Walter Mencken 9:52 a.m., Aug. 1
- Community Blog
Tundra # 12
In OB, Sam only picked up one new sound that I was aware of. On foggy nights, the foghorns sounded automatically (I’m not sure where they’re located). We were two blocks from the beach, and not until one foggy night in particular did I notice how clearly it was possible to hear the foghorns. April and I were in bed sleeping when I happened to wake up. I glanced to my side and was able to make out April’s face in the dim light provided by the skylights. I noticed that her lips were moving. After a moment of this she’d then scrunch up her face as if preparing herself for something awful. As I watched her in the darkness, I was aware of the foghorns sounding by the shore. Then I put two and two together. April was counting the ten second intervals between when the foghorns would sound. Silently, her lips counted from one to ten. Then her face contorted as the foghorns shouted across the misty water: Baawoooo! I watched her, mesmerized. One, two, three—her lips pantomimed—four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, te—Baawoooo! I wondered how long she had lain there awake being tortured by the foghorns. I leaned over and suggested that she put rolled up toilet paper in her ears. She did and it worked. The next day she bought earplugs and the foghorns never bothered her again.
It took Sam only about a dozen foggy nights to fully capture the foghorns. He could mimic the foghorns well, but, at least to me, it seemed he only did it when he was unhappy.
When the OB Parrots loitered over our yard, Allan believed it was therapeutic to place Sam outside on his portable parrot stand, presumably to fraternize and bond with the feral parrots. Sam cocked his head and looked up at the parrots on the telephone wire. The OB Parrots stared down at him with silent and decisive eyes. Sam began to flap his wings enthusiastically. He probably thought that at any moment he would begin to rise from his perch, being propelled skyward to the telephone wire above by his own power. Bur soon the cruel reality that his clipped wings could not work settled over him, and he, almost shamefully, stopped flapping his wings.
Sam then tried another approach: speech. He had no idea how to communicate with the wild birds in their own language, so he tried what he knew. He started off with a few sounds, just to break the ice. A doorbell ringing, an alarm clock, and then he finished off big with the whirring sound of an electric can opener. Next he tried some phrases that Allan had taught him: “Is that good, buddy?” and, “How does that taste, hmm?” Cocking his head again, he looked once more for approval from his audience overhead. The OB Parrots’ heads shifted from side to side as they murmured gravely to one another. Then, silence overtaking them once again, they gazed down at Sam with looks that seemed to convey both contempt and pity. Sam gave up. He looked straight ahead and began to imitate the foghorns: “Baawoooo!” Sam said sadly. “Baawoooo!”
I was convinced that Allan wasn’t the only parrot owner in OB who put his parrot on display for the OB Parrots. I was sure there were many others. How could there “not” be? And did the other pet parrots grow morose when it was driven home that they would never be able to fly or communicate with their feral counterparts? I wondered if the other domesticated parrots addressed their own sorrow with the same melancholy sound of the foghorns. Or perhaps they responded with other sounds that were their own interpretations of sadness, like clothes dryers or vacuum cleaners.