One in the Hand

The bird’s name was Timoteo. He was a round parrot. Soft green feathers coated her back. Her breast was peppered with creamy yellows and warm oranges. Under her beak was a splotch of chalky red.

Inocencio woke up every morning at 6:00am. That’s when his wife used to wake him up to clean. She woke up every day at 5:30am, letting Inocencio sleep in for thirty more minutes. It was her daily gift to her husband. At 6:00 o’clock, however, she would rattler her old bones back into the bedroom and wake up Inocencio with a broom and mop in hand. Sweeping and mopping the kitchen was his one chore for the morning. That and getting out of the way.

After his wife past, he started to keep an alarm at 6:00. This way, his wife would still be able to let him sleep in, but only for so long. After waking up, he would fill the mop bucket, sweep, and shine the kitchen floor. It was the cleanest part of the house. He never had enough practice cleaning the rest of the house.

6:00am was also when Timoteo squawked. He knew this was when the alarm went off. Inocencio could snooze the alarm, but not Timoteo.

“Buenos dias to you too, Timoteo,” Inocencio would say as he passed the bird cage on the way to the kitchen.

Timoteo bobbed and squawked.

“I’ll refill your food and water when I’m done with the chores, okay?”

Timoteo squawked and bobbed.

“I know you can wait. Plus, look at you. You’re getting a little wide there. Can you fit through the cage?”

Timoteo stayed silent.

“I’m kidding! You’re perfect just the way you are,” said Inocencio. He put down his mop and went to grab the bird food. As he approached the cage, Timoteo avoided eye contact. If he looked at the bag, he’d explode with excitement.

Inocencio’s two sons moved away after high school. They went to the East coast to study and never came back. The only phone calls between them would be on Christmas and Thanksgiving. Only when he called them.

Birthdays were different. Inocencio forgot his own over the years. He stopped counting after his wife died. She would keep track of the date and age. When people asked him when his birthday was, the few people that did, he’d answer “not for a while,” or “today, actually.” He liked the last answer. It got him free pie, ice cream, and attention at restaurants. They’d usually ask for an ID for such careless claims, but who wouldn’t believe such an old man?

“Buenos dias to you too, Timoteo,” Inocencio said one morning.

Timoteo was already playing with his small mirror that dangled from the top of the cage. He moved from wall to wall, grabbing the bars with his tiny feet.

“Hold on, Timoteo. Food is coming. Just give me a sec. My knees hurt today. Plus, I have to sweep the porch today.” replied Inocencio. He opened and propped the door. He took out his broom and started to fling the dust and dead leaves off the side of the porch. Even from outside, Inocencio could hear Timoteo make a mess inside his cage.

Inocencio shuffled back into his house. “Lot of energy today? I’ll get to you in a second.”

Timoteo squawked back. Inocencio shuffled back outside.

As he bent down and grabbed his broom, Timoteo started ruffling and shaking the cage.

Inocencio went back inside. “Okay. You bugged me enough. I’ll get your food. Maybe I should just feed you once I get up. My knees are killing me from moving like this.”

After a little bit of struggle, Inocencio retrieved the bag of bird food and shuffled to Timoteo’s cage. He set the bag down and reached to the door of the cage to open it. As he lifted the cage door, Timoteo flew out and landed on the curtains by the kitchen.

Shocked, Inocencio screamed, “Timoteo! Come back here! Get back into your house.”

Timoteo avoided eye contact. Instead, he looked to the door.

“No. Don’t get any ideas,” said Inocencio.

Timoteo squawked back.

Running was impossible for Inocencio at his age. However, he tried his damndest to shut the front door before Timoteo had the gumption to fly out. If he was maybe just a few days younger, he would maybe make it in time. If he had just remembered to shut the door behind him, maybe Timoteo wouldn’t have darted out of the door and to the outside. All Inocencio could do was put up his hand desperation.

This was the first time Timoteo had truly been outside. He flew to the tree right outside the porch. A taller tree. One that protected three housed with its shade. He hung on to a thin branch and looked around to his surroundings.

Inocencio finally made it out to the porch. A bag of food in hand. He looked frantically around to try to spot his bird. Finally, after a few glances, he made out a red and yellow blotch in the trees. It was his bird.

“Hey, Timoteo. Come down here. I got food.”

There was no reply. Timoteo pivoted his head in protest.

“Please. Come down from there.” Inocencio whistled softly to try and call his bird. He raised his arm out to the side as a place for Timoteo to land.

“Come on. Let’s go home, perequito (little bird).”

Timoteo squawked a few times. Loud. Briefly. Without any good news in his tune.

The neighbor heard Inocencio call for his bird in the trees. She peeked through blinds to see Inocencio stand still in his sheer feeling of despair. He was afraid to move as to not scare off his friend.

“You’re gonna get it when you get back home,” said Inocencio. “Wait. I didn’t mean that,” he followed up. Anything to keep the bird around.

There was a slow breeze that ruffled the leaves of the tree. Inocencio held his breath in hope and anticipation. The soft wind pet the feathers of its bird.

“Please.”

With each short breath, he called out for the only thing left he had left to love with such a deep tone of longing that it would sure scar his voice into a thankful pitch for the rest of his days.

It never came.

-Hec

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