Today, we’re spending some time on the Front Porch with “The Saddest Thing I Owned,” Marcy Silver’s piece from “Step Over,” the Summer 2006 issue of JOT. The piece is a little long, but it’s rewarding. You can find some writing prompts linking the piece to our current writing theme “Freedom and Liberation” at the end of the post.
THE SADDEST THING I OWNED
When the old Woolworth dime store existed, I enjoyed looking around and buying a few things.
One day I was looking at the parakeets. There was one blue one. The rest were green. I bought the blue one. I read books about parakeets; however, I wanted to train my bird in my own way. In the beginning when I had to put my hand in the cage, I did it very slowly. I also talked softly. This lasted for a couple of months. By the way, I named my bird Fuzzy. For a short period of time I would leave the cage door open. Fuzzy would hop on the door, fly around, and come back on the door. Then he would go into the cage. Fuzzy had a wooden swing that he enjoyed very much. He had a small silver bell. He had fresh food and water. I never put a mirror in his cage. I felt a mirror would distract from his training.
Fuzzy was getting used to the movement and to me. I was able to gently train him to stay on my finger. I would put him next to my lips so he could feel and hear my voice. I did this every day for six months. I also made a play area near his cage. I bought him a long wooden ladder, which I connected to his cage. The first month I put no toys on this ladder. It didn’t take long for Fuzzy to get used to it. I put small objects, one at a time, on his ladder. These objects were small balls, bells, and baby plastic keys. He loved his play area. I would not interfere while Fuzzy was playing, but I was always observing him.
One afternoon, I was resting. I was praying to God. In my prayer I was saying, “I love my bird so much it doesn’t matter if he doesn’t talk.” I really meant it. All of a sudden I clearly heard Fuzzy four times. I screamed. I guess I was sort of in shock. I got up, went over to Fuzzy’s cage, opened the door, and he hopped on my finger. While he was on my finger I said, “Thank you” to God. To me, this was a miracle. Next Fuzzy learned to say my name clearly. Within a month he was saying many words: “baby,” “good boy,” “cracker,” etc. One time, he was on my shoulder. He bit my lip hard. I felt angry. I said, “You little shit.” All of a sudden, I heard “Little shit” two times. I couldn’t believe it. I put him in his cage for a little while. Later, I let him out. He never said that word again. He made many different sounds like whirs, barks, and screeches. I had a little radio. He loved it. He picked up some words from the radio.
I wanted to try other things with Fuzzy. At first I would make a clicking sound, put him on my finger, and turn him up and around with my hand and arm. He associated the clicking sound with this new trick. As a matter of fact he started clicking. I decided to try this movement without me clicking. I moved my hand and arm completely forward and backwards. He stayed on my finger. He never flew away while we were doing this.
Fuzzy loved taking a bath in my fish tank. One time he put his head under the water. This frightened me, but he picked up his head like nothing happened. Sometimes he would bathe in my kitchen sink.
During the time I had Fuzzy I was taking a TV psychology course. One of the assignments was to do something I’d never done before. I thought about this for a while. I finally came up with an idea. I made a chart with all the days of the week. I took a flashlight, turning it on and off. Fuzzy was always ready to do something new. I was on the floor. Fuzzy flew to the floor. I did not talk. As soon as Fuzzy came near the flashlight, I turned it on one time. He immediately pecked at the flashlight. I immediately turned it on for a second. Every day I would only turn the light on when Fuzzy pecked at it. If he didn’t peck, no light. As time continued Fuzzy knew the light would not go on without him pecking. Sometimes he would peck four or five times. The light went on four or five times. One time Fuzzy pecked only one time because he heard a song that distracted him. I kept a record of this every day. I took pictures. I mailed this assignment to my instructor. In a couple of weeks the instructor gave me an A for this assignment. She liked it very much. This made me so happy.
When I had people visit me, Fuzzy would never perform. He was very sociable. He enjoyed sitting on top of people’s heads. He enjoyed watching TV. He could say this word. I had Fuzzy for thirteen wonderful years. One evening I was reading. Fuzzy was in his cage. All of a sudden I heard a drop. I immediately went over to him. I gently held him in my hand with tears running down my face. He was having a stroke that lasted twenty minutes. Finally his torment was over. I buried him near a church. It took me a full year to get over the loss of my precious parakeet. Now I can say that was the saddest thing I owned.
Marcy clearly loved Fuzzy very much – so why do you think she called him “the saddest thing I owned?” If you have had pets, how have you thought of them? Do the same notions of freedom and liberation for all apply to animals, or are they different? Have you ever found yourself worrying and wondering about the freedom of animals, whether it be from eating meat, taking a pony ride, or watching National Geographic? What did you do? How did you cope?