Holiday Story and Painting by Susie Christian
Where it Started
During the 2002 Exotic Newcastle Disease outbreak in Southern California, many thousands of birds and fowl were killed to prevent further spreading of the dreaded disease. Henny and Penny were two fat and fluffy Bantam hens that happily lived in Mrs. Simpson’s back yard. Mrs. Simpson loved her two chicken-girls and they were cared for with much love and good food. Unfortunately for the hens and Mrs. Simpson, they were located in a town dead center in the heart of the disaster.
Mrs. Simpson’s worst fears came to pass on a bleak, bone-chilling day in December 2002, when she saw the task force pull up to her curb in front of her house. Two men, in what looked like space suits, came lumbering up her walkway, as the result of a tip from a neighbor that she might have chickens in her yard. At this point not being a good liar, she admitted she had two hens as pets. She was told because she was within blocks of the disease out break, her chickens would have to be put to sleep. Not knowing any immediate way to talk the men out of taking her girls, Mrs. Simpson turned to go fetch her pets and handed them over to the cold, waiting hands of death.
Now chickens and all similar creatures have this sixth sense about impending death and all matters related. Feathered and furred critters handle the rites of death much better than humans in fact. As they were about to be "dispatched to the other side", Henny whispered to Penny, "Let’s make a pact and stay together forever. We have shared so many happy times and been oh so close during this life, I surely hate to leave you Penny."
Penny replied, "OK, but how do we manage this feat?"
Henny told her, "Stay close as we go out, put your wing over mine and we will fly away together as if we were one bird. Maybe the Great Spirit won’t notice and we will get to land in the same place for recycling."
What seemed like a good idea turned out to go just slightly astray. There were many violent eruptions on the great Father Sun’s surface the day the chicken-girls exited their visible earth-costumes and flew from the earthly plane. The energy charges from Father Sun’s flares knocked them off course and interfered with their correct landing in the Chicken-Soul limbo. Instead, the off course flight sent them to Parrot-Soul limbo and of all things, the specific stellar-department where Eclectus parrots go to be recycled into new incarnations.
When a creature leaves its earthly costume behind, the spirit that powered the body travels by way of a silvery filament to a celestial recycling community. This community lies in a vast stellar region unknown to all, until the time of passing over the Rainbow Bridge. During their time at the Celestial Recyclers, most creatures assume the same exterior they walked or flew around in on Earth. Upon getting dusted off, a tune up, paint job and a general refurbishing, the creature-souls are again ready to face another go-round on the earthly plane.
Henny looked at Penny in wide-eyed astonishment. This was new territory to them. She exclaimed, "Penny, you are GREEN and RED with a huge hooked orange beak! You have no wattles, your tail is long and droopy and you don’t seem to be a chicken any more."
"You are the funniest looking chicken I have ever seen too, Henny. You are very streamlined, red and blue colored, with a big shiny, funny black beak. How did we ever get here and end up looking like this?" shrieked Penny.
"Surely no one will ever want us in their chicken coop again. How will we ever find another home looking this way?" lamented Henny.
Penny tried to console her friend, "At least our plan worked to keep us together, even if we don’t look like soft and fluffy chickens any more."
The former chicken-girls cuddled up on a palm frond to rest and ponder their future.
The Great Spirit who presides over the Eclectus branch of Celestial Recyclers, woke the former chicken-girls early the next morning with an outline of assignments and lessons for them to learn, so they could be sent to Earth again in the future as parrots instead of chickens. The girls had to learn to perch and balance on the topmost branches in trees, eat a diet of fruit and vegetables instead of hen scratch and fly high, high in the sky. Flight was a thing the plump chicken bodies aren’t adapted well to accomplish. But in newly renovated form as aerodynamically streamlined parrots, the girls spent many happy hours cruising and soaring in the vast blue heavens with delight. They were thrilled to feel the whoosh of air under their graceful wings.
During the middle part of the Summer of 2003, Great Spirit saw that the chicken-girls in parrot bodies were learning their celestial lessons well. They were now candidates for graduation from the Celestial Recycling School and were ready for re-entry to Earth. By this time the chicken-girls were well instructed as to what it would take to assume the proper parrot suit instead of a chicken costume. They were comfortable with this new role assigned to them. The Great Spirit gave them new names as well, and informed them they would live the next life as a boy and a girl parrot. He told Henny her name would be Rozie O’ Byrdy and Penny became a boy, Muzzington B. Byrd. Shortened version: Rozie and Muzzy.
Great Spirit, after much research, placed their golden life-germ in a pair of eggs an Eclectus had just laid in Northern California. Being a wise entity with almost endless foresight, Great Spirit wanted these special souls placed far from Southern California and the perils of the disease outbreak.
