Shredded paper, soaked in the twenty-four hour output of three parakeets, cluttered the floor of the bird cage. An assortment of tiny seeds, spilled onto the wet paper from a feeding tray affixed to the enclosure, formed a paste inside the cage. On the floor below, more of the same seeds littered a circle about three feet in diameter.
When Beverly entered the room, her eyes instantly shot to the open door of the cage. She glanced all around the room. There were none of the chattering sounds of birds that usually bathed the room in noise. The air was still; no fluttering of wings, clumsily beating the air, no clinking of beaks against the thin metal bars. But then she heard the rattle of the old wooden Venetian blinds, as a gust of wind blew through the open window.
As she saw the that the window stood halfway open, she screamed,”Oh my God, they’re gone!” The volume of her own voice startled her; her eyes shot toward the door she had just entered, hoping there was no one just outside to hear.
Beverly had good reason to scream. Less than twenty-four hours earlier, the man to whom the birds belonged, and by whom she was to be paid for caring for the creatures, had said something odd and troubling. As he left the apartment, he said to her, “I’m trusting you to take good care of my babies! I’ll pay you well when I return to find them healthy and happy!” Then, with a thin, threatening smile, he added, “But if they’re not here and healthy when I get back, you’ll wish they were.”
Bird people, and by that I mean people who keep caged birds in their homes and treat them like intelligent relatives, are an odd lot. The mere fact they cage those creatures—creatures that almost certainly would be far happier flying free—while believing the birds are happier than if they were free, brings into question the sanity of bird people. That is no to say that all people who keep birds are bird people. The trick is determining the ones who are so their peculiar form of insanity can be kept at bay.