Back in my foolish youth, I purchased a baby macaw. When I got him, he was the size of a peep. He grew fast, topping out at the size of a kestrel.
Decibel the Parrot isn't one of your largish, bright-feathered macaws. He's smaller, and his feature of interest is a brown unibrow. When he unfolds his wings, he's magnificent: every shade of blue known to the eyeball, plus some red plumage, all usually hidden beneath his solid green exterior.
In the spring and summer, we put Decibel out on the front porch. The squirrels climb his cage and eat his food. He lets them. Otherwise he seems pretty content outside, for a creature that's lived in a cage for 22 years.
Twenty-two years in a cage. And just like the Count of Monte Cristo, he committed no crime.
When the weather turns cooler in the fall, we bring Decibel to a halfway point near the front door. His cage sits in our dark foyer, just in case we have a mild day when he can go outside.
Decibel hates the foyer. And when a parrot hates, it hates loudly.
Yesterday there was nothing any of us could do or say to shut Decibel up. He screamed at the top of his lungs from early morning until after dark. We tried food, we tried talking to him, we let him out, we covered him up. Nothing worked.
This morning I decided to move Decibel to his winter quarters, our bright, bay-windowed dining room that looks out over the back yard.
It's not so easy to move Decibel around because his cage is so big and heavy. So I had to wait for Mr. Johnson to be available to help me. In the meantime, Decibel got it in his head to stroll around a little. So when I came down to begin the move, Decibel was on the floor.
I startled him, and he took off flying, which for him is like the stress test that the hospitals do on cardiac patients. Flying, for a biggish bird like Decibel, takes a lot of energy. Soon he was clinging to the living room curtains, puffing and heaving like some old fat dude trying to play hoops with his college pals.
In addition to his prodigious noise-making abilities, Decibel also bites. And when you've been bitten by a beak that can crack a walnut, you know you've been bitten. So I tried to scoop Decibel up with a bath towel. He would have none of it. Bath towels usually mean he's getting a bath, and it was cold inside today.
Finally he scurried over to his cage and climbed up on it and stood there looking at me as if I was an underperforming hired hand.
For my part, I was questioning yet again why I ever bought a parrot. I liken the decision to the bad marriage you make in your youth, or a stint doing some really addicting drug, like crack. This bird is the mistake that won't go away ... maybe never in my lifetime.
Mr. Johnson and I carried Decibel to his winter quarters, where he can easily be moved to see me while I'm making dinner, and otherwise he can look outside all day. Decibel lost no time in trying to take a chunk of flesh from Mr. Johnson. But hey. A man doesn't live with a flesh-eating parrot for nearly three decades without learning how to avoid contact.
Decibel has been sitting quietly all afternoon, watching the foster kittens cavort and listening to the wind blow. I try to do right by him, but it saddens me to think what his life might have been, had his parents not been wrenched from Costa Rica and plunked in an aviary in Michigan.
Does Decibel talk? Yes. He calls for The Heir, using her real name. The Heir went away to college in August. Decibel doesn't understand that concept. Oh, how it cheers me to hear him calling the daughter I miss so much! (Yeah. Uh huh. Right.)
At least I had the good sense not to teach him to curse.