The Wrong Parrot by Russ Bickerstaff

Russ Bickerstaff's surreal story about a six foot clairvoyant parrot.

At first I wondered whether or not I had the right apartment. I actually had to check to make my key actually fit the door it had been fitting every single day for the past couple of years. It wasn't the door that was throwing me off, though, it was the parrot. It was a huge thing, bigger than life and twice as ugly in every conceivable way. I had no idea how it got there. It stood there in the hallwaymajestically with a far away look in its eye on a perch in a big, black cage. After testing the key in the door to my apartment a few more times, I opened the door, stood in my doorway and just sort of... looked at it.

There wasn't any kind of a note attached to the cage or anything like that, so I just sort of left the door open while I went to get myself a beer. (I figured that was the least that I could do at this stage. It had been a long early morning shift and the game wouldn't be on for some time.) I stood there in the doorway staring at the parrot.

The parrot looked like it had been through a lot. There was a deep scratch along the right side of its beak. Getting a closer look at it, I noticed that its eyes were heterochromatic, which really didn't make a whole lot of sense on a bird of any kind. There was a bright white shock of color in its left eye that made it look kind of otherworldly. I'd never seen a parrot close-up before, but I was pretty sure this one was at least 50% bigger than any parrot was supposed to be. I could have fit in its cage with it. The thing was huge. Its feathers had a kind of ragged quality that actually seemed kind of regal and rugged. Clearly it had seen quite a bit of abuse and come out on the other side.

"Letmein, Letmein," it said. There was a deep resonance to its high pitched squawk that felt like it was coming from somewhere else entirely. "Letmein, Letmein," it said again, fixing me with this weirdly hypnotic gaze with its lighter eye. A chill ran up and down my spine. I don't know how long I had stood there like that before finally relenting and doing as the parrot said.

The good news was that the cage had a handle in back and wheels that allowed it to double as its own hand truck. I wheeled the thing into my apartment and thought for a few minutes futilely about trying to find the least obtrusive place for it. There really IS no unobtrusive place for a six foot parrot. You just place it wherever there's room. The most room in my apartment was my living room. I got rid of the coffee table and the parrot became the central focal point for the whole room. I lowered it into place and it sighed. It was a sigh as big and wide as an ocean wave. I felt floored by the sigh of this parrot.

Of course, a couple of guys were coming over to watch the game. They seemed a little unnerved by the parrot being there while we were watching the game, but it was there watching the game right along with us. They asked me what it was doing there and I shrugged and gave dismissive answers: I'm birdsitting. I made it out of spare parts. It's my cousin Phil from Brazil. Naturally they stopped asking after only a little while.

We had made it halfway through the game before it spoke again. It said Miami was going to win 21 to 14. It was kind of weird hearing it predict what the score was going to be at halftime like that. Just out of nowhere it said, "Miamiwillwin 21 to 14." We all stopped watching the halftime show and looked over at it and again it said, "Miamiwillwin 21 to 14." We tried to laugh it off. There was this overwhelming intensity to its voice. We all laughed a little uneasily. And then Miami lost 21 to 14. Damnedest thing ever. So we started talking to it. We started joking and asking if the parrot had any predictions for the next game and it just stood there... breathing. The game started. The parrot started making predictions on nearly every play. It said Chicago was going to pass and they ran the ball. It said they were going to go for it on fourth and inches in the red zone and they went for a field goal. It said the next commercial was going to be for Budweiser and it was for Miller. It just kept going like that - every single prediction was completely wrong.

The guys went home with a story to tell and I had kind of an interesting possibility sitting in my living room. So before the Sunday night game I asked it to predict a few things about it. And I called a friend of mine who placed bets. I just bet against everything that the parrot said. I'm not normally in the habit of placing bets, and he thought I was crazy for betting the way I did, but I made a fortune that night. I thought maybe I'd ask the apartment manager about the parrot the next day.

The next morning there it was right in my living room just like it had been the night before. It stood there looking out the window. I said hello and went off to shower and get ready for work. For some reason I told it that I was going to do so. (I guess it kind of felt like a roommate after the previous day.) It told me that I would go to work today. I was halfway to the shower before I stopped in my tracks, turned around and asked it to repeat what it just said. "You'regoingtoworktoday." It sounded a little bit more like a normal parrot now repeating what I told it - that I was going to work today, but in the context of what it had said the previous day, it seemed kind of eerie.

I asked the parrot if it meant to tell me that I wasn't going to work today and it just stood there looking at me. It told me that I was a nice guy. It told me that I was going to keep my job. I guess I was getting pissed off and started rattling its cage at that point. I was looking for a way to open the cage. When it told me that my girlfriend hadn't been cheating on me for the past couple of years, I guess I lost my temper, found the latch and jumped into the cage. The parrot bolted out of the cage, used a huge talon to shut the door and before I knew it was was locked inside.

I've tried to push and bend the bars, but that metal must be titanium or something. I've tried pushing the cage over but it's so heavy that the goddamned thing is like a jail cell. I'm just sitting here in the cage watching the parrot hop around my apartment. I don't know if it's looking for a way out or not.


  1. A nice playful tale - be careful who you tangle with! I did feel that the odds were stacked against this poor unwitting guy? Story told with nice dry humour and a lightness of touch,
    Thank you,

  2. liked it very much, clever, variation on lunatics taking over asylum?

    well done

    Michael McCarthy

  3. Hi Russ, creepy indeed, mind you I'm with the parrot, at six foot who is going to argue.


  4. At least the parrot didn't tell him he'd live a long time! Very funny.

    George Semko

  5. I enjoyed this tale of bird-inflicted doom. I liked the point where it dawns on the reader that this is 'I''s alter ego, a terrifying avian Mr Hyde from whom there is no escape. I loved the heterochromatic eyes, the ragged coat, the black cage...
    It's a clever title as well. Before I started reading I just interpreted 'wrong' as in the wrong house, the wrong trousers, the wrong mans, but using it in the sense of 'reverse' really gets the reader thinking!

  6. A bizarre and enjoyable tale. It reminds me of a time I was on a course and there was a woman who said she could tell what star sign everyone was. There were 12 people on the course and she got every single one wrong. But back to the story, I wonder what happened next!