A fallen friend

Published April 1, 2010

Birds of all seasons are a joy to behold: chirping robins in the spring, swans gliding on a summer pond, the flash of pheasants in the fall, gulls swirling on a wintry shore. But birds in cages are another matter. As far as I was concerned, birds and cages should be mutually exclusive. At least, that’s the way I saw it, until Joey came into my life.

It all began innocently enough. My wife and I happened on a pet store that had some budgies in a big cage in the window. As we watched them flitting from perch to perch, one of them caught my wife’s eye. With its deep purplish wings and snow-white head and breast, it was a beauty, for sure. My wife decided there and then that she had to have that bird. It would, she said, be her Christmas present to herself.

But I had something to say about that, and I said it in no uncertain terms. “It would be a frosty Friday in July,” I told her, “before I would have a caged bird in the house. Case closed.”

She bought the budgie…and the cage and a few boxes of birdseed. And that was that.

As soon as we arrived home, my wife, being nothing if not original, named her new pet Joey. When she opened the cage door to put a small mirror inside, Joey came out like a rocket and, giving a great imitation of a Kamikaze pilot, flew into the wall, then the door, and then the buffet. He flew into everything, in fact, that looked solid. He seemed bent on committing suicide, and I secretly hoped he’d succeed. Better dead than caged, I thought.

My wife decided to leave Joey’s cage door open so that he could come and go as he pleased. After that he would enter his cage only to eat and drink. He even slept on top of it. All the attention my wife showered on Joey turned out to be in vain. In spite of all her efforts, he just didn’t take to her. For some unknown reason, Joey decided that I was going to be his buddy. And, in spite of myself, I fell slowly under his spell.

As the weeks went by, Joey and I became inseparable. He would nestle on my shoulder while I read the newspaper. He would perch on the edge of my glass whenever he wanted a drink. He also loved to shower while I washed my hands in the bathroom sink. His top favourite sport, however, was riding on my razor while I shaved. You haven’t lived until you’ve shaved with a budgie perched on your razor.

One evening, Joey went into his cage and wouldn’t come out, no matter how we coaxed him. He refused all food and water. Being an expert, I figured Joey was just having an off-day, like we all have from time to time. When I got up the next morning, the first thing I did was check on Joey. He was lying on the floor of his cage, dead.

Without waking my wife, I gently took Joey out of his cage, laid him in a small box, carried him outside and buried him. When I returned to the kitchen, my wife was fixing breakfast. After telling her about Joey’s funeral, we watched the news while we sipped our coffee, as was our usual custom on holidays and weekends.

The news from around the world was the same old litany of horrors. With so much suffering in the world, the death of a budgie sure seemed like pretty small stuff indeed. So someone’s budgie dies on a Sunday morning? So what! Who cares? Who’ll miss a lousy budgie, anyway?

I will.  Ω

William Bedford lives in Toronto.


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