And when I awoke, I was alone, this bird had flown. The Beatles.
Once every so often, we come across some weirdly amusing nuggets of information from our daily newspapers. Not all of them do I find arresting enough to expound upon, but here’s one that aroused my interest. Even if I wasn’t actually rolling in the aisles with helpless mirth, it had my dormant creative juices flowing. A few days ago, I came across a headline in my daily, tucked away in one of the inside pages, which went something like, Police interrogate parrot at crime scene. Swear to God and hope to die. That may not have been the exact wording of the headline, but it comes within a toucher of being accurate. The nub of this apparently true event is that, somewhere in the vast hinterlands or boondocks of our country, a bunch of well-heeled thugs were enjoying a raucous, Rabelaisian party with plenty of booze, illicit drugs along with a bit of raucous sex thrown in on the side. As I am unable to find the said issue of the newspaper, the exact location and date of this wild revelry remains a closed book. You will simply have to take my word for it, though much of what follows is admittedly a product of my imagination.
Getting back to the scene of action, clearly plenty of unwanted ruckus into the small hours was generated causing much disturbance to the neighbours, who decided to invite the long arm of the law to put a stop to the unseemly and, in their eyes, immoral shindig. Somehow, word got round to the party revelers that the cops were on the way to play the role of party poopers, and they had better hightail it to somewhere safe. When the police duly arrived at the shady (as in illegal or immoral) villa or bungalow, there was not a soul to be seen. Plenty of empty liquor bottles and glasses but no sign of human habitation. One of the cops even lamented that the goons could have at least left a few bottles of beer for them. It’s thirsty work, the job of a policeman and one entirely sees his point of view. It was as they were about to dejectedly leave the premises, empty handed, that one of the policemen caught sight of the caged parrot. He was a sharp one, this young cop. ‘Parrots are supposed to be smart aren’t they,’ he told himself. ‘They observe and they can talk, nineteen to the dozen. My smart phone is full of snippets of talking and warbling parrots posted on social media. With a bit of encouragement, they can even sing the national anthem. A bit off key, but still. Well then.’
The earnest, young policeman motioned to his boss to join him in front of the parrot’s cage. The inspector, one suspects that was the boss’ designation, walked across to his junior and looked somewhat bewildered. The young man was staring at the parrot, and the parrot was doing exactly the same at the cop, with a fixed glaze. Unseeing eyes, if you get my meaning. At this point, the inspector gave tongue.
‘What exactly are you trying to do, constable? And why have you called me to stand in front of this bird.’
‘It’s not just any bird, Sir. It is a green parrot.’
‘I can see that. I am not colour blind. So, it is a parrot, green in colour, all present and correct. Well done. What of it?’
‘Parrots talk, Sir. It might have seen something. We can try and engage it in a bit of a chat. No harm in trying. We have nothing to lose.’
The inspector was cynical. In his long career with the police, he had never been called upon to interrogate a parrot as a material witness. In fact, barring humans, he had never spoken to anyone from the animal, vegetable or mineral kingdom. He turned to his young charge.
‘Next you will ask me to hug a cow. Well go on, then. You seem to know all about parrots. Say something and see if it responds. This ought to be fun, should brighten up our evening.’
‘Right ho, Sir. Hullo there, Polly. Can you talk to us?’
There was no answer from the winged one. The boss butted in.
‘Look, the parrot’s eyes are open, which means it is awake. Do you think the bird is deaf.’
‘Sir, there are many birds that sleep with their eyes open. Could be playing possum. Let me try again.’
‘Gosh, we have an avian expert in our midst Who would have guessed! Go ahead and have the time of your life.’
Ignoring his boss’ sarcasm, the young constable raised his voice. ‘Polly, POLLY! How are you?’
The startled bird finally cocked its head up and spoke. ‘I am not Polly. Why does everyone think my name is Polly? If all the parrots in the world were called Polly, imagine the confusion that would create. Next thing you’ll be asking me to put the kettle on. Call me Solly.’
The two cops, after their initial surprise and delight at this sparkling piece of dialogue from Solly, whispered among themselves. The boss spoke. ‘I say, is Solly male or female? Can you check it out? I don’t want to offend our fine, feathered friend in any way. As you said, he or she could be a vital witness.’
