Racket had gotten out of his cage. Nothing unusual about that, except that usually when I let him loose, I’d make sure to put away anything I cared about to avoid having Racket destroy it. It was futile but I felt obliged to try.
Racket, as his name implied, was a charming, noisy Sulpher-Crested Cockatoo. He was the perfect example of why cockatoo owners invented stainless steel perches.
Racket could reduce anything made of hardwood to splinters in seconds — not unlike Duke the Dogge. I sometimes wonder if Duke is a doggish reincarnation of Racket. But I digress.
Racket had gone to work on the sofa not long ago. Not the upholstery because the upholstery wasn’t a sufficient challenge for him. He had gone all out to redo its carved wood frame, perhaps with the intent of correcting the original artist’s errors. It was an old sofa and by the time Racket was finished refinishing it, it was much, much older.
The arm of the sofa nearest his cage was a pile of wood chips and splinters. No evidence of the original design remained. Having completed his work on the sofa, he had refocused his efforts towards acquiring wisdom. He began ingesting the Encyclopedia Britannica, one volume at a time. At this time, he was about half-way through the project. I could see that he’d had a busy morning and had consumed two more volumes.
There wasn’t much I could do about it. I had no where else to put the books. The flat was tiny and there was no storage space. Racket couldn’t spend all his time in a cage. Parrots need freedom, at least an hour or two a day. They are smart birds and need to interact with the world, with people. The need to explore and have fun. Racket was doing what cockatoos do — tearing apart everything on which he could lay his beak.
I wasn’t sure who’d let him out that morning. Probably one of the kids. Or maybe the latch wasn’t properly closed. Regardless, he couldn’t stay out all day. I had to go to work and no sane parrot owner would leave their bird loose, unsupervised with no one at home. Or at least no one sane would leave this parrot unsupervised.
“Come on, sweetie,” I cooed. “Time to go home. Mommy’s got to go to work.”
“CAWWWWWWW! SQUAWK!! ACK-ACK-ACK!” (No M’am, I have other plans) he said. Ah, such melodious tones!
He was a tame bird, bad habits notwithstanding and would stand on my hand, nibble on my ears. So far he hadn’t taken it into his head to remove my ears, though he had tried to rip an earring out. But tame and obedient are in no way synonymous. He knew I wanted him back in his cage and he clearly didn’t want to go. I needed a proper bribe or he could easily elude me for hours.
“Come along, baby,” I continued, sotto voce. “Mommy needs to go to work and she doesn’t have all day to hunt wild birdies.”
I offered him my arm and teased him with a piece of watermelon in my other hand. He was ever so fond of fruit. Finally, after trying his birdy best to get the fruit without having to climb up on the arm, he gave in and climbed aboard. Quick as a wink, he was back in his cage, a squishy piece of red fruit dangling from his beak.
I pondered how much worse this would have been if I not have been able to get him in hand. As I left for the office, I could hear his wild cackle. What a bird!