This Short Story tells of a ‘wise’ parrot who gains his freedom, only to return home when he’s learned his life lessons. It is a Christian parable with a man representing God/goodness and a wife representing evil/badness. The parrot plays with both, confused over his name [and gender] and finally settles with reality. Enjoy!
Once upon a time there was a man who kept parrots in cages. He fed them a special mixture of grains every day, including a tiny round seed. One parrot was called Sam, and that little round black seed was his favourite. It was tasty and sweet and made him feel so very happy when he ate it.
The man taught them all to speak. Simple words like, “Hello!”, “Pretty boy!” and sometimes phrases like, “Polly wants a cracker!” and the people laughed and enjoyed the man’s entertainment when the parrots spoke.
The man’s wife though was a little bit naughty and mumbled bad things under her breath when she thought the man wasn’t listening. Sam was especially smart and he picked up the phrases the wife spoke. Words like, “Yeah nah!” or “Yeah right!” or “Fatty eats too much!” and “The science is settled!” gradually slipped into Sam’s vocabulary. He worked out that the people laughed even harder when he said these ‘naughty’ words after other parrots had spoken.
When a fat boy was listening and one of the other parrots said, “Ice cream; Ice cream!” the people laughed and pointed at any person holding an ice cream. He learned that if he said, “Fatty eats too much!” then they would laugh even harder; ignore the other parrots and turn their attention to him.
He loved the laughter and attention so worked especially hard to pick up the murmurs from the wife, knowing that they were the keys to his special attention.
It didn’t take very long for Sam to carry a conversation. “Polly wants a cracker!” was always followed by, “Yeah, nah!” and huge laughter. When there was a girl present and the other parrots said, “Pretty boy!” his retort, “Pretty girl!” in a sexy voice like the wife had used, was one of his favourites. If he heard, “Climate Change is real!” from the people he’d just have to say, “The science is settled!” in a sarcastic way like the wife did and any crowd would erupt into confusion – some of them laughing and others arguing and shouting. He loved that one.
No subject was taboo. The Jews; bankers; Climate Change, religion; politics; conspiracy . . . they all rolled off Sam’s tongue just as he had heard tha man’s wife mutter as they traveled around with their show.
It was all so much fun.
The man asked his wife one day to paint a sign with his name on it. She wrote, “PAM” just to be naughty, and so the people thought he was a girl. That infuriated him but he just had to suck it all up. He did like it though when she put another sign on his cage saying, “THE WISE PARROT” because the people then started to come to him first, before the other parrots.
He was deeply challenged one day though when he heard a boy ask his mother, “Mum, if that parrot is so wise, why does he not open his cage and fly away? See his cage doesn’t have a lock on it like all the other ones do!”
That night he was thinking about what he heard and stretched his head out of the cage to look for the missing lock. It was true . . . he couldn’t see a lock on his cage, whereas all the other cages had a lock on them. If he reached out with his beak, he might just be able to . . . yes! He did manage to open the cage, push the door open and he flew out!
He was now free! “As free as a bird”, he thought. Then he chuckled to himself, “he was a bird, and a clever one at that!” He flew all the night long. Over the cities and hills and on and on and on. He flew up as high as he could the next day and met with the eagles. “Polly wants a cracker!” he tried with them.
“Stupid parrot!” they retorted. “There are no crackers up here. Just other birds that we eat!” and they attacked him.
So, wounded feelings and a couple of feathers less, he dropped his sights a little to the treetops. He alighted and tried to engage with the big fat pigeons gorging themselves on the berries. “Fatty eats too much!” didn’t go down so well with the big birds and he again got a hiding and the short shift.
Always positive, he then tried the ground scratching with the chickens only to be rebuffed and chased away again when they pecked him for trying to steal their grains. Trying to justify his rejection by noting that those ‘dumb chickens’ couldn’t talk and had to eat all the same grain and had their eggs stolen from them every day seemed a little hollow, but he bought his own spin.
He tried the seashore and got yelled at by the seagulls who squawked the most horrible of sounds at him. He tried to engage with the sparrows but they just ignored him and he got bored with it all.
Depressed, tired and [if he was honest] missing life at home, he determined to get as far away from it all as he could. “I’m going to fly to Ethiopia!” he determined. “Ethiopia or bust! Ethiopia here I come!” he said to himself.
Knowing that Ethiopia was “up there somewhere”, he flew north for days. He tired and still the sea was a relentless temptation below him. The godwits winged their way past him on their way north, making him feel like a fat pigeon by comparison. The albatrosses cruised around him effortlessly as he panted with his massive effort. He deliberately put out of his mind the large range of seeds that the man used to bring him each day, but he did pine for that little round sweet black seed – if he was honest.
He really might have made a mistake, except there was no way that he would DARE acknowledge an error – after all he was “The wise parrot” – the wife had written that sign for a reason hadn’t she?
