Well, a Household Bench Mark is approaching — my parrot, Harry Redux, is about to reach his first birthday. Or his twenty-first, as he is the reincarnation of my first parrot, Harry Prime. He is the Dalai Parrot. I rescued Harry Prime from an abusive situation 20 years ago, and he was the love of my life; when he died last year, I decided my middle-aged life had enough tragedy and it was time to invoke Mystic Forces. I made sure of a clutch laid shortly after he entered the Higher Plane, and waited anxiously for his return — the system works for Tibetan religious leaders, and I saw no reason why it would not do so for my evolved dinosaur. Sure enough, this brand new little bird exhibits unnerving knowledge of his past life, including where we hide the McVittie’s Digestive Biscuits in the kitchen. When he gazes dulcetly from his pirate-gold-coin eyes, one must believe that here is an ancient and inhuman soul.
And if you want contact with an alien life form, a parrot is your best bet. He has hands (eight thumbs, all armed with stilettos), a self aware brain and the ability to speak. Not to mention the ability to make loud, unexpected, peculiar noises. My neighbors are convinced I have a cat, as Harry will meow most realistically for a half hour at a time. My neighbor’s horrified cat, on the other hand, is convinced I have a pet demon — with the meowing morphing from gravelly bass to helium-falsetto, interspersed with strident renditions of ‘Rule Britannia’, I can certainly understand the cat’s opinion.
My theory is that some small, rapteroid dinosaur went into space, and spent a few million years adapting to freefall. Then it returned to Earth and took up life as a parrot. The thumbs, the intelligence, the total disregard for edges or spatial orientation (Harry is just as happy upside down as right side up) — they all point to a period of evolving in space. Judging by Harry’s imperious tyranny, they must be running a huge dictatorial Empire out there, too. A blood curdling thought: parrots with blasters!
The miracle of Harry Redux is not that he is reborn — a mere parlor trick, for a parrot — but that he is going to make it to his next birthday. Why do I want to live with a creature that eats my food right off my plate, skateboards on my computer mouse, plucks my eyebrows and has decapitated every pen in the house? As his weird little voice echoes from the kitchen, alternately calling ‘Hi!’ and ‘Whacka-whacka-whacka WA!’ (the Imperial war-cry, I assume) I wonder what possessed me to get him back. The answer must be mind control. Another legacy of the Interstellar Parrot Empire.
Oh, I can feel his insidious influence now, pitter-pattering through my helpless cerebrum, golden eyes alight — give me all your bacon, he whispers. And put it on a McVittie’s — while you scratch my head.
Update — Since Kage Baker’s passing, Harry is now living with her sister Kathleen Bartholomew.