On the morning of Saturday, March 10, 2012, as Carolyn and I were leaving the house to run errands, she looked out to our yard and spotted a ball of gray fluff on one of our bird feeders. When we went to investigate, we discovered a baby budgerigar. He was cold and tired and we brought him inside.
I knocked on doors to ask everyone within a couple blocks of us if they had lost a parakeet or knew someone who had. No one did. I put a flyer on the bulletin board of the local pet store. No one ever came looking for him. Their loss.
I don’t know why I started calling him “Stevie.” Carolyn wanted to call him Pete, and so he became Stevie P. After a while, he learned to whisper his name. That was one of only two words he would eventually learn.
The rest of his copious vocalizations were whistles, chirps, and squeaks. He wolf-whistled. He imitated the beep of a package being scanned for delivery. He talked back to birds in the yard, and he mimicked Pookie’s “assemble the flock” scream. On days when Carolyn worked from home, her coworkers would hear him chattering away. Sometimes he would put in an on-camera appearance. He did it a few times with me, too. He would land on the lid of my laptop and peer into the camera from above. He also liked to perch there when I was writing. My little blue co-author.
Soon after we got him, Carolyn put a piece of strawberry on a food clip in his cage. He loved it so much that he smeared strawberry juice all over his face. When I saw him, I thought he’d injured himself and was bleeding. Since he didn’t like to bathe, he had a sticky, pink face for a couple days.
Carolyn has a glass statuette of a scarlet macaw, a gift from a former coworker. From time to time, he would fly to the top of the armoire where she keeps it and sing to it as if offering devotion to a deity.
Sometimes, when I napped on the sofa, he would land on my head and sing his loudest until I gave up on the idea. Other times, he would land on a nearby pillow and watch me until I woke up.
He was a bird who enforced boundaries. He would land on you, but would not allow you to pet him. He’d bite if you tried too hard, then fly away. It was better to let him sit with you on his own terms than have him abandon you.
By now, you’re probably wondering, “What about the second word in Stevie’s vocabulary?” Well, actually, it was a phrase but he pronounced it so rapidly it sounded like one word. My father, like me, is a loud, fast talker, and his animated voice always stirred Stevie up. Stevie would “talk back” to him, chirping and warbling madly. One day when my father was visiting, Stevie slipped a little something extra into his chatter: “fuckyou.”
We had only ourselves to blame. Carolyn and I both use salty language—especially when yelling at refs while watching soccer, which is, like practically all the time. Of all the things for him to pick up, though…
Stevie died a week ago, sometime between when we covered his cage for the night on Thursday and Friday morning. He had some kind of incident the previous weekend. A hawk had flown through our yard and we thought that spooked him, but now I wonder if it was a seizure that he simply couldn’t recover from.
All of our animal companions have died over the course of the last two and a half years. It has been devastating, and now the house is too still.