The Spirit Dust that was the beginning of their new Earth Suits wafted gently downward on a moonbeam and entered the eggs of Mother Eclectus in Northern California. Mother Eclectus’ eggs hatched in early August. She took excellent care of her two little babies, who were covered in black down. At one month of age, tiny colored quills poked through the baby-down and Mother Eclectus knew there were a boy and a girl under her protective wings. Muzzington B.Byrd and Rozie O’ Byrdy.
Muzzy stretched his baby-head around Mother Eclectus’ breast and said to Rozie, "We made it Rozie! It worked! We are still together." Rozie’s little black beak smiled back contentedly as she raised her beak for Mother Eclectus to feed her another warm meal.
Change of Plans
As Summer’s long days lazily crept toward Autumn, Muzzy and Rozie’s down grew into lustrous shining feathers. The humans took them out of the nest and brought them into the baby bird nursery to wean. The happy siblings ate the good warm food the humans offered them and flew all over the nursery, just as they had learned to do in their celestial lessons. Life seemed good and they were thrilled to be together again in this new incarnation form.
As life takes its fateful turns, the Great Spirit couldn’t have planned for the future of these two birds beyond the planting of the Spirit Germ into Mother Eclectus’ eggs. Mother Eclectus lived at the home of a breeder of many species of parrots and her babies were regularly sold to pet stores. This wasn’t the business of the Great Spirit and out of his realm and control.
It was the middle of November and Muzzy and Rozie were sitting side by side, contentedly cuddling and grinding their beaks after an especially tasty breakfast. They were startled to hear a new voice in the nursery. The deep voice asked, "Do you have any Eclectus hens?"
The humans replied, "We have a female who is just weaned."
The deep voice, belonging to a Petland employee demanded, "I’ll take her now."
Petland is a huge department store that sells all kinds of pets and supplies. There are locations of Petland all over the United States. This particular Petland employee was employed at a Redwood City location, which is a San Francisco suburb. He was buying baby parrots to stock his store for the Christmas season. He indicated to the breeder that the red ones sell better.
Muzzy and Rozie didn’t fully realize what the conversation was all about until the breeder picked Rozie up and put her in a box. Rozie screamed at the top of her little birdie-lungs, flapped her wings and tried to bite the Petland employee as he stuffed her into the dark carrier.
Beak wide open, squawking as loud as he could and wings flapping wildly, Muzzy tried to think what he could do to stop the Petland employee from taking Rozie away. He hadn’t learned the proper response to undo this madness in his time and lessons at the Celestial Recyclers! All he could do was shout, "Rozie, Rozie where are you going? How come I am not going with you?" Bad as it seemed to Muzzy, he still wanted to go along with Rozie.
Life was bleak and sad for Muzzy after Rozie was taken away. He sat slumped over and dejected in the days afterwards, not even having the heart to eat. He thought maybe it would be better if he crossed over the Rainbow Bridge one more time and take the chance of being recycled again into a form where he could join Rozie again, wherever that might be. Muzzy in his misery even took to over preening his feathers out of depression and boredom. The breeder saw this and worried if he would ever sell Muzzy looking like that. No one loves a bird that doesn’t look absolutely perfect!
Thanksgiving weekend Muzzy heard another new voice in the nursery. His ears perked up and at first he thought and hoped the voice might be the Petland employee coming back for him. As he craned his neck from the corner of his cage to see who it was, he discovered it was still another person. A woman this time. Oh great, he thought. She was much older and had a leathery face full of wrinkles and bleached blonde hair, what hadn’t turned to white.
Muzzy heard her ask the breeder if he had any Eclectus babies. The breeder jerked his thumb in the direction of the cage containing Muzzie. He told her that silly bird picks his feathers and you can have him for half price. The breeder reckoned he would never get rid of Muzzie any other way, and figured the woman to be the type to respond to a bargain bird. The woman’s name was Flo. Flo had a warm and special heart with an eye that could see beyond a surface veneer.
Flo replied in the blink of an eye, "I’ll take him!"
She brought a nice carrier along in case she did find an Eclectus baby, and it contained great food and a soft towel on the bottom. Flo gingerly placed poor confused Muzzie inside the waiting kennel, paid the breeder and headed toward her car and the journey to her pet store.
Now Flo’s Pet Store contained only birds. It was located in the very heart of San Francisco. It was a tiny pet store, crammed between a Laundromat and a video rental store. Flo loved her birds dearly and she made sure every bird had a large cage, plenty of toys and a good big bowl of fresh food every day.
