A month and a half ago I get a message from my girlfriend. "You won't fucking believe what just happened." That's a pretty pointed statement. She explains that, outside of work and talking to a friend, a thing flew at her and landed at her feet. She thought it was a fat pigeon. It was a Congo. She bundled him up and, since there is no exit to where she was, smuggled him through a call center. He was now in my bathroom perched on the curtain rod. Would I mind getting some fruit?
I read this while at a bar pretending that drinking three pitchers every night after work before heading home isn't a form of functional alcoholism. I ask the individual next to me to re-read the message. "Oh, what a cutie! She sent a picture!"
I check my phone for CAG can-eats and can't-eats. After a minute or two of reading to make sure that they didn't exist on fru-sucrose alone, I made the assumption that the parrot probably told my girlfriend he only eats fruits and knew better than to listen to that. Lucky me, the dive bar I go to is four stores down from a Trader Joe's. Grab some grapes, two apples (already understanding that I'd need to address the seed), a red pepper, a yellow pepper, a small bag of kale. Check-out lady asked if I was making a fruit salad. Explained an African Grey flew into my girlfriend. Guess we have to feed it somehow. "Aren't those like $2,000 parrots!?" Dunno. Shrug. Have a nice day.
We got him to eat, he was obviously trained, up-up was something he knew. Girlfriend went out and bought the biggest cage the pet store down the block had which we both agreed wasn't big enough (maybe around 2x2x2') but we agreed that this was a short-term thing and someone was obviously looking for their bird. Ha.
I have an hour on my lunch breaks so I normally come home and try not to think about hating where I'm about to drive back to. I came home the second day because AG's are absurdly smart and one of the few things I refuse to let happen is for something to be lonesome. Even if it was just for 15 minutes.
Get to the house. Open the cage door. He looks like he is choking on something. He keeps moving his neck up and down. He's making this noise like he can't breathe. I flip shit. He's slowly inching up my arm. Flipping shit harder. Breathing sounds labored or something. Wings kind of up. I'm at the sink trying to pour water into a bowl (even though he had water) with one hand and looking up what's going on and if I need to go to the emergency vet or /something/ like right now.
Girlfriend walks in the door also on her lunch. Immediately stops. Explain what happened. Show her a video. She responded back two hours later after pinging a co-worker that owns parrots. Response was a video. He was trying to feed me.
I think that means we're married now.
In my off time I code — specifically methods to organize, visualize, pull, sort, aggregate, (other words) data with public/private/no API methods. FEC election PAC expenditure trees? Done. Hooked into the public candidate donation data? Done. Tied into their FB profiles? Done. If it's there and I can get it without a cool-off, I can use it. If there's a cool-off: I can just toss in a wait state. I fact check everyone but not in a way where I'm a bummer at parties.
I mention this because for the next four days I went through every single lost parrot post on FB. Then pulled all lost parrot CL posts in a 5-point star region of where I am +150 miles. Then aggregated all 911Parrot posts. Nothing. No one lost this bird. Call the shelter. Ask if there have been any reports. No there have not.
'In my experience, if there isn't someone frantically looking for this bird, it's probably someone's pet and they either died or went to an assisted living facility that didn't allow pets. Those birds live for many decades. That bird may outlive you. When a family member suddenly owns a bird they never wanted and, in the event they even try to handle it, it bites them or makes a noise they don't like or looks at their kid wrong: they let it go.'
"Why would someone just let…?"
'Resentment. That animal is yours by law after ten days.'
When I hung up I became very sad. This bird learned trust from someone. Someone loved this bird. Every morning this bird was happy to see someone. When someone died they likely thought about their bird and remembered that it made them happy. And then someone else said, "I don't give a fuck about any of that." And released it into certain death. Whoever that person was should be feared because anyone that could do that is, without question, a sociopath. Like-no-really. This is a honey of a bird.
We called a local parrot sanctuary / tourist attraction to see if they had lost one. They didn't know but told us to send a picture and they'd be able to know after that. They also sell birds. We never sent a picture and, upon the next text asking if they should come pick it up or if we'd be dropping it off: we stopped contact. I called the six hotels in the area just in case someone was travelling. No reports. Called animal shelter again. No reports.
Girlfriend does a lot of work with other types of animals and is a member of a billion groups for those animals. One of them mentioned having a giant cage. She heard about all of this happening and said that if we'd be willing to haul it: she had a gigantic cage that needed some work but we'd be welcome to it for $30. Drove there in the pouring rain, 6.5' tall, 3.5' wide and deep. Barely fit in my SUV. Husband was a cop and liked the bird story; gave me a few of his bungee cords and helped me secure it with my trunk half-open. Then hauled the thing up 20 stairs to the second floor of our house. Took the door off the hinge.
