knock.” “Who is there?”

“Who.”

“Who Who?”

“What, are you an owl?” the parrot asked.

When the parrot left the boy’s sickness returned and he vomited into the sink. He rinsed the vomit down the sink contributing the sludge on which the fruit flies gorged themselves. In this way the boy’s thirst, his father’s lecture, the amiable visit from the parrot, and the boy’s sickness continued for many days.

In the evening two oldest sons returned and drank water with their hands cupped. They worked long hours at a warehouse near the river and returned home in the evening too tired to do anything except eat their noodles and sleep. Their names were Niles and Miles and their father smiled as they slurped their noodles. “You work hard,” he said.

As the weather cooled, Giles worried about the parrot and one day the parrot said that winter was coming and he had to go away. Giles began to cry for he would be all alone.

Don’t worry, the parrot said. The parrot asked Giles to pull three feathers from his wing, red, yellow, and gold. If things became bad, he could ask the feather to make things better. The parrot flew away and Giles placed the under his pillow.

After his father left the next day, Giles felt sick and waited by the window for the parrot to come, but he did not come.

Despondent, Giles used the green feather. He waved the feather and felt better. He felt so good that he put on his clothes and walked outside. On the sidewalk in front his apartment building an old man asked Giles if he would mow his lawn. He would pay Giles.

Giles mowed the old man’s lawn and the man paid him five dollars. Giles took the money to the store and bought a new drain screen. When his father returned home most of the fruit flies had disappeared.

The next days Giles felt sick and waited by the window for the parrot but the only thing that came was rain.

Despondent, Giles used the yellow feather. He waved the feather and felt better and so he cleaned the water glasses with boiling water, rinsing the honey and dead fruit flies down the drain. As he washed the dishes, Giles thought he saw his father’s rink glinting in the depths of the pipes. But he didn’t know how he would retrieve it.

When his father and brother returned from work they wandered around the clean apartment puzzled. Niles and Miles drank water from clean glasses.

The next day Giles felt sick and waited by the window for the parrot but the only thing that came were orange and copper leaves blown in the wind.

Despondent, Giles used the gold feather. He waved the feather over the drain and the lost ring rang as it twirled up from the piped in the earth below the house and landed on the counter. Giles cleaned the ring and lay it on the table.

When he came home, his father smiled and hugged Giles and Niles and Miles. Here we are, his father said. Here we are all together.

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