The island was a huge one as it came into his sight. If he gave it all his might he would reach it before dark, and he did, just. It was covered in pretty flowers but he just crashed and lay where he landed. He slept all night like a log and the sun was already streaming in through the long stalks when he awoke.
“I must be dreaming”, he mused as he looked around. He looked left. He looked right. He looked up. Was this real? All he could see was his favourite seeds! He ate one and it tasted sweet, just like those that he treasured in the mix that the man had fed him each day.
He wondered if he had died and was in heaven. He had never seen poppy seeds in their natural environment and could not believe that each pod had so many seeds contained within. Hundreds, nay thousands of those little gems, and thousands, no millions of flowers covered the island. This was so incredible and Sam agreed wholeheartedly with the wife’s sign about his wisdom.
He ate . . . and ate. He gorged himself on his favourite food.
“Indeed I AM the wise parrot!” he spoke aloud with joy as he rested from eating for a moment. A whole island full of poppy fields to make the smartest, wisest parrot alive now the happiest!
Any happy he was too . . . VERY happy, if you know what I mean!
Sam lived the life of his dreams for a few days or so – stoned from morning to night, he talked his head off. He found a capacity to recall words and phrases from his distant memory that he’d never recall normally. He came to understand things he never did before – about himself; about the people who laughed; about what he was actually saying when he repeated what the wife murmured; about the wife and how she really was trouble around the place, and most importantly about the man.
He started to see that there was a reason that his cage didn’t have a lock on it. He started to think freely and consider how the man actually trusted him, and not the other parrots. He came to realise that the man knew that if he let the wise parrot out, that eventually he would return.
Sam became free from the restrictions of repetitive parroting and somehow in the freedom of eating nothing but poppy seeds he came to understand things. He knew that the man would be putting fresh feed out for him every day, even though he was in another land. It would be a rich mixture of grains and seeds including his favourite ones – those that he now had by the millions.
He had to return. He knew that there is too much of a good thing. He knew that the man was good, and the wife was trouble. He knew that despite being constantly stoned, he was getting sick by eating only one kind of grain. He missed the people laughing and joking and pointing at him and he pined for the simple happy times of the past – even if they did think he was a girl and his name was “Pam”.
When the people arrived on his island, he took his opportunity and started talking. It was a rambling speech, not worthy of a wise parrot, but they let him join them on their boat because they thought he was cute. A day at sea and he’d sobered up and was able to talk a little about the man and the wife. He shared enough that they worked out where the incredible talking parrot actually came from. He chuckled when he arrived home to see his cage cleaned and decked out with a new batch of mixed seeds. Yes, he knew now.
He could fly away at any time he wanted to, but had no need. He ate and told a few stories to the people. When the other parrots said the names of politicians, he’d cough, splutter and spit out the words, “Yeah right!” just as the wife made murmured them. It was all so predictable, but enjoyable nonetheless.
He was happy. He was home.
Sam couldn’t work out whether it was three or four days later when he realised that there were no special seeds in his mix but it caught him by surprise when he twigged. He squawked, just like the seagulls had taught him to and spoke aloud, “Poppy seeds?”
The man was looking directly at him and smiled knowingly. He nodded his head in refusal and tapped his heart. The wise parrot knew that his happiness was now internal. The man’s wife looked up and was puzzled. Where did the wise parrot learn those words?
Sam realised that he was happy now without an external cause. He didn’t need poppy seeds any more. The man was right. No, he didn’t need any lock on his cage – not because Sam wouldn’t escape and fly away but because he WOULD do that. And yes, the man knew that all too well that he would return and that the cage would be ready for him on his return.
The man was the wise One, not him.
The man was reaching for a cage and turned to Sam. He put his hand on a small cage with a lock and raised an eyebrow. The wise parrot nodded his head aggressively from side to side and said, “Yeah nah!” mockingly.
The man then reached to the back of the shelf for a different cage without a lock and brought it out to clean and use. There seemed to be an understanding between the man and the wise parrot that went right over the wife’s head.
The little parrot now had his own cage and sat proudly between his mother and father’s cage right in the front. The people laughed and cheered as Sam looked on proudly at the show. Nothing was off limits as the little parrot caused mayhem for attention.
As the man poured the seeds out for his son he did so slowly so that each seed fell into the tray one by one. When it came to a poppy seed, he looked over at Sam.
It was all Sam could do not to laugh. The man did though. A little chuckle, and continued pouring that special mix of seeds for the little parrot.
He watched the wife teach his son all the naughty stuff that she taught him years previously, all the while thinking that the man didn’t know!
He looked up at the man and the man winked at him. He knew alright. He knew everything.
“The jokes on you”, he thought as the wife murmured something to the little parrot again. She took his signs and put them on the little parrot’s cage, chuckling to herself. “PAM” became “Little PAM” . . . “THE WISE PARROT” became, “THE little WISE PARROT”.
“The joke’s on you!” he thought. “Now I can be me – ‘Sam’!”