40 comments

American Funny Contemporary

Although he loved her from afar, she sized him up fairly quickly, determined him to be reliable, then volunteered him to watch her cockatoo for the holiday break. 

“I’ll be back next week. Its food is in the plastic bag. If you could, give it some fruit once or twice a day,” she said breezily over her shoulder, as if parenting parrots came naturally. 

“What type of fruit—” he tried to ask her. As the door slammed on her way out, the parrot gave an ear-splitting chirp. He looked at the bird, waiting for it to stop. But the bird chirped again, loud and insistent. 

The bird appeared unkempt, and its cage was dirty. 

Perhaps if he took very good care of the bird, she’d see him in a different light? As neighbors in their apartment building, he had always been so courteous to her, even when she pretended not to see him. He’d picked up her prescriptions and de-iced her windshield and empathetically listened to her endless stories about her mother. He’d changed her lightbulbs and retrieved her packages and caught the tiny vermin which entered her apartment on occasion. He’d seen some of the larger vermin leave her apartment early in the mornings, promising to call. 

Now, he looked at the bird thoughtfully. There must be more to taking care of a bird than feeding them nuts and seeds and fruit, he thought. It seemed to want something on his dinette table. Not the stack of library books that needed to be returned. Not the remains of his dinner, Chinese takeout, now cold and congealed in its foam clamshell container. Not the bills that he couldn’t figure out how to pay this month.

He offered the bird the food she had left. He gave the bird fresh water. He even thoroughly cleaned its cage, replacing its filthy liner, wearing large yellow rubber gloves. To each act, the cockatoo puffed up its feathers and hissed at him in annoyance, chirping again loudly, letting him know that each offering was unacceptable.

“What do you want?” he asked the bird in frustration. What more could he possibly do? 

“Ted HUGHES,” the bird squawked. 

Ted Hughes? Ted Hughes, the marginal poet married to Sylvia Plath? He was such a horrible man that eventually his wife, his mistress, and his son all took their own lives. His mistress even killed their daughter! Ted Hughes? What a request.

“Ted HUGHES,” the bird squawked.

He fumbled with his iPhone, pulling up one of the poet’s works.

“DOOR! DOOR!” the bird called out, a plaintive cry that made him quickly open its cage. The bird immediately rested its head on his shoulder.

“Here’s a short one—”

“Ted HUGHES,” the bird squawked. 

“Yes, Ted Hughes. Ready?”

The bird snuggled more fully into his chest, preparing to listen. It looked up at him in a wholly expectant way, head slightly cocked to the side. 

“The empty world, from which the last cry / Flapped hugely, hopelessly away . . .”

At the end of the poem, the bird spread its feathers, raised its crest, and flapped its wings as if applauding. 

“You liked that?” He said, smiling. He went over to the kitchen, with the cockatoo now curled around his shoulder, looking for an apple to pare for it. The bird’s grateful reaction to the carefully prepared treat was immensely satisfying.

“SHELL-ey!” the bird squawked. 

“Say again?” He looked down at the bird, now the cockatoo returning his gaze with one of absolute wonder and trust. 

“SHELL-ey.”

Shelley? Percy Bysshe Shelley? The British Romantic poet who cheated on his first wife, Harriet, who then committed suicide while pregnant with their child? Shelley, who took copious amounts of opium and laudanum, while espousing radical views about free love, atheism, and vegetarianism? His second wife was a far better writer! 

“SHELL-ey . . . ” the bird said quietly and nuzzled his neck.

He tapped his iPhone in earnest. 

“Hail to thee, blithe Spirit! / Bird thou never wert, / That from Heaven, or near it, / Pour thy full heart / In profuse strains of unpremeditated art.”

The bird did its best to kiss him. 

He tapped his iPhone again. “It says here that since you don’t have a partner, you might need me to scratch your head.” The bird held its head up from off his chest. He lightly scratched the feathers on top of the bird’s head and neck. The bird seemed far happier, having help with preening the areas he could not reach. 

“Let’s see your nails,” he said to the bird. The bird spread out his claws and held a foot up for his inspection. Just as he suspected: overgrown. “Hold on, fella,” he said, while walking to the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. He retrieved a nail file from the small shelf, next to his anxiety medications, and began to file the bird’s claws down a bit. 

“EM-Lee,” the bird cooed. “EM-Lee.” The bird flapped over to the dinette table and began to peck at his iPhone. 

“I’ll take it from here,” he smiled, rescuing the electronic device from the curious cockatoo. “Who are you researching? Em Lee? Emily? Emily Dickinson?” 

The cockatoo bobbed and weaved its affirmation. 

“Oh, I have one of Dickinson’s poems memorized from grade school,” he smiled at the bird and dramatically cleared his voice to the bird’s great delight. “Hope is the thing with feathers – / That perches in the soul – / And sings the tune without the words – / And never stops – at all …”

In a burst of joy, the bird fluttered all of its feathers and glided in a tight circle around the small apartment, causing him to laugh. Then the two of them sat and watched television together, sharing a few stale pistachios and slices of apple. 


