MY DRUNKEN PARROT
My girlfriend purchased Bogart from some Mayas in Cancun. They had knocked the mother’s nest from a tree with rocks, and one of the chicks, Bogart, had been injured with a crooked back. He didn’t have feathers when I got him, and I wasn’t real sure what to do with him. But if I wasn’t writing or snorkeling for dinner, I was holding the little guy, and he bonded with me quickly. Parrots aren’t like cats or dogs. They adopt one person and will barely tolerate others, making their disapproval known with skin-breaking bites. Bogart was no exception. Soon he was speaking words, calling the cat by name, repeating my name when I entered the room. I remember once, after an eight month drought, when the crocodiles started leaving the dry swamp and walking through town, Bogart began imitating croaking frogs. It was when the first rain fell. Thunder sounded like the sky broke open, and an angry rain pounded the town. Within a minute I could hear frogs croaking everywhere, and I heard it in the kitchen too. I ran into the room to see if some of the animals had gotten under the door, and there was Bogart, imitating the frogs.
Once at dinner when friends were over, Bogart imitated the moans of my girlfriend during an intimate moment. That was when we decided to move his cage further from the bedroom.
One morning when I got out of bed I knew something was wrong. Usually Bogart was going through his routine of squawks and name calling, but on that day there was an ominous silence. Immediately I rushed into the kitchen and pulled the pillow case from his cage. The poor little guy’s legs were curled up beneath him, and he was holding himself up by clamping his beak onto the bars.
Well, I never did find out what had happened to him, but took him to everyone I thought could help. The drunken veterinarian thought it was a calcium deficiency, and when I was leaving his house his Mayan house keeper snuck around through the gate and called me over in secret. With whispers she explained that the ‘evil eye’ had come to the parrot in the night, and that I had to get a bundle of basil and tap him over the head with it eight times.
I did it. Yep. I tried everything. I was grinding up egg shells and covering them with lime juice. That dissolved the calcium. With that mixture I added vitamins and garlic, and everything else I thought might help a parrot. Every day I would take Vick's Vapor Rub and massage the little guys legs after I’d force fed him with an eye dropper. This went on for two weeks.
Then one day my friend came over with a bottle of Cuban anejo rum. “Come on, man, we’re going fishing. I got bait, gas, and the boat is waiting. We’re going to anchor on the back side of the reef and shoot some bugs too.” (Bugs was our slang word for lobster.)
“I can’t go because of Bogart,” I explained as I mixed up the parrot’s food.
“Man, that parrot has been sick for two weeks. You have to get out and live. Either that bird is going to live or die.” He pulled the stopper out of the bottle and poured a generous amount into the parrot food.
I knew he was right, and injected the rum-laden mixture down Bogart’s throat, put him in the cage, his legs still curled up and locked beneath him. Then I grabbed my equipment, fishing pole, snorkeling gear, spear gun.
I had a terrible feeling when I got home. As I came though the gate I stained my ears for Bogart’s calls as I approached. Then I heard him, squawking and singing like a sailor, happy as could be, going through one sound after another, cats, frogs, girlfriend moans. When I looked through the mosquito netting over the window opening, I could see Bird Brain laying on his back with his wings spread wide, singing away while chewing on a foot as the other waved about. His ailment vanished with his hangover.