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4.24.04 Kindred Spirit

In this morning's mail, my AIR mentor writes: Do you have a dog, cat, or any other animal companions? ...or memories of any from the past? Any aspect of nature that might inspire a story (or series of stories) from you?   If so, I'll "commission" you to work up a 2 - 4 minute piece for possible inclusion in the first 4 episodes of Kindred Spirits, which is what I'll be hope to be concentrating on for the next year or 8...

I do of course qualify for this challenge. Hermanita (a.k.a. "Ruby" in these pages) has dominated the household since 1983. I always hesitate to call her a "pet" or even "companion." She is a cruel mistress, a green bitch goddess.

Her sweet Spanish name means "little sister." But she got that name only because her given name -- Herman -- had to be adjusted when we found out she was a girl. (You can't tell just from looking at externals.).

There is this story, published here 8.22.99 but deleted along the way:

Parrot wreaks havoc: Came home today about 3 p.m. from a weekend in the mountains. We were only gone since Friday and Matthew was going to stop by yesterday to make sure Ruby was okay. Ruby is our bitch-goddess of a parrot, who rules the roost from a spacious cage in the kitchen, who is too lazy to fly (demands to be carried), and who has never in 16 years shown any interest in "breaking out."

Everything looked fine but there was a note from Matthew on the counter, next to some broken glass bowls. "Apparently, Ruby escaped!" it started. Matthew came in at 11:30 yesterday morning to find the broken glass on the floor and Ruby sitting on the counter. Mind you, I ask Matthew to stop by when we are away, not because he is a bird person, but because he is the type of person who can handle an emergency.

So, not having a clue how to handle the bird, he wound up chasing her around the house for a while (Ruby managed to get her fat carcass to fly after all) till she landed in the recycling box and he was able to dump her back into the cage and clean up the mess.

But that's only the half of it. After being amused by Matthew's note (and figuring I'll owe him big time), I opened the refrigerator to find it was off. Hmmm was there a connection to Ruby's escapade? I went down to the basement and sure enough the circuit breaker was flipped. Something made me decide I better investigate further before simply resetting the switch. I've lived with Ruby long enough to instinctively know that her forbidden thrill is chewing on electrical wires.

Yes, there was the answer. To the left of her cage is the microwave, a radio, and a dustbuster. Behind the microwave was an amazing tangle of copper wire and chewed-to-bits plastic sheathing. I should say a shocking tangle of wire because I can't believe Ruby survived and that her mischief didn't result in a fire. I guess those circuit breakers are better than I imagined. I would have bet money that Ruby would have been fried before the circuit kicked off.

She now sits glaring at me, her irises pulsing orange and yellow. If this has turned her into some sort of Bride of Frankenstein, I'll be really pissed off.

That's not bad. But what is the universality? What is the controlling idea or theme? What was changed by this incident? Did I learn anything except to lock her cage door?

I could also write about the challenge of switching my bon vivant darling over to "health food." Apparently sunflower seeds are the corn liquor of the parrot world. After 20 years of picking the sunflower seeds out of her seed mix, then demanding a share of whatever we had on our plates, her liver went bad. Her cholesterol skyrocketed and her kidneys were threatening to go. She was staggering around like a drunken sailor and slipping off her perch. The message from the vet was clear: go on the temperance wagon or die.

I tried picking the sunflower seeds out of her seed mix. After 5 minutes of that nonsense, I decided I'd give her a diet of rice and corn or rice and beans. Cold-weather bulky and nutritious. She liked it fine. But when we'd go away, it became a challenge to fix enough food to send with her to the vet's boarding house and not have it go sour mid-week. I decided we'd just have to switch her to pellets.

I should mention that for 20 years Hermanita has eaten anything, except parrot pellets. Pellets are the scientifically formulated chow that are supposed to provide perfect nutrition. Naturally the parrot bon vivant looks upon these like a human bon vivant would look upon compressed astronaut food.

Changing her diet has been a war of wills. Jim and I have had to put the pellets on our own plates and eat them with loud yummy noises. She just glares at us with an expression that says, "You guys are idiots if you eat that crap."

Maybe there's a story there. And some sort of allegory about the middle-age challenge of confronting the damage we've wreaked on our bodies.



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