She returned several days later than expected to pick up her bird. At the sight of her, the cockatoo retreated in his clean cage and loudly chirped his displeasure, hissing as she drew near. 

“What’s wrong with it?” she said. 

“Nothing,” he said. “He’s been wonderful this past week.” 

“You know, I’m exhausted from my trip. Would you mind keeping it for one more night?” Eyelashes batted. 

“I wouldn’t mind keeping him,” he boldly stated, staring her full in the face.

“POE,” screeched the bird and hissed at her again.

“What’s wrong with it?” she repeated.

“Nothing is wrong with him. He just really likes Edgar Allan Poe.” 

“Who?” she asked, looking between her neighbor and the bird. She suddenly felt like an outsider. 

“Do you want to go home with this woman?” he asked the cockatoo.

“NEVERMORE,” shrieked the bird. 



December 22, 2020 20:21

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40 comments

Zilla Babbitt
15:16 Dec 24, 2020

I love how you're mixing in other classics too, not just Shakespeare. The ending fit so well -- the stars aligned. I don't have time for a long comment, but here's the gist: loved this.

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Deidra Lovegren
15:34 Dec 24, 2020

Yeah, time to give Billy Shake a break. There’s a whole repertoire of parrot 🦜 stories this week. O those poor Reedsy judges... Happy holidays to you and your family ❤️

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Zilla Babbitt
21:30 Dec 29, 2020

And to all the Lovegrens 😘🎁🌲

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Nora K.
21:00 Dec 23, 2020

Greetings, Deidra! What a remarkably hilarious story! Such an interesting and creative take on this somewhat bizarre prompt! The characters are intelligent, witty and humorous, and are instantly loved by the reader, captivated and eager to see what happens next. Magnificent job! Thank you for sharing! :)

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Deidra Lovegren
02:56 Dec 24, 2020

I appreciate your very generous comments. The prompts were definitely unique this week!! Thanks for the moral support. All the best!

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Elle Clark
22:00 Dec 29, 2020

Deidra, this is fabulous! Love the feathery connections in the poetry and the end had me rolling in the aisles. Your writing is always so clever, even when it is also being very silly. I wonder if your students have any idea how lucky they are. Probably not. Bloody teenagers.

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Deidra Lovegren
23:55 Dec 29, 2020

As long as you appreciate my genius, life is worth living. Laura Clark Forever.

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Elle Clark
07:36 Dec 30, 2020

Verily, I say, I do. Also, I finally wrote something after a two month hiatus. It’s meandering and weird but I wrote something!

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Deidra Lovegren
12:18 Dec 30, 2020

YAY - off to read your lovely writing ✍️

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Bianka Nova
00:24 Dec 24, 2020

Came back to pay my respects to the 🦜 club! I can't believe how you managed to weave poetry into this one too. And your parrot is even more intelligent and sophisticated than mine 😂 I'm not much of a poetry fan, but I do know The Raven, so the ending was obviously perfect! I should also say that the dynamics between the guy and the woman reminded me a lot of the couple from The Physics Professor and the Latte. I think they could easily be the same people 😉

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Deidra Lovegren
03:03 Dec 24, 2020

All are welcome in the Parrot Club! Thanks for dropping by. The woman in this story is a horrible bitch; whereas the literature professor just was a manipulative mantrap :) The poor sweet wreck of a man in this story is just as socially awkward as the poor Physics Professor, but definitely not as angry. (I actually like this poor little man...and hope he meets a fellow poet/parrot-loving girlfriend. Hope springs eternal!)

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Bianka Nova
10:56 Dec 24, 2020

I'm sure he will. He's a nice guy, just focusing on the wrong kind of woman. ;) Hope you have a lovely holiday celebration! Stay safe and a brilliant! 😊

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Ana Govindasamy
21:21 Dec 22, 2020

Ooh I liked this!

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Deidra Lovegren
21:29 Dec 22, 2020

It’s a little weird. The prompts this week...🤪

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Ana Govindasamy
21:36 Dec 22, 2020

Yea, I get you...but it gets me in the Christmassy mood! 🎄

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Deidra Lovegren
22:53 Dec 22, 2020

Ho Ho Ho

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Ana Govindasamy
06:21 Dec 23, 2020

🎅🏻

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Phil Manders
16:37 Jan 09, 2021

Hey Deidra! How are you? As you are the queen of dialogue, how do you feel about giving me some advice with this weeks prompts? I've got a first draught that needs looking over. Your expertise would be most welcome.

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Sue Marsh
21:21 Dec 31, 2020

I truthfully enjoyed this. Very good read. Loved it. The ending fit perfectly! If you have a moment please read The Merry Christmas Bird and leave a comment.

