The Prattling Parrot by Jennifer Anthony

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12 May 2008

Roxie bustled around the apartment to make sure everything was in order.Manuscripts from the publishing house tucked into desk drawers.

Check.

Red wine uncorked and breathing.

Check.

Couch pillows plumped.

Check.

Chatty parrot sequestered in the bedroom with door shut.

Check.

She drew a thick line through each item on her to-do list with a fat Sharpie marker, collapsed onto the couch, and stared across the room at the new piece of furniture propped against the far wall. It was a leaning bookshelf – an incredibly cheap find at the furniture store two blocks away. She had finally chucked the pine crates that had served as bookshelves since college, and decided to buy real furniture as part of her plan to become a certifiable adult.

And then she had made the grave mistake of bragging to her friends about the purchase. She had waxed on about how she had put it together all by herself – a bit of a white lie – and then adorned it with a modest amount of respectable and mature titles. She supposed the tipping point had been when she had called the piece transformational.

“Transformational?” Kyoko had said, ever the attorney. “That’s a pretty tall order. Now we have to see it!”

Her friends had proceeded to invite themselves over for cocktails. When Roxie resisted the idea, they became stern. “Don’t be so modest!” Graciela said. “We want to get some ideas, maybe get ourselves some mature furniture.”

The buzzer sounded and Roxie dragged herself over to the front door, casting a nervous look over her shoulder at the closed bedroom door. She had stockpiled the parrot’s food cup with fresh fruit, but she knew the dizzying speed with which the bird could mow down a meal.

“Hola!” Graciela shouted when Roxie swung the door open. She wore jeans and a pink cotton tee-shirt, and was trailed by three more casually-clad friends.

“Hey there,” Roxie said, ushering them inside. “Um, I thought we were going out after drinks?”

“Oh, we just couldn’t bear the thought of it,” Allison drawled. “We’re all so damn tired.”

“Ask her why she’s tired,” Kyoko said.

“Oh, stop it, you,” Allison said. She blushed and made a bee-line toward the bookshelf. “Now I do believe this must be the reason for our get-together! This is fantastic!”

“Why are you so tired, Allison?” Roxie said, raising an eyebrow.

“Oh stop it, y’all,” Allison said. She stroked the bookshelf’s dark mahogany wood in circles, as if willing a genie to appear and whisk her away.

“Let’s just say Allison and I went to the cheese shop last week and we’ve been having a Gouda time ever since!”

“Oh, you are too much, Kyoko,” Allison said. “Where are those beverages we were promised?”

Roxie divvied up the wine into five glasses and stepped back as her friends lunged at them. “I don’t know why you’re always so coy when it comes to telling us about your men,” she said.

Noelle gasped. “Look who’s talking!” she said. “You never tell us anything about your men.”

Roxie took a long swallow of wine, swished it around her mouth as she thought of a witty retort, and said, finally, “That’s because I have no men to speak of. You always have enough stories for all of us!”

“It’s been a bit of a dry spell lately, but not to worry. I have a feeling Lance is going to be a single man soon, and I’ll be there to comfort him,” Noelle said.

Everyone laughed and plopped down onto the couch but Graciela, who remained standing beside the bookshelf. “Where’s the parrot?” she asked.

“Oh, you know how that bird likes to insult people,” Roxie said. “So it was nightie-night time. I thought I’d spare you guys.”

“Oh, that thing never gets to me,” Kyoko said. “You have to have a thick skin in my profession. Go ahead and let it out.”

“Yeah,” Graciela said. “And another question – did the bird help you set up the bookcase? I’ve seen you try to put things together and they didn’t end up looking like that.” She pointed at the bookcase, which stood perfectly stable and symmetrical.

“As a matter of fact, I did,” Roxie lied. “Is this a party or the Inquisition?”

A raucous cry sounded from the bedroom.

“Uh oh, looks like someone’s ears were burning,” Allison said.

“I guess he’s not asleep after all,” Graciela said.

The bird fell silent for a few moments, and then, at deafening decibels despite the closed door, squawked, “TE QUIERO, JAVIER! TE QUIERO!”

Roxie’s skin prickled and burned all over.

“Doesn’t that mean ‘I want you’?” Kyoko asked.

Graciela guffawed and said, “It also means ‘I love you.’”


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