The Pickling Process
Cleo’s attraction to alcohol was met with surprise and concern. Her small body may not be able to handle martinis on a regular basis. But, we didn’t interfere, giving her the freedom to make her own choices.
Several times a week, when my parents treated themselves, Cleo glided over the dinner table, alighting on my father’s martini glass. Outstretched wings maintained her balance on the slippery edge. After a few beakfuls, she hopped to the table to sample the fare. A green pea or a few grains of rice usually sufficed. This became her habit, a cocktail before dinner, and a little nosh before heading home.
Over the years, her functional ability under the influence became noticeably less. Little things, like flying back to her cage and missing the open door, confirmed that Cleo had a problem. We decided to intervene the night she hopped off the glass, dawdled to the plate and spun in a perfect 360, toppling into the mashed potatoes.
She slept it off on the floor of her birdcage, and we decided that she should be cut off. Cleo was free to fly for an hour or so during the day, but we closed her in at dinnertime amidst squawking protest.
Once in a while, the door was inadvertently left open. She found the martini like a homing pigeon. Covering her wings protectively over the glass, she pecked at my father’s hand when he attempted to have a sip. She could be a mean drunk.
“Does your bird usually sleep on her back?” a neighbor asked, peering into the cage.
“Sometimes.” My mother replied. But this time was different. Cleo, the budgy, a family member for twelve years, was gently laid to rest in a shoebox. –No need for embalming.
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