The parrot squawks, “Smell like crrrap, farrrt, farrrt, farrrt.”
“You’re silly,” Aunt Elvira tells me. “He’s a sweet bird and would never say anything inappropriate.”
Aunt Elvira is my favorite human but she forgets a lot, and her hearing is worse every day. Sometimes she calls me Vlado. That was her husband, who used to sing opera in the middle of the street whenever he was drunk, every Friday after he got paid. Other times she’s called me Lojzi. I don’t know who he was, but he might have been a boyfriend before she ever married Uncle Vlado. So when she tells me the parrot is all sweet, I don’t exactly trust her. My hearing is perfect and I know what the parrot says.
“Bottle of rrrum!” the parrot squawks. “Barrrtender, another rrrround.” Since Uncle Vlado died, Mom and I visit a lot, although Mom often grumbles, “Elvira is off her rocker and needs to be in the Institute.”
Aunt Elvira cooks all the meals I love, like dumplings with dill sauce, and Spanish Birds smothered in cream. Mom is always on a diet and says every one of those is no good for you and in fact we’ll cut out meat altogether one day soon.
Mom is outside weeding in Aunt Elvira’s garden; I watch the parrot and Aunt Elvira as she chops onion and garlic and sprinkles hot paprika into the pot, for pork goulash. She coos and puts sunflower seeds between her lips and the parrot gently pulls them out. She says he’s the best kisser she’s ever had. She pets him and he settles on top of her head.
When mom comes in with a bunch of carrots and a huge ripe tomato, I ask her if I can stay with Aunt Elvira to help her dust and carry her groceries. Mom gives me the evil eye and says, “You have school, can’t be a bum like every other man in the family.”
“What about a dog, mom,” I say, “a black Lab maybe, or a German Shepherd?”
“All I need,” mom says. “Another mouth to feed. Your father owes me the last three months, you remind him next Saturday. The judge will throw him in jail if he doesn’t smarten up.”
“O Mio Babbino Caro,” Aunt Elvira sings and the parrot spreads its wings and flies to me. Aunt Elvira is sitting at the kitchen table, caressing her wedding picture and crying.
“Anotherrr bottle of rrrum,” I say and mom swats me.
“We can’t sit around all afternoon, Elvira,” she says. “The boy still has homework to do.”
“The goulash will be done soon,” Aunt Elvira says. “A few more minutes for the dumplings. I’ll share them with my sweetheart,” and she puckers her lips and he screeches, “Beerrrs for everrrrrybody.”
I’ll have seven dogs and three parrots when I grow up. The dogs will do tricks and the parrots will know tons of dirty words.
The work of Andrew Stancek has appeared in many fine venues, including Tin House online, Frigg, jmww, New Flash Fiction Review, New World Writing and Green Mountains Review.
Read more of Andrew’s work below…
The Sting on the Skin – here
Airdra – here
Cooped – here
Three Grief Stories – here
Champagne Kiss – here
Photo by Free-Photos
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