God, Megan, I love my husband but if that sweet dumbshit tries to steal another tropical bird for me, I swear I’m packing my bags.

So here’s the story. Last night I’m sitting watching West Wing and having my Lean Cuisine, and bozo walks in the door with this bright red and blue bird. I’m like, where’d that come from? Rich says it belongs to this guy he’s doing cabinet work for out in Milton, he says he thought I’d like it.

I said, honey, that’s sweet, but why the hell would you think I’d like a tropical bird and more importantly, what the fuck are you doing with a bird that belongs to some guy you’re doing cabinet work for out in Milton? Rich says he borrowed it, said the guy was away and he thought he’d bring it over to spend the weekend with us and we could all have some company—me, Richie, the bird, all together in our one bedroom apartment. He says, if I like it, maybe we can get one of our own.

Sweetie, I said, you can’t just go taking people’s birds like that! The guy’s never going to notice, he says, and anyway he says this guy is cool and probably wouldn’t mind. Did my husband ASK if he could borrow the tropical bird for the weekend? No, he didn’t ask, but the guy probably wouldn’t mind. Honey, I said, these things get really expensive—I saw a parrot at Petco for, like, a thousand bucks. What if that bird had died on the way over from this guy’s house?

Why would it die, asks Rich. They freeze, honey, I said. I was watching these lovebirds for my friend when I was in high school, and I swear, I fed them fine and just left them on the floor of my room when I went out to a movie. When I got back, I shit you not, those two birds were both lying together on the floor of the cage, both one hundred percent dead. Together, just like that. I said, Richie, those things can just go, snap, like that, and we’d be replacing some thousand-dollar bird for this bastard out in Milton, who might just go ahead and sue us because he’s especially attached to this one or whatever.

Geez, he says, I’m just trying to do something nice for you, Dolly. I was like, God, honey, you’re sweet, but we’ve got to take this bird back. Okay, he says, we’ll take it back on Monday. On Monday?! Fuck that! What if this thing dies over the weekend because of a draft or a noise or God knows what? We have to take it back right away, I tell him.

Fine, he says, we’ll just take it back. He says, just let me give him some fresh water first. There’s no water in his bowl. I said, Richie, just leave it, we’ll fix it when we get the bird back. Hey, he says, you’re the one who’s afraid of the bird dying. You want to just let him die of thirst?

Jesus Christ, okay, so he’s going to give the bird some water. I love my husband, Megan, I do, but he can be such a dumbass. He opens the clamps that attach the cage to the plastic base, and he’s going to lift the cage up. I said, honey! What the hell are you doing?! He says he’s going to just reach in and get the water thing, refill it and fix it back up. Okay, honey, I said, but look—use the little door instead of lifting the whole cage up. The last thing we need is this bird flying around our apartment and drowning in the toilet or something like that. God.

So, fine, he opens the little door and reaches in and picks the water thing up, takes it to the kitchen sink and refills it, puts it back in, okay. I got my coat, I said, honey, let’s go, right now, take this bird back. Well, YOU don’t have to come, he says. I said, Richard, I’m going to hold this fucking cage on my lap so the damn water doesn’t spill again or the bird doesn’t bang against the cage or whatever, you can’t just let this thing rattle around in the back of the van with the caulk guns and the old license plates.

Okay, he says, fine, and he picks the cage up and the plastic base stays on the table because Einstein didn’t think to put the clamps back on and the bird flies out and now we’re fucked.

JESUS H. CHRIST, I said, SWEETHEART! Did you want to think about clamping the damn base back on before you picked the cage up?! Now we’ve got this thousand-dollar bird loose in our apartment, and the thing is flying circles. We don’t know it’s a thousand dollars, says Rich. Yeah, I say, and we don’t know it’s not TEN thousand dollars, either, we don’t know if this is like the last of its species or whatever, we don’t know the first goddamn thing about this red and blue tropical bird flapping around our kitchenette.

Okay, says Rich, don’t panic. Don’t panic? Don’t worry, sweetie, I’M not gonna panic because it’s YOUR ass on the line here if we don’t get this thing back to Milton alive. So what’s the plan here? How are we gonna trap this thing?

He has a plan. He goes into the bedroom and takes the pillowcase off my pillow. He’s going to trap this bird with my pillowcase. Richie, I said, fine, use a pillowcase, whatever, but at least for God’s sake take a clean one out of the linen closet, don’t use that grotty one with my drool on it. What’s your drool going to do to the bird, he says, how’s your drool going to hurt it? I don’t know, maybe it will catch a cold or God knows…fine, just use my pillowcase, have fun, because the damn bird has left the kitchenette and it’s flying circles around the living room again, I’m sure it’s going to land on the halogen lamp any minute and it’s gonna get baked into a little chicken finger.

Aren’t you supposed to clip the wings if you have a pet bird? I guess not, unless you’re planning to be a dumbshit and let the bird out into your living room so it can take its chances with the ceiling fan (which, thank God, I’d turned off so I could hear the TV without that constant dink-dink-dink sound) and the lamps.

