Fly me to the moon
Cops knocking on the door, and there’s the cockatoo shrieking guilty, guilty, white crest bristling, one wing raised and Lenny wondering what the hell he’s done wrong .. is it the neighbour complaining of noise again or the car he dinged at the carpark last week, and reaching further back the baseball bat he stole for his kid, but the worst was the hold up at the court house where his girl friend was working and the thing was it wasn’t really a hold up, more a prank that went horribly wrong and there was no explaining why he fled next door into the pet shop, gun in his hand, and no explaining why the cockatoo suddenly flew on to his shoulder, taking charge of the situation, get your ass out the back door, and Lenny ran and nobody thought to stop a man running with a cockatoo on his shoulder making wise cracks, squawking to the street that someone needed a hiding and then the cockatoo clicking and grinding, working himself up to full height, thrilled with the good fortune of its release, fly me to the moon and Lenny laughing, one hand on the bird's foot, as if it were a deal.
Some days the cockatoo seems to be chewing things over. ‘What’s it all about,’ he shrieks when the cage cover comes off. Lenny stares at the bird. The bird cocks his head, its crest doing a little tremble.
‘You got to wake your ideas up,’ says Lenny. ‘You got to be grateful for what you got.’ When there’s no answer Lenny points to the picture of a palm tree on the wall. ‘You’re livin’ in paradise. You got food. Look at all this bird seed scattered around the room.’ He points at his chest. ‘You got me.’
‘You got me,’ squawks the cockatoo. ;That’s right babycakes,’ says Lenny opening the cage door.
The bird flies out wings flapping in Lenny’s face. ‘Who’s a lucky boy?’ the cockatoo shrieks. Lenny laughs. He draws out a water pistol, aims a squirt at the bird’s head. The bird shrieks, takes off down the hallway with Lenny in pursuit. Crash goes the table lamp. ‘Fuck,’ roars Lenny.
The cockatoo eyes Lenny from on top of the wardrobe. Pump, pump, pump goes Lenny’s water pistol, water spraying over the walls. A man can’t give up, he thinks. Even if a man is outta breath. He reloads the water pistol under the tap.
The cockatoo, dripping wet perches on the side of the couch. Its limp crest hangs rakishly over one eye. Lenny lies, clutching his heart. The morning is warm, steam rises off the pin up palm tree and for a brief moment, before Lenny sits up with a cry, all is quiet in paradise.
He knows the bird loves him. Loves him in that constant animal way that goes beyond reason. The cockatoo’s got that over his wife, his girlfriend, any woman he’s ever had. Later Lenny gets out his guitar for a sing- a- long. Pulls on his soft fedora hat. There’s a few holes in the hat. Could be bullet holes, could be where the cockatoo, worked up into such a frenzy over Lenny’s fly me to the moon, has stabbed clean through the felt.
Frankie McMillan is a poet and short fiction writer. Her latest book, 'The wandering nature of us girls', ( Canterbury University Press) was published in August, 2022.