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The Blonde One nodded, turned to check among the others once more. Nodded again.
The Dark One, the older female, the mother—whenever the budgie caught glimpses of Her smooth paleness through cracks in the doors as he hung in his silvery cage, something dark would bloom in his blue-green breast.
On forays to the peak of the roof, the budgie watches for The Bald One’s return, always in the cool of the evening. He’s long admired The Bald One’s regularity—and what the budgie has always taken for His seemingly selfless devotion to The Family.
(The budgie is quite aware of the deflationary power of clichés. But this one applies.)
Had the budgie been blessed with a mate, offspring—something he’s not spent a lot of time thinking about—he could have done much worse in meeting the responsibilities resultant thereof than has The Bald One.
The Bald One’s lack of affectation, His ease in His own skin, has ever impressed the budgie as well, which is why, thinking about it right now, the budgie wishes to reverse course and begin speaking in the first person.
I, budgie, do not know how much longer I have. My heart beats so fast.
(A day is as a thousand years.)
But not as fast as it beat the day I watched as The Bald One and The Dark One, in the mild afternoon of The Blonde One’s absence, when upon arriving home early, by intention or by luck, He from wherever He went—and still goes, I assume—in the morning, She from Her routines over the hill, lay with one another in plain sight.
I was younger then. I rocked and bobbed in my excitement, witness to something wonderful and rare.
The Bald One lay as though skinned, white and smooth on the counterpane, The Dark One just now coming into the room.
It is said that the Lord gave dominion to Man over the animals, and who would argue with that, but sometimes the apportionment of certain anatomical specificities gives me particular pause.
I have lived among Them long enough to covet thumbs.
Back under the fluorescent lights of the pet shop, I’d watched the coupled budgies coo and preen and engage in ritual courtship.
Then, as now, I’d wondered why such opportunities were never afforded me. Why was I—why am I—alone?
That day, in the room with The Bald One and The Dark One, I wanted to fly down for a closer look, to soak in the thrill of Their ardor.
For it arose, such ardor, from the nuances and particularities of order, genus, and species, I believe, into the realm of the universal; this was the way of all flesh. Not just human or budgie or fish. Still, perhaps, this was something different.
I knew what was going on even though I’d not been equipped with the “words” to articulate it.
Nor did the sounds I made distract Them from the enthusiasm of Their concupiscent offices that afternoon.
And when it was over, and The Dark One lay splayed on the counterpane, The Bald One up and stirring in the rooms, I looked down upon Her with something I can only now name as tenderness.
I was not ashamed. This was more than fascination.
Budgies are nothing if not watchers, note-takers, stenographers for the End of Days.
She looked at me in my cage and smiled.
Then—I’ll never get over it—by launching into the ceaseless prattle that I was ever subject to, She destroyed the moment.
The same phrase repeated ad nauseum. If it had been something in Latin, something less—
I choose not to remember, such was the demeaning nature of its banality.
What’s that? Oh, you insist, do you? So you fancy yourself the implied addressee of a dramatic monologue?
You’re absolutely right. You can’t put the genie back in the bottle. You can’t unlearn what you’ve spent so long learning.
Think you have the stomach for it, though?
Right. Here’s what she said: Wittle Wally’s a big boy, yes, sir.
I love Her anyway. As I love The Blonde One, The Bald One.
Out in the green space between where I ride the crest of the roof and the distant pale blue of the western hills winds the highway, invisible but sending up its day’s worth of heat.
Giving up the ghost, among other occupations of the afternoon. The dumb, beautiful ministrations of the physical world.
And upon those upward rushes glide the buzzards—turkey vultures, for those with a penchant for more homey nomenclatures—whose given names I care not to learn. Given by whom? They don’t have names. (Ask a blade of grass its name.)
There’s no “Wally” out here, in nature.
The vultures seem more than content, happier than pigs in shit to occupy that space—no more, no less—provided them within a class of being.
Instances of vultureness or vulturicity, if you will. Devoid of identity or soul.
They constitute something of a cognate for the same space provided to me in my budgieness.
On the updrafts see them rock like things made of starched silk.
Quite possibly, I will end up the stuff of which they’re made. You are what you eat, after all.
I suppose there are worse fates. I think of the goldfish. Poor son of a bitch.
The Family kept me in a cage with a small rectangular mirror. In it, I watched myself for hours.