The letter got miss-delivered by the postman. It clearly says on the envelope Number 1245 and we definitely are not Number 1245. I decide to walk up the street and deliver the letter to its rightful owner.
The old lady saw me approaching her house and opened the door.
“Oh, thank you” she said, “come in for a cup of tea!”
“I was just delivering …” I mumbled.
“Oh do come in …” she interrupted, “I often see you walking the dog to the park and back again. I’ve just put the kettle on …”
I looked at my watch and thought, she’s probably lonely, and just a few minutes won’t hurt!
I entered the living room and immediately noticed a large parrot standing on a perch in the corner, and two budgerigars on top of their open cage near the window. An old dog at least one hundred years old sat by the fire and a cat slept on the settee.
The old lady beckoned me to an armchair and went out to make some tea.
As soon as she left, the large blue parrot moved his head left and right, as they do; looked at me and screeched “STUPID!”
I jumped out of the seat, not expecting him to talk.
He repeated again “STUPID … STUPID …” over and over every minute or so.
The old lady came in with a tray of tea and biscuits and cakes.
“Ah … Polly is being friendly” she said, “he often hears me talking to the dog and repeats what I say.”
At that point the parrot screeched “STUPID HAT … STUPID HAT …”
Let me tell you there is nothing stupid about my cowboy hat with a feather. It’s sartorial elegance in the extreme as I’ve been told by the man in the pub who sold it to me!
“I wonder what he means?” said the old lady trying to cover her faux pas. No doubt she’d seen me wearing the hat on my way to the park and had voiced her un-called for opinions to her pets.
She offered me a piece of cake. As soon as I held a small plate in one hand, and a tea cup in another, the geriatric dog got up ever so slowly from his mat, came towards me and started sniffing my groin.
What is it with dogs and sniffing people inappropriately? I’ll add, in case you’re wondering, that I had just had a shower that morning and had splashed Old Spice after-shave all over, even though I have a beard and don’t shave. So there was no need to sniff there or anywhere else.
“Oh … he’s being friendly” repeated the old lady, making no attempt whatsoever to take the dog away, “It’s his way of greeting you!”
Well … I’d rather not be greeted that way, thank you very much.
I mean … just imagine … what if we humans greeted each other that way? We meet someone for the first time, and instead of shaking hands, we drop on our knees and sniff to our heart’s delight.
Obviously, there should be a protocol as to who goes down first. Otherwise both people would kneel down together and end up bumping their heads.
One person should stay standing, and the other greets him … or her … and then …
OK … better change the subject.
I pushed the dog away … gently … yes … gently; although I must admit that was not what was on my mind when he started sniffing his welcome.
As soon as the dog went back on his mat the cat woke up from the settee and jumped on the arm of my armchair; and then started licking my hand.
I moved away slowly whilst the old lady, totally unaware of my discomfort, continued prattling on about her family and her children all grown up and living abroad. No doubt to escape from her lunatic menagerie.
The cat, still sitting next to me, having been denied the taste of my hand proceeded to lick himself in the most private of places.
Yet again … this is another annoying habit of the feline as well as canine species which, fortunately, we humans do not copy. The mind boggles at the contortions we’d have to make if we were to reach … OK … you get the point; let’s move on.
I moved surreptitiously towards the cat and nudged him gently. He dropped to the floor and walked out the room.
I listened to the old lady going on about her lonely life with no one to visit her; and how she often just goes out on the bus so that she can meet people, or stands at the window looking at people pass by and imagine what kind of life they lead. She said she plays a mind-game when she sees people. She looks carefully at what they wear and then guesses the sort of work they do. She also likes to name people in her head according to how they dress, the way they walk, and their general demeanour.
She said she’d been watching me take the dog for a walk for a very long time. “Do you realise” she said, “that whenever you stop by that tree to allow the dog to sniff at its roots, you always scratch the back of your head? Why do you do that?”
I’ll admit I never noticed that habit. And from being told, I’m sure I’ll resist that particular temptation in future. I’ll do all my scratching that’s needed before I leave home from now on.
She was about to tell me what nickname she had invented for me when suddenly there was a flutter of wings.
The parrot left its perch and made himself comfortable on my shoulder. I did not dare move an inch. Those creatures can be dangerous you know. Once they get hold of your nose in their beaks they will not let go.
“Oh … Polly likes you too!” said the old lady joyfully, “it must be your gentle and kind personality. Animals know when someone loves them. Do you like birds?” she asked.
I hesitated to tell her that the only birds I like are Kentucky Fried Chickens; although right now I would not mind tasting Kentucky Fried Parrot as well.
She didn’t wait for an answer and continued talking ignoring her feathered friend on my shoulder.
The wretched bird, still sitting by my left ear, eyed the big feather in my hat for a few moments, and then, to my horror, jumped at it and attempted to mate with it. I held the hat tightly on my head with my right hand for fear that it might be dislodged and end up matrimonially united with a myopic parrot.
I mean … how short-sighted can he get? It’s only a feather for crying out loud. Who’s STUPID now? Can’t tell the difference between a beautiful lady parrot and a feather in an cowboy hat!
The old lady laughed, not understanding the situation, and said that he was welcoming me into his domain. Whatever that means!
I had absolutely no wish to be welcomed anywhere belonging to that stupid creature, and my hat and feather certainly shared this opinion.
The parrot struggled vainly with his amorous advances at my hat and started to flutter his wings wildly and squawking loudly, no doubt upset at being snubbed by his new-found lady friend.
Eventually the old lady realised that I was somewhat uneasy, to put it mildly. She got up slowly from her chair and removed the parrot from its clutches on my hat and replaced him back on his perch.
She then turned to me and asked whether I’d like to meet the budgerigars still sitting on their cage preening themselves.
I made an excuse about having a meeting somewhere or other and left hurriedly.
And that’s another cowboy hat with a feather totally ruined!