Muzzie looked around him at Flo’s Pet Store and saw all new bird-faces. There were some finch, parakeets, cockatiels, several conures, a big green amazon and two even bigger macaws. He sat quietly in this unfamiliar environment and wondered where his best, best friend Rozie was……
Christmas 2003 - Headed Home
Petland in Redwood City was bustling with frantic shoppers in the week before Christmas. Troy and his mother stopped by Petland to hurry in and pick up some presents for the kitty-girl in their lives. Petland always smelled like cleaning solutions to Troy. While he loved to stop by the store on the way home from his grandma’s house, he always seemed to find himself holding his breath as he entered the doors.
Red-haired Troy was ten years old the previous September and he loved all animals no matter what they were. He liked to explore the different pet departments when they went to Petland to see what they had that was new. This time Troy for an unknown reason went into the bird room first, which was located in the center of the store and sealed off inside a separate glass enclosure from the rest of the store. He visited first with a very friendly Sun Conure who gently nibbled at his fingers, hung upside down and acted as cute as could be. Then his gaze went to the next cage and he saw an incredible looking red and blue parrot. "Eclectus, Solomon Islands hen" the sign stated. He looked at the price and was shocked. But he stood there for the longest time, quietly watching her. The beautiful coloring of her feathers and the exotic blue ring around her big soft eyes fascinated Troy.
Troy’s mother had finished her shopping and was ready to go when she found him in the bird room of Petland. She rushed in, expecting to get Troy and leave in a hurry because they were already late. Instead, she stood there just as Troy was when she realized what he was looking at. That had to be the most gorgeous bird either of them had ever seen.
Rozie knew she had powers of charm beyond the average bird. She wanted out of Petland as quickly as she could manage. She saw right away that Troy and his mother Annie were good people who loved animals more than they loved most humans. Rozie knew this was her chance to get out of her unhappy, sterile, bleak environment. She drew herself up, looked as breathtakingly beautiful as she possibly could and said in her best Eclectese language, "I love you."
That was all it took. Annie was captivated and under Rozie’s spell. "We’re taking her home." Annie blurted out. The price tag didn’t faze Annie and she knew she had at least enough money on her credit card left from Christmas shopping to pay for Rozie.
Rozie was at first saddened when she saw Troy and his mother walking away from the bird room. She thought drat, my charm and speech didn’t work after all. However a few minutes later she saw them coming back with a carrier they had just purchased. Rozie thought maybe the Sun Conure next door might be going home with them, because he had been very charming and convincing in his plea for a home too. But the Petland employee unlocked the chain on Rozie’s cage and her heart wanted to leap out of her pretty red chest with joy. She knew then that Annie and Troy had come up with enough money to take her home. She could see the love in their eyes and she knew she was one lucky bird.
Rozie was getting settled in just fine at Troy’s house. Troy’s family lived in one of those side-by-side charming, gingerbread Victorian houses San Francisco is famous for. Rozie had her own window view from her cage that looked out over the rolling hills with homes scattered on them, punctuated by lines of assorted trees and foliage. She even got to yell at passing seagulls several times a day. Rozie thought this place to live was indeed lovely and she was ever so grateful to be out of horrid Petland with its weird smells and unfamiliar noises. She did miss her good buddy Muzzie a lot though and thought about him most of the time.
Two days before Christmas, Troy’s mother Annie discovered she needed more large hook bill mix to last Rozie until after the holidays, when she could go to the Petland and buy more for their new girl. Since Annie was busy with wrapping presents and baking Christmas goodies she asked Troy to go around the corner and see if that little pet store she remembered seeing had some seed.
"Don’t forget your coat and cap dear. It’s raining out." she called to Troy as he went out the door and scampered down the stairs to run the requested errand.
There was a light rain on the busy San Francisco street and the moisture felt refreshing on Troy’s face. The house had been warm and stuffy from having the oven on for mother’s baking projects. Troy admired the blinking tree lights and sparkling house trimmings as he set off on his little trek. Headlights and taillights from the passing cars lit up the wet street with additional Christmas watercolors. Troy walked the half block to the corner and another block downhill to the little pet store.
The little pet store where he was headed happened to be Flo’s Pet Store and yes, Flo told Troy she had plenty of seed for bigger parrots. Troy was excited to tell Flo that he and his mother had just brought a beautiful parrot home to live with them. Flo was very interested in what Troy had to say.
"Sounds like you have an Eclectus parrot to me." She stated.
Troy answered, "Yes, she is an Eclectus and she is bright red and blue. She is the sweetest and prettiest bird I have ever seen."
Flo proceeded to tell Troy that she had just added an Eclectus boy to her shop a few weeks ago. She said, "Come here and see what the boy Eclectus look like."