Three individuals said they lost a bird and didn't contact us back when we asked for further proof — literally anything. Who is the vet? What sex? What does it say (at this point it was clear that 'Gobble.' was its favorite phrase along with the XBox sign-in sound). Anything. Do you have a picture with the bird? "No, give her back. We miss her a lot. Hopefully you didn't use FB graph search to see a post I made two months ago asking if anyone had a Grey for sale."
One person was amazingly persistent about it being her bird; however, when we asked for proof she instead said she was calling the police to report that we stole it, kept underscoring that she paid $2000 for the bird and that it was a felony, and then went to the crowd-jury *Crime FB groups in our area posting pictures of my profile saying we stole the bird.
We called the woman who sold us the cage (she was emergency dispatch; husband was PD) who thankfully took a call from someone she sold a cage to with two mutual friends (my old band director and a friend of mine at the police department). We called over to the police in the woman's area, no report ("we can search by the text in the description body; did you know we have three hits for 'parrot' since 1998 and they're all at the Jimmy Buffet hotel?"); called two other PDs, no report; called our local non-emergency and filed a harassment report for a paper trail. She kept saying it was her female bird. Guess we're going for a test since all these people are missing female birds.
We go on Saturday to the exotic person my girlfriend uses. It took 45 minutes for them to get him back into the room and he was panting when he came back. The tech said he freaked out; exotics guy said it took a few to stop the bleeding; I noticed that the exotics guy was instructing the tech how to handle a bird. First timer. Bird walks to end of table, looks at me with a, "PLEASE." Arm out. Scoots up my arm. Perches on my shoulder. Hides behind my hair for the rest of the visit if either of them are in the room. Takes a giant poop on the floor. There were many fruits that day. Nice guy and all. I have a new avian vet now.
Results came back. Totally a male. Duh. I held off going to Party City to get a giant IT'S A BOY banner to sit with my birdo while wearing my International Bird Thief shirt (the whole bird theft thing ended up being a hugely entertaining joke for friends) to send over to the woman. It hit me that she, of all the people, was the only one who probably lost an animal at any point and that being mean with that as a possibility was cruel. So I just told one of her family members that contacted me it was a boy and never to contact me again.
The cage had some rust and I meticulously removed it with steel wool and vinegar. I did some quick tests on the metal since there's some exposed. Birdo doesn't beak the cage at all except for climbing but I still wanted to do a burn test for Zinc. Staged the cage on the last day of cleaning it. Dripping sweat. Lay down on the bed and turn the fan on. Girlfriend didn't know I had turned the fan on and the bird was in a bad mood because I would be too if I thought in 10 minutes I was just returning to my tiny cage. I had just stood up from the bed. He jumped and flew.
The fan was on high. Oak fan. Girlfriend yelled, "OH. FU-" and I looked up with the bird around 2" and closing from the fan blade orbit.
I'm 7' tall. There are two senses you pick up when you are a giant: "something is about to hit your head so you should duck" and "you are about to fall so break your fall." In the event of a fall, tall people are granted one action. Normally it's putting out whichever hand doesn't sign your name. In this case I was able to use my dominant hand to gently spike (fingertips only; again I'm a giant) birdo to the comforter of the bed.
I then fell with the full force of my body on my left shoulder. I was pretty positive I had broken it. Grabbed it. Huge indentation between my shoulder and arm; tingles coming in fast. Look at my girlfriend and in a scary-calm Problem voice said, "Hon. I'm going to need you to do me a solid." She backed up and started saying No over and over. Issues with the sound of bone grinding. Slotted the fucker back into my shoulder. It sounded like two dull bricks mating. She screamed at the sound. I could feel my arm. Talked her into anchoring while I got the last 15% of the kinks out. X-Ray came back normal; it's been two weeks and it's back to 95%.
I was in awful pain for the next week and my Do Shit arm was in a sling. And all I wanted was to go out and have a beer but I forgot why I went out. Everyone there was a day-drunk or 9-5 after work drinker. No one had good conversation. I'd just be staring at my phone digging through FEC records anyway while VPN'd into my Arch box. All of that is a lie in terms of what I was concerned about: it wasn't a matter of "Why do I even go to a bar every night?"
