by Dawn DeBraal
Harold Lobe stared at the empty parrot cage, mystified as to where the bird went. How had he gotten out? Mr. Peepers loved mornings in the sun and filtered shade. He'd squawk and flap. There was no way he could have taken that snap-lock off, although he did have a bit of Houdini blood in him. Harold was devastated. He grew up with Mr. Peepers, a bird his grandmother wanted. The poor thing lived his entire life with the Lobe family in a cage, his grandmother, his parents, and now him.
As a bachelor, Harold was happy to have the company of the bird. Sometimes Mr.Peepers talked too much and could grate on the nerves. Mr. Peepers, repeated arguments, barked like a dog, or meowed like a cat. Harold had no one to argue with, or a dog or cat. But some days it felt like he lived in a zoo.
Harold started the outdoors playtime realizing Mr. Peepers loved the stimulation. The poor bird picked everything up from the television—day in and day out. After living safer at home during the quarantine, Harold got a taste of what Mr. Peepers was going through. For over forty years, the bird sat in that damn cage. Harold felt bad. Dragging the cage outside, Mr. Peepers became quite animated in the new stimulation he received. Other birds, the wind, the sun. He wondered why he never thought of it before. Mr. Peepers could come into the house whenever he wanted and sit on the stand he had. His food and water captured on a plastic tray under the perch. He was a messy bird. When he got his fill of food, he went outside. Now that he had access to the world beyond, he spent little time indoors. And why would he when he’d spent the last forty years indoors?
Harold pulled open the refrigerator, pulling out the cream. It was almost expired. He poured the half-life creamer into his coffee, chasing the clotting around, trying to get it to dissolve. He was mad at himself. He should have wired that cage shut. All he could think of was to open the door and let Mr. Peepers come back if he wanted. He took his coffee out to the patio, opening the cage door. Harold put a piece of fruit on a string in the cage and sat down with his newspaper. It had only been a day since Mr. Peeper's disappearance. Perhaps someone would respond to his ad.
Harold wished he'd of thought about putting the fruit on a string earlier. He didn't know how far the parrot would fly. Would the bird fly to Mexico? South America? He wondered where Mr. Peepers could live comfortably. He thought about giving the bird to a zoo who would allow him more freedom. He suddenly resented his grandmother for buying Mr. Peepers so long ago. What was she thinking of, keeping a beautiful bird like that in a cage?
Mr. Peeper’s cage was huge; it took up half his living room, the bird had the run of the house, which was evidenced by the chewed-up arm of his davenport. A towel had been placed, just so, hiding the wood frame exposed from his nervous chewing.
Harold found his ad, asking for the whereabouts of Mr. Peepers. He hoped phone calls would start coming in soon, reporting sightings of the bird. Harold pictured in his mind how he could coax Mr. Peepers in, bringing him safely home. He should have trimmed his wings so that Mr. Peepers couldn't fly far.
Should have, would have, could have. Now Harold had lost Mr. Peepers. It was worse than watching the poor bird spend his life in a cage, not knowing where he was.
The phone rang. Harold went inside to answer it.
"Yes, I'm the person who placed the ad. Where? I'll be right there!!" Someone had spotted Mr. Peepers down the block. It had to be him. How many Amazon Parrots would be out flying in this area today?
Harold got out the portable cage, the one he took to take Mr. Peepers to the vet, grabbing some peanuts as they were Mr. Peeper's favorites. He would coax the bird out of the tree and get him home. Then he would look into a better home for Mr. Peepers. Perhaps he could be repatriated back into the wild?
Harold ran the two blocks and found the woman standing on the sidewalk. She pointed across the street. There was Mr. Peepers, high up in a branch.
Harold held up the peanut and called to his bird. Mr. Peepers squawked as if to let Harold know he was having fun and wasn’t ready to come home.
"Peanut, peanut, peanut," Harold sang out. Mr. Peeper's head cocked to the side. Oh, he did love a good peanut! He watched Harold, and then flapping his wings, he moved down the branch, torn between staying out of his cage and flying, or eating a delicious peanut—such a decision.
"How long have you had him?" The woman asked.
"He's been in my family for over forty years," Harold replied, still waving the peanut in the air.
"Forty years! My, I didn't know they could live that long. My name is Hazel Corm."
"Oh, how do you do, Hazel?" She looked like a nice woman.
"Peanut, peanut, peanut." Harold sang again, holding the peanut aloft. He could see Mr. Peepers was having the time of his life and decided to look into a sanctuary where Mr. Peepers could fly free, and still have the human companionship he had known.
"I think if I can get him back, I will give him to a sanctuary that will allow him this kind of freedom," Harold said to Hazel.
"That's a wonderful idea." Just then, a hawk swooped in, grabbing the parrot and flew away.
"No!" Harold shouted, dropping the cage as Hazel tried to comfort him.
"Don’t cry. Mr. Peepers has found himself a girlfriend!"