In the weeks that Muzzie had spent at Flo’s shop he was happy enough, but he still wanted a real home more than anything. He figured if he designed his feathers a bit more, someone might notice him and take him home because of his unusual feather pattern. He gave himself a grey-woolen tweed-look vest and even tweaked a few feathers on his neck to resemble a bow tie. He thought surely someone with a nice home would choose him if he looked so outstanding. Muzzie didn’t realize that most humans are drawn to the beauty of smooth feathers rather than stylized plumage.
Troy looked at Muzzie and asked Flo how come Muzzie had a vest of grey tweed. Flo replied, "He started picking at his feathers when he was still at his breeder’s house. We don’t know why he did this. He is just a young bird. Most of the time new feathers grow in when they go through their first moult."
"Oh", observed Troy. "I like the way he looks anyhow. He has character that way."
Muzzie watched Troy carefully from his cage, trying to size the boy up a bit. Muzzie had heard Troy say he had a female Eclectus at his house. That sounded promising. After a few moments of thought Muzzie figured he would try and work his charm on Troy. Muzzie turned his head sideways and looked up at Troy with the most wistful expression in his eyes. Maybe if Troy didn’t notice his carefully designed feather patterns, he would at least feel sorry for Muzzie if he could connect with Troy’s emotions. Muzzie hadn’t learned to speak human words yet, but he knew he was good at connecting on a level not requiring words. Sure enough he caught Troy’s attention just right and Muzzie poured all his energy into Troy’s sense of sympathy.
Troy realized he had been at Flo’s almost an hour and she was ready to close. She was such a warm, friendly and helpful person; Troy lost all track of time. He made his purchase, told Flo and Muzzie goodbye and hurried up the wet pavement, hoping his mother wasn’t worrying about him.
Annie had been so preoccupied with her Christmas chores she didn’t realize Troy had been gone that long. Troy burst in the door excitedly shouting, "You have to see the male Eclectus they have at the pet shop down the street! He is green with a wool tweed vest and a bow tie and he talks to me in a new language."
"Sure honey", said Annie with a condescending tone in her voice.
"I’ll take you there tomorrow so you can see for yourself," answered Troy, unaffected by his mother’s failure to believe him.
Christmas Eve day Troy managed to convince his mother to go with him to Flo’s Pet Shop early in the day before she did her last minute errands. "Hi you two." came a cheery greeting from Flo as she picked her head up from cleaning cages. "Did you come to visit the green bird?" she asked.
Troy immediately led his mother over to the Eclectus cage and it was evident he was more excited than she was over the feather-styled green parrot. Muzzie again cocked his head sideways and tried his charm on Annie. Troy saw it, but Annie completely missed Muzzie’s pleading message. She was very preoccupied with pressing Christmas duties. He was disappointed his mother didn’t appreciate Muzzie the way he did.
Troy stayed home to wrap presents while his mother went out for her last minute, day before Christmas errands. He loved Rozie a lot but somehow he couldn’t get Muzzie out of his head too. Mid afternoon when his mother returned home Troy took a chance the pet store would still be open and he dashed out to see if he could see Muzzie again. Flo was there but she was getting ready to close up early for Christmas. Troy went straight to Muzzie’s cage and Muzzie gave him that same look. Their eyes locked fast and Muzzie’s gaze silently asked Troy, "Take me home with you." Troy was astonished when he got this specific message.
He headed for Flo and asked her if there was any way he could buy Muzzie. Flo thought a minute and smiled at Troy. She knew Troy was seeing something about the physically unappealing looking bird. Flo remembered she had only paid half price for Muzzie too. She asked Troy if he could come to her shop on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays after school and work for her, cleaning cages and stocking shelves until he paid for Muzzie. She could certainly use the help to free her up so she could catch up on her bookwork. Troy could work until Muzzie was paid off and after that he could have a part time job at the shop too. Troy couldn’t believe his ears. He let out a great whoop of joy.
Flo opened the door of Muzzie’s cage, he stepped right up and she handed him to Troy. Muzzie did that funny little cocked head thing he was so good at, and his eyes said thank you to Troy’s heart. Troy pulled his thick jacket over Muzzie’s body as they walked the block and a half home, his heart thumping as if it wanted to leap out of his chest with excitement.
As Troy burst in the door with Muzzie he heard his mother exclaim, "Where did you get that bird and how will we ever pay for him?" Troy reassured his mother not to worry herself over that part. Rozie opened her beak wide in amazement and shouted, "Muzzie!" at the top of her ecstatic birdie-lungs. Christmas of 2003 was certainly a very Happy Christmas for every-birdie…….
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Last Updated December 21, 2003