When Baltimore the cockatiel managed to insinuate his way out the rattletrap storm door on the front porch one Friday evening a few weeks ago, I immediately freaked out, while my wife was able to preserve the veneer of confidence that we’d be able to coax him to an acceptable altitude and fetch him back indoors.
She watched him fly to some trees down by the creek at the base of the hill, behind the house. I grabbed her a lawn chair and brought it down so she could coo at him and try and override his sense of being utterly untethered. I was untethered. From the moment Baltimore showed up at our old house, I knew I’d be a shambles if we lost him. It’s like having a two year old show up at your door with a couple of songs he’s copped from the TV in his repertoire, no traceable parents, and a tendency to shit on things. You tell yourself the rational thing to do would be to contact social services and return Oliver to the workhouse, but you know he’d grow up to be Bobby Beausoliel without the firm but gentle counsel of your natural parenting skills.
Baltimore insinuated himself into my soul in the way one hit wonders captivate small groups of people who cultivate odd hair. If I wasn’t blessed with an infinitessimal dosage of Biedermeier aesthetics, I’d be painting his likeness on spent tallboys, or marketing him as a provenance of a return to a blissful, leafy world.
I’m not certain which part of my ancestry prohibits this. It was strikingly absent during the Civil War.
That evening it became apparent that Balto would not return to the house. I sat on the roof and tried to coax him, but he’d been released into the vacuum of big skies, and was working on entirely different emotional strategies. I went to bed with a slightly larger lethal stone in my heart.
In the morning, my wife heard him, the way she hears dead things-crying goats, a screaming chicken being dragged through woven fence.
I went out on the roof again, only to visually locate Balto about the time he disapeared over the tops of the trees. I coughed a little of my soul up, and started deciding how much of it I’d allocate to a little yellow bird.