‘Sir, how can I check it out? The gender, I mean. They are not like dogs. Things are not immediately apparent with birds. It will be rude to ask. And how does it matter, anyway? Let me continue.’
The inspector resignedly agreed. ‘Make notes.’
‘All right, Solly. So glad to have made your acquaintance. We have some questions for you. Do you mind sparing the time?’
‘Not at all, but no recording. I am just sitting in this cage. It is not even gilded. I have all the time in the world. Do you have a nut?’
‘Nut, you nut. Almond, cashew, walnut, even your common or garden groundnut will do nicely. I am starved. And while you are about it, pour some drinking water into that little bowl, there’s a good chap. Nuts first, then we talk.’
‘Sir, where do I go for nuts at this time of night?’
‘Don’t worry son. You keep talking to Solly. I am sure there’s some nuts in the house. They always keep nuts and small eats when they drink.’
‘Fine, Solly. Nuts and some drinking water coming up. Tell me, why is there no one inside the house. The neighbours were complaining about some awful noise and plenty of boozing and other funny business going on. Frankly, I am not worried about alcohol and the proverbial roll-in-the-hay with the girls, but do you think drugs were involved? You know, snorting and shooting up, that kind of stuff?’
‘Listen brother, some of those who scooted when they got wind of you lot approaching, happen to be my masters. I have been with them for nearly four years. I owe them big time. I am afraid my beaks are sealed.’
‘Look here Solly, my master has gone hunting for nuts and things. Just for you. I expect something in return. Otherwise, your masters will find you lying on your back, legs pointing upwards, stiff as a board. Now what is it going to be? Starvation or cooperation.’
‘Boy, you cops drive a hard bargain, but be warned. You can ruffle my feathers only up to a point. As I am hungry and could, speaking metaphorically, eat a horse, I am willing to part with some information. First let me see the colour of those nuts. Then we will talk turkey. Till then, you can clip my claws.’
‘Sorry Solly, I am not a vet and I do not have a nail-clipper handy. Ah, here comes my boss. Found some nuts, Chief? Solly is really being difficult.’
The inspector whispers to his constable. ‘Look, I just found some dried peas in the freezer. Everything else has been cleaned out. Solly will just have to make do. Who the hell does he think he is, anyway? Walnuts and almonds indeed. Even I don’t get that at home.’
Solly squawks angrily. ‘Who told you I was a he, inspector?’
Caught off-guard, the inspector sputters, ‘Well I mean, I have no way of confirming, what with all the feathers covering everything. Lovely feathers, by the way.’
‘Relax inspector, I am a “he.” Just pulling your leg, else you should have been calling me Sally. Ha, ha.’ A parrot with a sense of humour, though laughing at his own jokes.
The inspector, red-faced, turned to his deputy, who was desperately attempting to hide his broad smile. ‘Listen you, I don’t think I can take any more of this parrot. It’s a pity it’s an endangered species and I can’t harm it. For the last time, try and get something out of this blasted Solly.’
In a conciliatory tone, the junior cop turned to Solly, ‘Look, for your own sake, give us something to take back to the station, else our jobs are at stake. I know these frozen peas are not quite up to your exacting standards. Promise I will bring back something really yummy if you can tell me something, anything. Just throw me a crumb.’
Solly seemed somewhat mollified. ‘Look fella, I do feel for you. Your boss is a louse, but I will whisper into your shell-like ear, as you have a nice face. Ask that idiot, your boss, to take a hike. First, push those peas in and pour the drinking water into the bowl. You will need to take the bowl out first. At which point the cop opened the cage door, and ‘whoosh,’ Solly flew clean out of the cage to freedom. The two policemen distinctly heard a squawky version of Frank Sinatra’s Fly Me to the Moon, as the bird flew higher and higher, up, up and away into the late night meeting the first light of dawn.
Crestfallen, but recovering fast, the young cop told his senior, ‘Obviously, the renegade gang had a nice collection of CDs, Sir. I mean, Sinatra and everything.’ Before his bilious boss could explode, the young man added helpfully, ‘Not to worry, Sir. I have made copious notes as instructed.’
The two guardians of the law drove wearily off into the bleary sunrise.
Thank you JB.
Rabelaisian parties with Rubenesque women? Where is all this coming from, Suresh?
You added the ‘Rubenesque’ bit, Sachi. Still and all, one picks up these things over the years, from a great variety of reading. Thanks for writing in.
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