I took a walk. I ran into a guy and his dog. The dog’s name was Jarvin. He was a puppy – Jarvin, not the guy. He pulled the leash when he saw me. I asked if I could pet him. The owner said ‘Okay.’ I walked across the road and Jarvin met me. He put his paws on my hips and his nose in my belly. I’d got a bit of his fur. Quickly, though, Jarvin lost interest. There were gnats on a clover patch. He chased them around.
Sometimes the nicest thing in the world is to know the name of someone else’s pet. Casually intimate, like a bathroom towel. The next time I see the dog I’ll say ‘Jarvin!’ and he’ll look at me or maybe he won’t. And his owner will wave and we’ll smile with a knowing, ‘this person’s safe enough, I can trust them as far as the end of this leash.’ Neighborly. And rare. No-one has the courage to say hello anymore, and no-one has the space to get to know someone in any more intimacy than passing.
Anyway, I’m tired. I’ve got a few days vacation. I’ll have more to say then.
I found out what death was when my parakeet died in 4th grade. I think it was 4th grade. It might have been earlier. But the bird did die. I walked out on a weekend morning to his living room cage. He was on the floor of the cage with his wings splayed out. He chirped twice and fell over. I called my mom. I ran to my room. I buried my face in my bed. She came to tell me he was dead. I cried, but not so much for the bird as for what slippery thing he’d invited into our house. When Death comes, it never goes away.
After Beak – that was his name, the parakeet – we rushed out and got a cockatiel named ‘Tealy.’ I loved Tealy. He was bright and neurotic. He sang love songs to his cage. He was always in his cage. We couldn’t let him out or he’d hurt himself. As I said, he was neurotic. A few years later Tealy died suddenly. No-one saw it coming. Well, I guess Death did, but it doesn’t always tell you what it knows.
After Tealy I was done. I was tired of watching beautiful birds dying in cages. But my family is an animal family so we got another bird. A pretty white cockatiel named Pavarotti. He loved living up to that name – he always had a song. Pavarotti saw me through high school and off to college. Again, we were never close, but he hung around, singing sometimes when I’d come home. I fed him every now and then. He was skittish, but he liked to sing. A good bird, I guess, but how does one measure a bird?
Still, my mother loved him and she gave him a beautiful life. That much was clear.
So I have bad news. Today, Pavarotti passed. Death has a hold on that old house – death has a hold on every old house – and he took this white bird to the backyard to rest it’s wings in cool ground. Pavarotti had a good life. We weren’t close. It makes no sense to cry for him. But I still feel like crying.
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