It was knowing that there was this /thing/ at my house. And this thing loves me. Like, loves me. The first thing it ever repeated back when with us was the first thing I said walking into the bathroom that first night. "Hey buddy, who do we have here?" He said Gobble constantly so I named him Gobble. I was avoiding a name since I figured its owners would show up and, in a lame ABC Family Movie Special way, we did. That "Gobble." used to be in this cute little girl's voice. Now he says it like I say it. Broadcast and Journalism were my first majors so it's this… very Nibbler-like, proper and enunciated //Gobble.// I set up an Android IP Camera on an old device. He says the words I say when we play for an hour after I leave for work, after I leave at lunch, and before I come home. And he sleeps better if I keep an opening in the cage cover so he can see me sleeping because he doesn't like being alone. Like, loves me. And while I /could/ go out and drink, talk to everyone at the bar about my parrot I'm neglecting, and then come home and take pictures of an increasingly-plucked Grey for Internet points: that seems roughly as selfish as letting your parent's bird go because it doesn't fit into your life correctly.
Last week it hit me that, if he really were let go by a family member after they died, that I was searching for the wrong terms. I pulled up FB's API and did a location-specific search on bird cages for sale. Around six hours after Gobble came to my home, someone five miles away put a cage for sale. Smallish cage. Looked like it was purchased in haste because I now know what that purchase looks like. "Only used two months." Pulled up seller's profile; timeline: 3 months ago; profile picture changed to seller and an elderly man; man is wearing a shirt with an airbrushed Grey on it; comments are all Thoughts and Prayers. Look up obits by last name. They even mentioned how much he loved his bird in the obit. Estate auction; "very large bird cage."
Literally an airbrush Myrtle Beach Spring Break Summer Break 2009 Best Friends Forever style shirt with a Grey. That's a level of dedication. I already creeper'd the hell out of one person so I went full Don't Care and pulled up the grave site.
Stopped there after work on Monday. Talked to a slab of rock for around 15 minutes. I knew I was talking to a slab of rock and I really didn't anticipate the rock to talk back. You have to tell a really funny joke for that to happen. I told the rock that its bird was an asshole and I love him. I told the rock that I really don't appreciate the single selfless action I've made in a few years resulting in a dislocated shoulder. I told the rock that if there were any additional medical bills I wouldn't hesitate to forward them to this gravesite because I didn't ask for this bird. I told the rock I hadn't been shitfaced for a month. I told the rock I had around $550 in my bank account where there would normally be $50 and $500 in liquor expenditure/$18 daily in cheap beer pitchers. I showed the rock my bank statement to underscore fiscal responsibility.
I told the rock I'm sorry someone was willing to change a profile picture but not find a home for the bird.
I told the rock I would do my best but that I have literally no idea what My Best is because I'm obviously kind of gifted at things but never attempted to apply myself at any of it because feeling sorry for myself is a past-time and I mistakenly keep forgetting that drinking every night isn't a cure.
I told the rock nice shirt.
I took one of Gobble's feathers and stuck it next to the grave. It wasn't a dramatic moment. The wind didn't pick up as I held back tears because I was already well past the moisture management stage of that dumpster fire. Music didn't pick up in the background as the camera raised up and panned to the horizon indicating that only the future is in front of me with this behind me. A ghost didn't give me a high-five.
I thought maybe the rock wouldn't believe I found its bird so I brought proof just in case. Since the rock was nice enough to listen I figured it'd appreciate the feather. It was a nice feather.
Lit a cigarette. Walked to the car. Birds all around it. Haven't had a drop of bird poop on my car in a month. I know that's likely because Gobble is next to a window upstairs but I like to pretend it means I'm part of some birdo guild. Went back home. Continued work on an electronic system so my bird and I can teleconference about important things (mostly grapes) and he can control a variety of media while I am away. Shush.
A Grey as a first bird is a /hell/ of a learning curve but I also didn't get into this looking for a pet or with really any expectations at all. A good number of my short-term problems would be solved if I sold him. The idea of selling him makes me hurt and the thought of everything being quiet again makes me sad. Keeping him makes me want to look for a better job and, as of next week, I'm looking at a possible interview with Turner making money instead of wasting my life and my talents walking people through the help files I wrote since they didn't read the ones I put online.
And that's your Thursday story.
How a drunk giant never wanted a bird or responsibility, didn't know anything about birds, ended up with a bird, studied primary bird resources/avian vet textbooks like he was studying election data, ended up knowing much more about birds, dislocated his shoulder, talked to a rock, cut his drinking back to pretty much a sipped tall boy at the end of the day, and decided to make something better out of himself due to a bird but thankfully his girlfriend isn't questioning why he didn't do that for her because everyone was just sort of waiting for him to pull his head out of his ass in the first place so if it took a bird whatever.
The movie. It's just called… it's just called Two Brothers.
birds are stupid. stupid birds. silly rocks. dumb gobbles.
Scritch your birdos.
post-credits edit: Album of my birdo.
he also made a facebook page.