About a year ago, I was beating through the wilds of Ye Olde Mega Mall while my soul mate shopped at the anchor department store. I hate running the gagging gantlet of spritzers along the perfume aisle so I told her I’d cruise around a bit while I waited. I pulled up to a bench in front of a pet store to tie the laces of my blue suedes when I thought I heard a voice calling for help. At first I ignored it because I believed it was just my new multi-channel electronic hearing aids playing tricks again.
Then I heard it again. “Psst. Hey you. The Big Guy in the purple checked bell bottoms and red and blue Hawaiian shirt. And by the way, the orange suspenders and belt make a bold fashion statement.”
The description of my Fort Lauderdale finery finally clued me in, but when I turned around all I saw was my wrinkled reflection looking back at me.
The muted voice persisted. “The window. Lower left.”
I squinted at a litter of peeing pups spattering paper scraps behind the Doggie-A-Go-Go window before I spotted the note in the corner of the window made up of letters torn from newsprint and stuck on the glass.
“H.E.L.P!” said the note. “I’m being kept a prisoner in here.”
“Do you see my message Big Guy?” asked the anxious voice.
“Is someone talking to me?” I said, looking over my shoulder, fully expecting to see someone from a reality themed incarnation of Candid Camera sneaking up on me.
“Who else fits that description? Um – – and would you mind moving into the shadows. The reflection from the overhead light is blinding me.”
Inside the shop door was a birdcage holding a bedraggled parakeet. His eyes were beady dark circles, his wings drooped and his aqua feathers were smeared with a slimy brown goo. He limped as he sidled back and forth across his roost.
“Thank goodness you saw my message,” he said. “Get me out of here. I’m desperate.”
Coming from a family with a history of compassion, I recognize injustice so within seconds I negotiated his release. The owner tried to sell me a new cage but I assured him we already owned one so I carried my new bargain basement budgie home inside a paper shopping bag punched full of holes.
I rummaged through the attic, found the old cage, blew the dust off and set it up in the family room. While getting the cage ready I could hear my new adoptee grumping around inside the paper bag. Finally, I put him in the refurbished cage and shut the door.
“Not much better than the dump I just came from Big Guy,” he said sniffing around the seed dish.
I ignored his gross ingratitude. “Where did you come from?” I asked, trying to make light conversation while filling his water cup.
“Well Big Guy, the story of my life is an epic effort. I was living on your sunny left coast, in Hollywood, but felt my life was becoming too plastic, – lacking intellectual stimulation. Then I moved north to foggy San Francisco to live among the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill. But they kicked me out because I wasn’t their type. A local pigeon told me to go east . Along the way I found salvation as a carnival barker in Nebraska but the crummy pigeon didn’t tell me about the lousy winters along the way. And now that I’ve come all the way East all I can see is ocean.”
“Yes,” I replied. “That’s because you’re on Cape Cod, the original site of the landing of the Pilgrims. From here, the next landfall is the home of Vasco de Gama.”
He ignored my brief geography lesson and looked at me numbly. “As I was saying,” he continued, “I was scouting trash cans behind that Mega Mall when a pair of juvenile bipeds on skateboards caught me under a baseball cap. They stuffed me into a Chinese take out carton then punched it full of holes with a switchblade. Had me squirming like a magician’s assistant in a sword box. The guy running that dog prison swapped me for some bubble gum and when you came along this morning I was still covered with Peking duck sauce.”
“Not healthy little one. MSG is bad for blood pressure you know.”
“That wasn’t my problem. My feathers were glued together and I couldn’t fly. But I got out of my cage last night, scraped a few words off the floor of the puppy compound and pasted the signs in the window using duck sauce. But, nobody noticed. The owner caught me and stuck me back in the cage. That’s when I tried another tack. But I had to wait for someone with good taste to come along. That’s when I spotted you Big Guy.”
“Happy I could be of assistance. By the way, what’s your name?”
“My pals call me Pavo, short for Pavo Rotti. My mother challenged me to aspire to prominence by naming me after the great one. In fact, I’m quite a singer you know.”
“But not a very good speller,” I noted. “That’s Pav-a-rotti, not Pav-o-rotti.”
“You don’t get it Big Guy. In the languages of romance, A is feminine. Maybe you didn’t notice it but I’m a blue nosed, red blooded male. Would you rather be macho or macha?”
“Okay, I guess I get it. But English is still the local language around here.”
“Who needs it. I can get by on my looks and talent.”
Just to show his gratitude, he launched into several popular arias and we spent the rest of the afternoon listening to opera CDs as he sang along. By suppertime I was already on my third bloody Mary and it seemed that we had solved our minor differences, but little did I know that a bigger problem loomed on the horizon. And it wasn’t my internal clock that tipped me off, it was the lack of cooking smells in the air.
“Uh oh,” I said. “I think I’m in knee deep doodoo Pavo.”
“Did you forget something important?” asked my astute little avian.
“Afraid so puny pal. I left my soul mate back at the mall and it’s a 2 hour drive from here.”