The budgie speaks of himself in the third person. This is not an affectation.

However hungry, the budgie has never eaten road kill. Nor will the budgie, ever.

How far removed, the budgie often asks himself, is he from the feral state? And when it comes, this state, what will it look like?

Once, on an evening much like this one, The Family left the sliding glass doors to the deck open.

How long ago? The budgie’s sense of time is unreliable. Neither watch nor calendar does the budgie own.

Supper was being served, of this the budgie is certain; the sheers were billowing in with the August breeze.

Loose in the kitchen, the budgie could not resist.

Once outside, the budgie marveled at how quickly The Family adapted to his absence, though The Blonde One wept for a time while the budgie watched from atop the air conditioner that jutted out her bedroom window.

The Family finished supper: it was, and is, their practice to eat the flesh of mammals, the three of Them.

Other days They eat of the flesh of domesticated fowl. Chicken—ridiculous bird.

The budgie remembers the scent of cattle flanks sizzling in liquefied garlic.

Sometimes it was pork.

These days the budgie haunts the backyard as a specter, subsisting on stale maple seeds and avoiding the shadows of hawks, resigned to his fate as a non-native species.

He would not go back; that’s what the budgie tells himself.

Clinging to the fishing line with which someone—The Bald One?—has repaired the wind chimes, the budgie watches The Family as though peering into a yellowy world.

The Family in amber light.

Is the budgie lonely?

The budgie is alone.

Might it be said that the budgie embraces solitude? It might, yes.

But what of other birds? What of migratory flocks? The redbreasts of spring? The swallow and the finch?

What of the hummingbird?

The budgie would prefer not to be condescended to.

Nor to be lumped in with native species.

What of the famed parrots of Telegraph Hill? How they flourished in climes foreign and adverse? Intended by the hand of God for the tropics, they accepted their fate, unlikely immigrants making do.

Better than making do. Thriving.

The budgie prefers to allow his silence at this moment to communicate all that he feels on the issue.

Today, the forecast is for storms, widely scattered. The sky to the northwest has ripened to the color of bruised plums.

Among the budgie’s consolations at first was this: The Family’s choice of replacement, a now-dead goldfish. It lasted two days.

The budgie had watched it succumb to the rigors of careless transportation in a Ziploc bag, and to the shock of tap water.

The budgie witnessed its inglorious interment: The Blonde One flushing the goldfish down the toilet.

Not that the budgie would have eaten the goldfish, if given the chance.

Today has been a particularly lean day, the budgie feeling threadbare and forlorn.

Once, the budgie could talk, but now he has forgotten the “words.”

Nor would the budgie prefer to enter into a philological discussion as to whether even a single instance of the sounds he produced for choice seeds were in fact “words.”

Today’s a cold day for August, the sun a threadbare memory itself.

The Blonde One slides open the glass door and steps forth to stand on the west-facing deck, fascinated by the encroachment of the thunderhead.

Above her the budgie lurks in the rain gutter, peering over its edge at the crown of The Blonde One’s head and the whirl of hair against the whiteness of Her scalp.

There was a time when the budgie would ride Her shoulder through the house, nestled into the slope of Her neck.

Does She think about the budgie now?

Before pursuing the thought any further, the budgie thinks, with a bitterness that catches him by surprise: Spit in this hand. Wish in the other. Then check to see which one fills up faster.

The Blonde One turns, hand shading Her eyes.

The budgie squats lower in the gutter, down with the crispy maple seed blades and the multi-hued grit from the tar paper roof.

“Looks like it’s going to pour,” The Blonde One calls into the house.

There have always been three of Them, The Family:

The Blonde One, She who first retrieved the budgie from a bank of cages under fluorescent lights. A row of budgies behind smudged glass. “This one,” She said, lifting him for

The Dark One, the mother, to see, Who said, “Just the one?”

(From the start, the budgie couldn’t keep his eyes off The Dark One.)

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.

Watched myself right out of the slip of space provided me in the Lord’s wisdom.

Out of the ontological sentence which is “budgie.”

I, having been clothed in the vestments of a proper name, fallen—or risen?—from the syntax of the order of things.

They had intended the mirror as a way for me to pass my time. A little faux companionship.

It was in the fourth millennium of my existence that I finally attributed the movements of the “budgie” in the mirror to the flit and twitter of my own will.

I de-linked the image in the mirror from the “other” I had misattributed it as.

Step two: I mistook what I saw for “me.” I was that shape in the mirror. I was some thing.

The edges of the self for a time clearly delineated, I took comfort in this hallucination.

But just as I awoke from the dream of the “other,” so too did I realize that the thing in the mirror wasn’t “me.” God, no.

And out here even now, I can feel this awareness losing its edge within me. That’s why I switched to the first person. The third was creeping me out.

I come to in odd places—always on my feet, the echo of my name fading as in a waking dream.

Sometimes I want to deliver myself up to the maw that surrounds me, forget this fantasy of individuation. I’m an inconsequential instance of “budgie,” nothing more. Anonymous despite what has been said of the sparrow’s fall.

The Blonde One once left the sliding glass door open. It stood ajar in the falling light as all manner of insects made their way toward the ceiling lamp that hangs over the dinner table.

Why didn’t I follow suit? I imagine the homecoming I’d have received. The Family are a gracious tribe.

But I just stood there on the deck rail, preening.

The storm is upon us, the boiling undersides of the thundercloud directly overhead.

The wind picks up, the leaves showing their own undersides.

Hopping from window to window, I anticipate a colder rush of wind. Watching.

The Dark One is nervous. She clings to bits of rubber—elastics, the sole of an old running shoe—remembering something about its nonconductive properties no doubt.

If it comforts Her, let Her be. (Listen to the bird, speaking of condescension.)

The vultures are gone, swallowed up by the steel wool of the thundercloud.

Now the downpour: and I find my usual place to ride it out, tucked in behind one of the tin downspouts. I like to listen to the rumble of the rainwater so close.

The Blonde One loves storms. She used to sit under the tree in a folding chair until The Bald One told Her the practice was unsound.

He had the stats to back it up: that ninety-eight percent of those killed by lightning are caught sheltering under trees. And on and on.

I love storms too. Why, I don’t know exactly. It has something to do with what I’ve been on and on about.

Something to do with the momentary feeling I get, looking up into that immensity of churning vapor as the budgie that I am seems to dissipate, not unlike the way I know my mind, my self, will dissipate someday soon.

And I realize—not just in my head but deeper, in the very budgie interstices—that this is how it should be.

It has taken me some time to realize that this budgie isn’t the center of the universe.

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