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“Help, I’ve been turned into a parrot,” squawked the parrot and the children all laughed at how clever a joke it was.

“I don’t know, he must have picked it up from the TV,” said the mother to the few people left sitting in the living room, folding papers.

The kids opened his cage and he flapped around the room, landing on family portraits and tapping on glass, again he squawked his sentence, and everybody laughed. It was a ray of sunshine on their cloudy day.

The second biggest mistake of my life was buying my children a parrot. All I wanted was some peace and quiet from the kids asking me for a pet, what I got was a lifetime of squawking. Parrots are loud and smelly and loud did I mention loud they never stop making noise. Parrots are compelled to make noise. It is something deep inside the very essence of a parrot to continuously make noise and never stop. But the same is true about children so they got along just fine.

Our parrot either refused or was not able to learn human phrases. It picked up single words. Specifically single syllable frequently used words, like “Damn” or “Kids” or “DAD!” Other times the parrot inexplicably picked up on words you say once, like “Tax season!” or “Soccer!” It was like renting the living room to a tiny man with dementia and ADHD. Random nonsensical phrases screeched out at all hours of the day in no order or pattern other than constant monotony.

I could not stand that parrot. So I hatched a plan — do not laugh at that; fuck birds — to get rid of this maniacal multicolored megaphone. I didn’t even tell my wife, it needed to seem real. I told the kids I was taking the bird to the vet for a regular check up. When I came back I revealed that sad truth; we had a pregnant parrot, and we were going to have to give her back to the shelter. The kids were crushed, but the idea of baby parrots cheered them up a bit. They spent their last night with the bird teaching it to say Later Alligator, but it would never learn a phrase. I couldn’t wait to exchange it for the cutest god damned kitten I could find; a nice, quiet, independent, not smelly, no-human-word-saying kitten. I went to bed that night with a serenity I had never felt before and have not felt sense.

The next morning I awoke standing up, frightened and disoriented. I got my bearings, jaggedly staggering back I saw my living room. Lifting my arms to wipe my eyes I saw wings, and screamed, “Help, I’ve been turned into a parrot!” And there I was, stuck in a cage, the real parrot nowhere in sight. I felt nothing other than a compelling need to squawk. “Help, I’ve been turned into a parrot!”

My kids came into the room, “Help, I’ve been turned into a parrot!” they roared with laughter. Again I said it, and again they laughed. They hoped maybe this new trick would convince daddy to let them keep the bird.

“I thought your dad took her back to the vet,” my wife said to them. “Have you seen daddy downstairs?”

I could tell she was getting nervous. I would never disappear from bed. Bed is my favorite place to be, it’s so quiet and peaceful, and she knows that. “Help, I’ve been turned into a parrot!” I squawked over and over, wanting to say a million things but only saying one, until she yelled at the kids to just put me somewhere else. They put me back in the living room, still amused by my joke. The seven words that have kept me tethered to my sense of humanity were the wall that stopped anybody else from realizing it. I saw my wife sprint past on the phone, half dressed, my keys in her hand.

The police got a good chuckle out of me. “Pretty funny parrot you got there,” one officer said.

“Lets just hope he can pick up a scent,” said another.

I saw my kids with teary eyes, finally told of my disappearance, “Help, I’ve been turned into a parrot!” they giggled a bit as they wiped their eyes.

My once peaceful house turned into a makeshift headquarters for my missing persons case. The living room filled with families and neighbors printing signs, making calls, and organizing search parties. When it wasn’t too crowded the kids would let me out of my cage. I would fly immediately to my own photo and point with my beak at my face, “Help, I’ve been turned into a parrot!” I would squawk with all the conviction I had in my heart, but every time it came out just the same.

Two years later and my family has begun picking up the pieces. They have accepted that I am gone now and will probably never be back, even though I never actually left them. My kids are growing up, and are no longer amused by my sentence, it haunts the halls like the last echo of the day they are trying so hard to move past.

My second biggest mistake was buying my family a parrot; my biggest was giving them the idea that they can get rid of it.