So, okay, my husband is up for this. He takes his shoes off, the dear, and stands up on the couch and holds the pillowcase open above his head and, like, tries to lunge for this bird every time it flies by. The bird’s not coming within five feet of him, but he’s lunging all over, trying to scoop it up in my pillowcase. Honey, I said, careful, you’re gonna fall over and kill yourself or, worse, take out the Hummel shelf, destroy my entire inheritance from my grandmother over this stupid stolen bird.

Don’t worry, he says, don’t worry. Fine, I said, I’m not worrying. Do I look worried? Who’s worrying? Meanwhile, the bird’s gone and landed on the ceiling fan. Dolly, he says, I want you to walk slowly over to the switch and turn the fan on. Honey, I said, are you INSANE? First, why do I have to walk slowly? Are we trying to keep the thing from flying off the fan before we have a chance to shred it into a pile of feathers and brisket? Secondly, are you INSANE?

Fine, he says, what’s YOUR big idea, then? I said, I have no ideas, I’m not worried, I’m not panicking, this is entirely your problem and your domain, you are the man of this house, I am going to finish my Lean Cuisine. Wait, he says, okay, I’m sorry, I’m sorry I told you not to worry, will you please help me now? Yes, I said, of course—just as soon as I finish my chicken á l’orange.

Listen, he says, honey, okay, just do me a favor and sort of tap the fan, there. We won’t turn it on, just tap it and get the bird to fly away. Fine, okay. So I stand on the ottoman and sort of tap the fan, and there goes the bird again, going in circles while Baryshnikov on the couch there jumps around trying to trap it in my pillowcase. Still coming nowhere near the thing. Finally the little bastard lands again, this time right on top of its own cage.

Rich is about to lunge for it, but I stop him. I’m like, listen, honey, wait a sec. I have an idea. I’m going to try to get it to step onto my finger. He says no way, just look out, I’m going to trap it in the pillowcase and we’ll put it right back in the cage. I said, Richie, wait. When I told you to read the manual of the Avis car before driving it all the way back to Worcester because the key wouldn’t come out of the ignition, did I know what I was doing? Yes I did, and we all learned about the “key release” button. Okay. So
trust me this time.

He’s like fine, whatever, just try it. So I was like fuck you, this is gonna work! So I crouch down by the cage and put my finger, real slowly, right in front of the bird. He sort of ruffles his feathers, but he doesn’t fly away. I make these real quiet sort of coo-cooing noises like a pigeon and I kind of back my finger towards the bird, and he steps right onto it! Right. Fucking. Onto it. I stayed still, and I kept quiet. I said, Richard, don’t say a word, just put that cage back on its base real quietly and real quickly. He puts the cage on its base, opens the little door, I sort of slide the bird in and it flies onto a perch, we shut the door, end of story.

Oh my God, I couldn’t believe it. I said, okay honey, that’s it, we’re going, now, get the cage, and for the love of all that is sacred put those goddamned clamps on before you pick the cage up or I will run screaming out the door and not come back until you get rid of that bird, wash my pillowcase, put the pillowcase back on my pillow, turn the sheets back, and cover the bed with rose petals and fat-free Cool Whip. So he gets the cage, we get in the van, and we drive all the fucking way out to Milton. We hardly talk the whole way, except this once, when Richie looks over and says, jeez, no wonder that thing wants to get out all the time, must be like being in prison. Better him than us, I say, now DRIVE!

Finally we get to this guy’s house, and of course it’s the size of the DCU Center, it’s fucking huge. We go in, and there are these little erotic artifacts and figures all over—like this one little guy carved out of wood with a screw coming out of his crotch. Everything is tapestries and velvet. You’ve never seen anything like it. Turns out this guy is an EROTIC WRITER, I kid you not, it’s what he does for a living.

But anyway, I just want to get in and out of there as fast as we can. Rich hangs the cage up on its hook in the living room, unbelievably the bird is still alive. Okay, I say, let’s get the hell out of here before the little bastard croaks on our watch. Hang on, says Rich, the water’s empty again, let’s just refill the water. Well, sounds fine to me, but I tell him to hurry the fuck up and change the water so we can take off. And USE THE CAGE DOOR, I say, DON’T TAKE THE DAMN BOTTOM OFF THE CAGE!

He seems to get the picture, so I head into the kitchen to check the cabinets out. Rich has, like, all the cabinets out lying on the floor, I guess he’s going to install new ones this week, anyway, Richie walks in with the water dish and he’s refilling it at the sink, I’m standing there looking at the cabinets on the floor, and something flaps by over my head and goes in the basement door. Honey, I say, please for the love of God tell me that was not our tropical bird that just flew through this kitchen and went into the goddamned basement. Just don’t tell me that. Look out there and tell me our bird is still in its cage, hanging from the hook, because you remembered to close the cage door.

He looks. He says nothing.

Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit. Fuck. Shit. Shit. Damn. Hell. Fuck. Shit. Shitshitshitshitshitshitshit.

