Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Goodbye, Gloria (or Spike)

It was a moment of self-discovery while gathering refuse for Trash Day.

After hauling three garbage cans down my driveway this morning, I scoured the basement for other items to discard.

Reaching in my freezer for a few relics, I swept a small blue box into the last collection bag. Then it hit me - I was a heartless, callous least when it comes to deceased parakeets.

Here's the back story:

Jack was five and behavior at home was bothersome. A friend at daycare had just received two parakeets. Jack was fascinated...and focused. He wanted his own and made the pledge every child who wants a pet makes..."I'll take care of them." Neither Missy nor I believed him.

We stalled as long as we could. As his behavior worsened, we relied on our last line of defense...bribery. We created a behavior chart. Jack had to earn enough stickers to warrant the purchase of parakeets and their accessories. Months went by...and sticker earning was slow.

Finally, as his sixth birthday approached, Jack's chart was nearly full. Coincidentally, the local pet shop was running a parakeet one, get one. I took my little man to buy his birds. He chose two - one yellow (his favorite color), the other white.

Thinking he had a bird of each gender, Jack named them Gloria and Spike. Never quite sure which was which - even after we learned later that both were female - we called them each "Gloria...or Spike," which seemed to work nicely.

Gloria and Spike resided in a tricked-out cage in our dining room, where they were a constant presence. We were intrigued with them...for a few months. We followed the guidance of our sage parakeet book: moving our hands slowly into their cage to hold them, letting them fly in a small contained space while we cleaned their dwelling, making sure they had plenty of food, water and grit (to aid in digestion).

But time went by. The birds became less captivating. Jack lost interest, so did Grace. Emma, the most patient of the three, was the last to fall. Missy and I took turns - grudgingly - caring for Gloria and their constant chatter, coupled with our kid-generated commotion, chipped away at my sanity like Chinese water torture...with feathers...lots of feathers.

I found myself dreaming of ways to dispose of the birds, making it appear to be an "accident" as AC/DC's Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap ran through my mind. And then - salvation! We found an adoptive home for the birds - a women who loved parakeets. Jack acquiesced. It seemed my semi-quiet life would return.

But an unexpected development happened. On my birthday, no less. While in the kitchen getting coffee, I heard frantic fluttering from the parakeet cage. Rushing into the room, I found Gloria or Spike - the white bird, for identification purposes - with its head caught under the water dish. By the time I reached my hand into the cage to free her, the poor, scared creature snapped its neck and died.

Missy entered the room to find my hand in the cage...inches away from the newly dead bird. If Gloria or Spike had a lawyer, it's safe to say I would have been convicted of birdslaughter based on the circumstantial evidence.

Considering it was January, we weren't able to conduct a proper burial under the apple tree in the backyard...the final resting place of all small, partially loved creatures like numerous beta fish named Frosty. So the bird was wrapped in a cloth, placed in a discarded Christmas ornament box and stored in the freezer with a spring service in mind.

That was early January and Gloria or Spike has only been thought of when we've ventured to the freezer for a pizza or some chicken nuggets.

This morning, after nearly 11 months, I figured enough time had passed. But carelessly tossing the makeshift casket into the trash wasn't the answer. I had to make my peace with the bird.

Just before tying the Glad bag, I retrieved the chilled box and said a prayer for the soul of poor Gloria. Or maybe it was Spike. Either way, I know - in that brief moment - my intentions were pure.

As for the dark thoughts that so often crossed my mind while cleaning up parakeet droppings, may God have mercy on my soul.

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