Written by J Gunnar Grey
My newest parakeet has an obsession: dried papaya bits. But she doesn’t eat them. She throws them.
Okay, this requires some explanation.
I’ve got four of the little fluffballs: Pete, Tweet, Jeep, and Jeepette. Tweety-saurus Rex, my first budgie, a green-yellow opaline clearflight hen, is the single most destructive ounce on the planet. She can rip through a treat stick in less than an hour — not eating it, but shredding it, all over the floor. I once bought her a lovely wooden ladder. She decimated the lowest rung, leaving little stumps on either side which she then stood on so she could attack the next higher rung. All the way up, until she had two separate ladder-halves. The next ladder I bought was plastic and she ignores it with a fine disdain.
Pete’s her devoted mate, although in true Regency style she treats him like dirt, hogging (and destroying) their treats without letting him have more than a bite. I have to put two of everything in their cage, on opposite sides, just so the poor guy can eat. But even after Tweet’s hardest nip and loudest scolding, Pete always comes back, snuggling up, cooing sweet nothings, and scratching all her hard-to-reach places. He’s a beautiful, classic sky blue-white and yes, he’s truly henpecked.
I had these two for seven years and they’ve been a delight, albeit a messy and noisy one. Then my sister got seriously busy at work until she had no time to care for her parakeet, Jeep, a bright, wild-type green-yellow. At the same time, his “wife” died, leaving him sad and alone. When Debra saw that he was losing weight, pining away, she asked me to take him and of course (without mentioning the arrangement to my husband) I agreed.
My first thought was to put Jeep in the same cage with Pete and Tweet, but I was leery. Visions of tiny gladiator duels and flowing bird blood flashed through my head. But he was clearly upset, sitting all alone in his bachelor-pad cage while Pete and Tweet chattered in their tempestuous love-nest, and he wasn’t putting on weight no matter what tempting morsels I put in front of him. So of course there was only one thing to do.
Debra had told me how Jeep and his deceased wife used to sleep together, huddled on their swing. I went to the bird store and watched until a young hen fluttered unsteadily up to the swing in the big glass cage, fluffed out her feathers, and settled in for a nap. Shortest nap in parakeet history: I bought her and took her home. Jeepette’s an unusual color, a grey-blue type 1 yellowface, kind of like the wrong feathers were glued on in the budgie factory. It’s a striking combination.
Jeep fell claws-over-wings in love and reverted to typical male parakeet behavior, bouncing all over the cage, chattering nonstop, and playing kissie-kissie games with his somewhat bemused young wife. They share everything — the swing, the feed dish, the mirrors, the ring toy, and each perch in turn. Jeepette likes to hang upside-down from the swing, sailing back and forth and kissing her guy in passing.
And they share treats. Side by side, they reach down together and take a bite. Jeep’s usually finished first, but he waits for Jeepette to finish her dainty little nibble and then, again, they reach down together. Jeepette is still growing and needs her nutrition; Jeep is now facing a birdie diet.
So, this week at the birdie store I noticed a manager’s special on the Sunny Brunch Pick-Snack. (Amazon link, if you’re curious.) It’s a sort of shaped cup made from pressed-together seeds, filled with dried papaya chunks. I dropped one in each cage and waited for results.
Last night while editing Kay’s and Kim’s upcoming human Regency, A Lot Like a Lady, I kept hearing an odd sound over my shoulder, a sort of plop every few seconds. When I turned around, Jeepette stood at the Pick-Snack, looking innocent but suspiciously alert. After a half-hour of guessing her nefarious intentions, I finally caught her at it. She was surreptitiously tossing the papaya bits from the seed cup to the floor of the cage.
Can’t trust those hens.
Naturally I retrieved them, made sure they were clean, returned them to where they belonged so they could be eaten, and then resumed work. Within seconds I heard it again: plop plop plop. She was picking up speed.
Three more times last night I cleaned up after her, and all the papaya bits were in their proper place when I covered cages before bed. This morning when I uncovered them, the little bits were scattered everywhere, further afield than last night. And now I’m hearing a new sound: scritch scritch scritch *whizzz* thump. She’s picking one up, scuttling across the emery perch to the cage’s farthest reaches, and throwing it with a jerk of her pretty little head, smashing her food against the bars or the gravel-covered floor.
Jeepette’s obsessed with papaya bits. But she’s eating the cup.
And despite what anybody says, I am NOT obsessed with my parakeets. Just saying.
In August 1940, German Army Major Faust is captured by the English and he must escape before they break him. But every time he gets away, a woman is raped and murdered, and the English are looking for someone to hang. Faust must catch the killer, even though he’s helping the enemy — even though he’s making a Deal with the Devil.
Something soft and annoying whooshed past his face. Faust brushed at it, but it was already gone and he was too fragging sleepy to care. He dropped his arm to the bed.
There was no bed.
There wasn’t anything. His arm was dangling out in space. So was the rest of him. Faust snapped his eyes open. A strong wind pummeled him, tumbled him head over turkey. The ground was a long way down. He was falling and it was real, not some stupid nightmare.
Panic leapt like a predator through his veins. He twisted, fighting against gravity. An icicle of light from the distant ground stabbed at his eyes, swept past him, and several red flashes popped in quick succession. A rumbling vibrated the air, something sounding like an artillery round exploded nearby, and sharp chemical smoke scoured his nostrils.
Tight cords wrapped about his body, between his legs, jerking him upright and throwing him higher, dangling him across the light-slashed night sky. The rumbling intensified. His head snapped back. Above him, a parachute canopy blazed white in the spotlight from below. Beyond it loomed a huge dark beast, moving past in impossible slow motion. It towered over him. The parachute danced closer, second by drawn-out second; then it bowed, canted, and slid away, laying Faust on his back as it hauled him aside.
He gripped the harness shroud lines, chest and belly flinching. It was the bomber, the one he’d been riding in. The belly hatch framed Erhard’s laughing face, lit from below by a spotlight. With one hand, Erhard clutched the rubber coaming, cupping the other about his mouth. He yelled something — something short — which was overwhelmed by the racket and growing distance.
Maybe the plane was having mechanical problems — but they and the mechanics had tuned the Heinkel’s twin engines all afternoon. No one else was bailing out.
Erhard had thrown him overboard.
It didn’t matter how much schnapps he’d slugged nor how drunk he remained. When Faust hit the ground, Erhard was toast.