The goddamn thousand-dollar tropical bird is out of its fucking cage AGAIN, and now it’s down in the friggin BASEMENT catching its death of cold or getting eaten by the cat or impaling itself on some little action figure’s pecker, God knows. Jesus Christ, Megan. I didn’t even say anything to Rich. I just told him to find a pillowcase or whatever and to come down to the basement, and to shut. The. God. Damn. Door. Jesus Christ, that man.

So I go down to the basement, and it’s like this crazy love nest, bed with red satin sheets and draperies all around it, I shit you not, it’s like you’re looking for the slot to put the quarters in. Walls are all red, there’s pictures of people in crazy positions, stereo, bar, God it was crazy. No bird, I don’t know where the thing went. There’s one door open, and it turns out to be the exercise room, no bird in there.

So my rocket scientist comes down the stairs with a black plastic trash bag (I don’t even comment on that) and I say okay, honey, let’s figure this out. If you were a bird, where would you go? Under the bed? No, nothing under there. Behind the bar? No. In the draperies? No, no bird. Well, I’m about to light some goddamn erotic incense and smoke the little bastard out when Rich spots this opening in the ceiling of the exercise room, a little hole where you can see between the basement ceiling and the upstairs floorboards, all the pipes and shit.

God no, I say. There is no way a tropical bird would go in that dusty hellhole. Well, Richard stands on the weight bench and he says there’s little birdie footprints in the dust on one of the pipes.

For me, that was it. That was just it. I was sure the bird was going to die in there and they were going to come for us, sue us, repossess everything, we were going to be knocking on your door, Meg, with nothing but the clothes on our backs and that picture of us that Rich gave me last anniversary. (You know, the picture etched in clear plastic that lights up in six colors when you plug it in? Fucking NO ONE would ever want that tacky piece of crap.) So I went straight to the bar, Meg, and I shit you not, I poured myself a double shot of Stoli and slammed it.

Rich comes out and what’s his reaction? Don’t, honey, the guy will notice! I say, Christ, Richie, I’m past caring. We’ve tried our damnedest to kill the freakin thousand-dollar tropical bird by freezing it, suffocating it, and Cuisinarting the little bastard with our ceiling fan, shit, honey, now that stupid motherfucker is hiding up in the space between the floorboards and I’ll bet your left testicle that it is never, ever coming out.

We could get a new bird, but it would be expensive, it would look different, and then there would be the funky smell coming from the exercise room ceiling, Jesus CHRIST! I just don’t care any more, I’m having a shot and laying down. So I run right over to the bed and jump on and bounce right off the goddamn satin sheets and smack my head on the nightstand and now I’m bleeding, Jesus Christ, Megan, I’m bleeding on this guy’s shag carpeting, fuckfuckfuckfuckfuck my head is killing me, shiiiiit.

Richie grabs some ice from the freezer behind the bar, brings it over to me wrapped in the trash bag he brought down, and I lie down on the bed with these three ice cubes pressed to my forehead, wrapped in this huge freakin black trash bag, and Richie lies down next to me and puts his arm around me and says he’s sorry.

Jesus, Richie, I say, don’t say you’re sorry, just stop doing dumbshit things like stealing birds and unclamping cages and shit. How’re we gonna raise children, I say, how’re we gonna have a family when you keep doing dumbass things like this? What if we had a baby, Richie? What would we do, leave the baby at home while we wait for this little goddamn bird to scoot its tropical ass out from under the floorboards? Bring the baby here and expose our child to little erotic figurines? Jesus Christ, Richie, what are we gonna do?

Hey, he says, I said I’m sorry, and look, you do some pretty dumb things yourself sometimes, Dolly, like jumping up on this bed like that. Well, first of all, I say, I’ve jumped up on beds a million times before and never slid off because they were normal beds with normal sheets and not this slippery shit, God, it’s like sleeping on a Teflon pan. Except softer, he says. Yeah, okay, softer, I’m sorry, honey, I’m sorry I’m so hard on you, I just get frustrated sometimes.

Okay, he’s sorry too, okay, so I’m saying no more about that…but God, Meg, we spent the whole night in this random guy’s basement in Milton, and when I woke up, Jesus, it must have been, like, ten AM, I open my eyes and, shit you not, the bird is sitting there, looking at us. Just sitting right there on the bar. It was one of those moments you’ll always remember, that plucky little bastard sitting there and just sort of cocking its little head at me, like it wanted to say something.

Well, I wanted to say a few things to him, but I played it cool, I quietly and slowly stood up, closed the door to the exercise room, picked the trash bag up off the floor, cold water ran out all over me but I didn’t even care, I just dropped the soggy Hefty on that smug little cocksucker and carried him upstairs and sort of shook him out of the bag into his cage, closed the door, woke Richard up, and we got the hell out of there. I’ll let Richie deal with the sheets and whatever down in the basement when he goes back on Monday, it’s the least that fat bastard can do after what he put us through. What a fucking waste of time.

Well, at least we have a story. Maybe someday we can tell our kids. We’ll have to leave out the little wooden guy with the screw for a dick.

Jay Gabler

Originally published in Tuesday Magazine, 2006