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Katina Foster
16:55 Dec 30, 2020

See, this is why you are a genius. You can get that prompt, and your brain goes to this wonderful place. I really like how he finds a better companion in the bird, who seems as clever as the author when it comes to subtly imparting wisdom. Clever and enjoyable as always, Deidra!

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Deidra Lovegren
17:25 Dec 30, 2020

Any cleverness was accidental. I was "flying blind" on this one. Avian humor. HA. Miss discussing Shakespeare with you, and really life in general. You are one of my favorite people! Maybe we can take on Hamlet when you are ready for a six month project :) Stay warm in the frosty Midwest :)

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Katina Foster
01:44 Dec 31, 2020

I would love that! And when I finish your book recommendation, maybe we could chat about it, too?? You're one of my faves too, by the way. ;) I wish all my favorites weren't so far away, but Florida is close enough that you will see me in person eventually. Spiders and plagues be damned!! P.s. I'm finally catching up on my Reedsy reading. P.p.s. You're just so clever that you don't even notice your cleverness anymore. That's, like, really clever.

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Rayhan Hidayat
13:40 Dec 27, 2020

Are you kidding, this is great!! For some reason when the parrot said Ted Hughes, it was Ted Bundy that popped into my head 😂 But anyway, I adore the idea of a literary parrot. It’s just the right amount of surrealim that makes this sort of story very fun to read. And I’m glad I know just enough about Poe to get the ending. Loved this 😙

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Deidra Lovegren
17:56 Dec 30, 2020

Ted Bundy was my first choice, of course. But cockatoos usually are white collar criminals. It's the macaws you have to watch out for...

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Julie Ward
16:18 Dec 26, 2020

This is funny, Deidra! I love how you created this literary parrot and this lonely guy, both so woefully mismatched with the shallow neighbor/owner. I hope someone sweet and smart, who appreciates his kind gestures will move in next door. I bet it was fun to write that bitchy neighbor, though! "larger vermin" Ha!

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Deidra Lovegren
17:58 Dec 30, 2020

Thanks, Julie! Congrats again on your win from last week. Much deserved. Lonely sweet guys always do well, and his cockatoo will eventually be a "chick magnet" for sure. The slag down the hall will wake up with increasingly horrible humanoid vermin, suddenly 50 years old with exorbitant credit card debt from her Botox injections and Chinese take out orders and Brazilians waxes. Every pet she will acquire will bite her.

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Julie Ward
14:59 Dec 31, 2020

There you go making me laugh again! I'm picturing some version of Carole Baskin here...

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Deidra Lovegren
15:56 Dec 31, 2020

Your casting is perfect. She did feed her husband to the 🐅

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Julie Ward
18:23 Jan 01, 2021

Fed him to tigers they snackin'...Carole Baskin. (You can thank TikTok for that one!)

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Deidra Lovegren
19:08 Jan 01, 2021

Another sin laid at TikTok's feet.

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K. Antonio
23:45 Dec 25, 2020

I thought this was so clever and a hoot. I really enjoyed how the beginning starts off so subtle and then suddenly everything begins actually quite enjoyable, light and even a bit effortless/care-free. Such a nice read, easy to understand and super charming. I like it a lot! Feel free to check out my submission (though mine is kinda dark). xD

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Deidra Lovegren
18:00 Dec 30, 2020

"Hoot" -- avian humor haha. I'll head over to check your latest out :)

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22:21 Dec 22, 2020

The poetry-loving bird, plus the ending with nevermore, was really good. Love the references,a dn how he always picked the poets with he saddest lives.

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Deidra Lovegren
22:55 Dec 22, 2020

I think to be a good poet you have to have a sad life. What good is a happy poet? :)

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22:35 Mar 14, 2022

This is adorable. I love it.

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Hema Saju
17:13 Dec 30, 2020

Wow !!so much of poetry . Loved it.

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Deidra Lovegren
17:27 Dec 30, 2020

Poetry rocks. :)

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Ray Dyer
21:55 Dec 23, 2020

Oh, man! All the way through this poem I was thinking to myself, "If Edgar Allan Poe's Raven were a Millennial..." AND THEN THAT ENDING! I'm rolling! That was wonderful, and so much fun! I loved the commentary on the first two poets, about how Hughes was a terrible person, and how Shelley was just weird and his second wife was a much better writer...but as soon as I read EM-lee, I knew I wanted to be friends with this cockatoo. I saved yours for last, because they never disappoint, and this was SUCH a treat. I read in another comment ...

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Deidra Lovegren
03:00 Dec 24, 2020

Like I said, at this point I'm just writing these stories for Ray Dyer's commentary. Frankly, the cockatoo's taste in poetry is pretty extensive for a parrot. Sure, most of them like Emily Dickinson -- who doesn't? But Ted Hughes is almost a bridge too far. Sylvia Plath deserved so much better. Almost worth boycotting Hughes, but his stuff is too good. Happy Holidays, Mr. Dyer and the Dyer Gang. Hopefully 2021 will bring us better hopes and dreams.

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