THE SEARING Marseilles heat was a welcome change from the clinging smell of autumnal mildew that permeated Paris of an evening. It was morning, dawn but a distant memory for the flora and the fauna encircling my bedroom window. The sun already seemed high and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. I had just opened the wooden shutter, invigorated by a subtle awareness of the cool air hugging the ground and the soft caress of sun on my face. Better than I had ever imagined life in the South of France to be, the moment could not be more perfect. I felt connected, at one with the whole of Creation.
Sitting on the branch of an orange tree about five feet from me was a beautiful winged creature, a glorious technicolour parrot straight from the pages of Treasure Island.
“Wow, you’re gorgeous!”, I exclaimed.
He blinked at me, as if to say “Yes, I know.”
I blinked too, in disbelief that such an audience had presented itself.
The parrot studied me. I studied back. Who was the more curious, me or him? I looked about to see if there was another soul around. Nope. Just me and the bird.
It flicked its head as if it had a nervous twitch. Just as it occurred to me that he wanted to scratch, he lifted his right claw and did the deed. He squawked in a self-satisfied manner and tilted his head the other way.
I tilted mine and squawked back.
It occurred to me that I should try to teach it to say something funny. How did one say “Who’s a pretty boy, then” or “Don’t get your knickers in a twist” in French? No, that would be beneath me and insult the parrot.
As if he knew what I was thinking, he cocked his head, strutted on the spot as if walking on hot coals, then began to whistle. He articulated three crisp clear notes.
I said nothing. I couldn’t whistle to save myself. All attempts by my father to teach me had failed.
He whistled the same three notes yet again. Still I uttered not a sound.
It was only when he whistled the third time that the penny dropped and I attempted to follow suit. My first efforts were in vain, for I blew like a flat tyre.
He repeated the same notes. I tried again. And again. And again. He persisted until I had mastered whistling all the notes in exactly the manner that he had done.
I couldn’t believe I was actually doing it. At long bloody last, I could whistle …
After a short pause, in which he almost seemed to make a little bow of approval, the maestro whistled again. Only this time, there were four notes. The first two were the same as before, but the third was different and the fourth was entirely new.
In the midst of my euphoria, it was not lost on me that the parrot knew exactly what it was doing. Everything about this strange and wonderful experience made me want to pinch myself. I half expected Richard Dreyfuss to come out of nowhere and a massive flying disk to appear above my head. Close Encounters of the Bird Kind … ha ha. I kept my imaginings simple and settled instead on Simon Says.
But Mister Feathered Smarty Pants was not satisfied that I had got the hang of four notes. Oh no, he piled it on and took it up to five. By the time he racked the level of difficulty up to six, my attention span was shot to pieces and I couldn’t handle all the notes.
He paced about like a disgruntled drill sergeant, then looked at me as if to say “Pfft, is that it?”
Mmm, I could smell breakfast. I shrugged my shoulders as if to say “Mais oui.”
In the blink of an eye my Teacher fluttered off into the big blue sky.
Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2015