Suddenly the entire attic slid off her house. She was standing right there, watching it happen. She did what anyone would do - she leapt into the air and landed ten feet away.
Noelle has been dividing her time between chewing cardboard, as one does, and standing on one foot.
We haven’t rebuilt her fort since mid-October, and we hadn’t been paying much attention to its structural integrity. Let’s just say it wouldn’t have passed inspection. Code violations included holes in exterior walls, excavations of entire sections of floor, and an unpermitted tenant-installed skylight.
What a parrot beak is able to do with corrugated cardboard is to gradually excise the inner layer, leaving only a thin veneer that looks like a regular box on the outside. Sometimes all that is really left is a strap of packing tape.
The exterior lists slightly in sections, but otherwise appears sound, a sort of Potemkin village.
When the attic fell off, the fort was reduced to its original three stories, but was otherwise intact.
Noelle is no dummy. She has been known to gnaw off a basket handle in segments, leaving one intact coil so that it doesn’t break and she can continue to perch on it. She can untie knots. She undid the latch on her travel cage and let herself out. She figured out how to operate my sewing snips to try to file her beak. I’m pretty sure that if I let her, she could open a pop can.
Therefore, it was unsurprising when, returned to her bridge, she refused to go back into the fort.
This is the proper reaction when regarding a condemned building!
We were on the clock and not in any kind of position to start rebuilding a new fort, especially since we have been debating some modifications to the original blueprint. With hours left of our workday, we needed to entertain that busy little beak.
The only thing for it was to coax her back into the remains of the fort, like a group of truant teenagers exploring an abandoned mental hospital.
The fort in its various iterations has been a part of our flock since the early days of the shutdown. Just like the gameboard for Clue, it has named areas. There’s the erstwhile attic, the atrium, the kissing booth, and the watchtower where she goes to derp.
(Derping is when she stands around with her beak hooked over the edge of a box, making her look like some kind of buck-toothed lollygagger).
The area where I set my nervous bird was the porch, where she often sits, as if waiting to welcome guests to her Air Bird and Beak.
An anxious parrot is a comical creature. She twitches and jumps and flaps her wings and leans farther to the side than would seem physically possible. She cranes her neck around, adding nearly two inches to its visible length, and bobs her head up and down. Her eyes become round as saucers. You can almost hear the spooky soundtrack playing.
We returned to work.
Within minutes, once she realized that there was no need for an exorcism or silver bullets, she was back to business, scooting around the remaining rooms of the bird fort and continuing to shred everything within reach.
It’s been days, and Noelle is continuing on with her cardboard-rending hobby the way that only a saliva-free creature could do.
Bright as she is, she does not seem to have made the connection between her habit and the gradual destruction of her play area.
I identify with this a little bit?
But also, the great thing about her is that she operates in constant and perfect faith that all her needs will be satisfied, usually on demand.
There’s this little thing she does, where she’ll be walking back and forth on the back of the couch, and suddenly she will decide that she wants to descend to the cushions. One would think that a flighted avian unit could simply flap twice and land wherever she liked. Instead, she grabs some piping with her beak and lowers herself off the edge, scaly toes dangling in mid-air, in certain knowledge that someone will rush to her aid, offer her a hand, and carry her down.
She’s learned awfully quickly that she has to work harder to get our attention since the advent of the noise-canceling headphones. She also has to get her message across without a lot of guessing games. This is how we started to get such a clear “good morning” out of her when she informs us that it’s time to be escorted out to the porch.
“Good morning” has proven such a useful phrase for her that she’s been testing it out to see what else it can get her. Not so much a greeting as a “garçon, coffee.”
She has separate and distinct signals for getting fresh parrot kibble vs vegetable parings, turning on the space heater, or being invited into a video meeting.
There are differences between a parrot and other members of the household. She is smarter than a dog and more affectionate than a cat, yet filthier than an entire kindergarten of human children. (You might think your kids are messy, and maybe they also fling fruit on your windows, but do they gnaw chunks out of your baseboards or bite through your headphone cords?)
The great thing about this particular bird is that she lives in this abundant, shameless space. She doesn’t wait or sneak around to steal food the way a dog will. She just marches up and starts eating it. She doesn’t beg for things, she insists on them. Yet she also has her little rituals for saying thank you, like grooming your fingers when you bring her something like a bowl of fresh water. She kisses everyone and everything, from her toys and her swing to the wall itself.
Fortunately she kisses a lot of stuff before commencing to tear it to pieces, which sometimes gives us a chance to intervene.
This weekend we’ll most likely rebuild the bird fort, bigger and better than ever before. It’s hard not to just give her anything she asks for. At least one little soul in this shared experience we apes call “the pandemic” is living her best life, waited on beak and talon.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
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