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African Gray Parrot - Dear Hanzy

John R. Killion
Dec 20, 2010

Mein Hanzy:
I want to thank you for that wonderful and generous gift of yummy mushrooms from your aunt’s garden, and I am happy to report that they arrived as fresh and pristine as they possibly could have. I immediately added them to a red sauce I’d been simmering and sat down to enjoy a delightful Italian meal in the company of my African gray parrot, Merlin, and review the tapes from my last track day.

Epcp_1101_01_o+hanzy+parrot_car Photo 2/3   |   African Gray Parrot - Dear Hanzy

About halfway through my meal, as I was blissfully twirling my fork through spaghetti and puddles of dark, red, and very sinister-looking sauce, I began to get the strange sensation that the room was becoming smaller, as if the walls were closing in on us, and I also began to irrationally suspect that someone had removed all the glass panes from the windows in my room.

As I was trying to comprehend these sudden and curious developments, Merlin turned to me and said, You call that driving? My grandmother could do better.

Now, a prudent person would be justifiably alarmed to be addressed by a creature in this manner, but over the years I’ve become used to Merlin’s smart mouth and perpetual criticism. However, I honestly felt he went a bit too far this time with his petulant ridicule, so I bravely asked, What do you know about your grandmother? You were hatched in an incubator, like a chicken egg.

Epcp_1101_02_o+hanzy+parrot_tv Photo 3/3   |   African Gray Parrot - Dear Hanzy

Nothing ruffles that big bird’s feathers, at least nothing I’ve ever thrown at him. Pound for pound he’s the toughest, meanest, and most arrogant animal I’ve ever lived with, so for the most part I just leave him alone in his cage, where he spends most of his time quietly lifting free weights, writing cheeseball legalese appeals, and figuring out how to get under my otherwise acceptably thick skin.

You missed that apex by a mile, he said while casually stretching his wings. And your hand work is awful. Just look at that! He added this with a distinct and deliberate snicker.

I consider myself to be a reasonably patient man, but this bird was really beginning to annoy me, and the steady and unexplained condensing of the room was generating a growing sense of alarm for me when I said to him, Like to see you do better.

His only response was to squawk OK as he flew straight from his perch right into the TV screen I was watching. He didn’t hit it, he flew into it, and the next thing I saw was Merlin in my 944, driving with one foot on the wheel and the other on the shifter.

You may find this hard to believe, but that crazy bird can drive! He was diving into the carousel like a fighter pilot and passing cars like they were sitting on jack stands. I’m still not entirely sure how he was working the pedals, but with results like that, why quibble with silly things like method? He was whacking apexes left and right, hitting all the braking points at just the right time, and carrying some serious speed around the trackin my car. Eventually he was black flagged by a sharp-eyed corner worker for driving without a helmet and had to pull into the pits, hurling insults at everyone he passed.

Told ya, he said with his usual smugness as he flew back to his foul perch. Imagine what I could’ve done if you’d sprung for the turbo instead of the kiddy car.

That was the last straw, and through the fog of my increasing disorientation I said to him, Yes, but I bet you don’t know how to turn on the drizzenflippers, hoping to confuse him with the one word I think I know in German.

Piece of cake, he hollered, and flew back through the screen into my car. I watched as he tripped the lever through its functions, smugly demonstrating his erudite knowledge of its workings. See? I don’t know what makes you think you’re higher on the evolutionary ladder than I am, but... HEY! Don’t touch that...

I grabbed the remote and paused the tape, freezing his well-honed beak in mid-insult and chuckling to myself over the panicked look in his eyes. I slurped the last of my now-suspect spaghetti and reached over to turn off the TV. That’s what makes me the superior being, I said to his glacial form. Technology, there is no substitute.

By John R. Killion
13 Articles



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