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Old 05-13-2002, 12:24 AM   #1
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Hamish: a quaint little story about a violent parrot

Due to formatting constraints, I bolded the parts that should have wider margins. Hope you enjoy.

Hamish steals hastily down the yawning black driveway. All he can hear is a faint buzz of TV nonsense wafting lazily out from the swinging screen door behind him, the distant buzzing of a fly, and claws clicking against asphalt. The calm scent of boundless night spreads through his lungs. Head bent, beak almost to the ground, he scuttles toward the open road a mere metre past the sidewalk. As he nears the road muscles tense and wings unfurl.

Thursday, several weeks removed.
Before the siren jolted him cruelly from his doze, Barry White at a respectable volume was the loudest sound Hamish had heard in more years than he could count. Thrust from sleep’s calm into some sort of cacophony, he nervously picked at his perch and twitched a bit as he waited to gain a perspective on the situation. The siren blare. The rush of panicked voices. A sense of frantic motion from outside. He glanced toward the living-room window. An unfamiliar white vehicle, the source of the whine, was pulling up beside the house. Men he didn’t recognize leapt out and ran toward the backyard out of sight.
Hamish pressed his shoulders against the firm bars of his cage. He sensed a commotion in the rear of the house, wanted to see, wanted to know. Hamish could imagine the backyard pretty well: the deck, the carefully tended bushes, the healthy lawn. Timothy often moved the cage out there when he was hard at work amid the daisies and tulips and peonies; or sometimes when he just sat on the lawn chair and watched the fish swim amid the lily pads of the artificial pond.
Within a few minutes the men returned from the backyard. They carried between them an occupied stretcher. He understood the urgency and stress in the men’s voices but not the words themselves: Poor bastard fell of the roof! Pretty steep! Held onto that shingle till he hit the ground. Doesn’t look like he’s gonna make it. Goddamn! Hamish no longer wanted to see, or to know. But his eyes could not help but focus on the stretcher. At that distance he couldn’t make out many details: A heavy man, almost bald, wearing a burgundy vest. Timothy was a man of routine; he wore burgundy every Thursday.

Rushing headlights pierce the night. For a startled moment, the driver sees a vision of feathered blue in flight: graceful wings flowing in a downward arc; hooked beak and crooked talons curiously stained red; blank eyes of black, that might convey terror if they could.

The next few days were the longest and loneliest of Hamish’s life. Hamish idled in his cage, eyes half closed. The food dish at the edge of his cage remained full. His body felt almost comfortingly numb.
Sometimes he tried to imagine things were as before. He imagined Timothy was there, sunk into the paisley comfy chair, perusing the morning Times. Now and again Timothy would glance up at the cage in the corner, beside a print of Rouen Cathedral in full sunlight, and grin. Hamish would have smiled back—wished he could.
Sometimes his mind went back even further, to the desolation after flames destroyed the pet store. He was alive, yes, but forced to struggle through the constant trials of a contracted stomach, scraps with alley cats over chunks of mouldy bread, a parched throat, the pouring rain, and the putrid air. He survived the downtown damp alleys with strewn litter as his only shelter, doubting more than half the time that he’d live to see another slivered moon.
That moment when he first encountered Timothy was imprinted on his mind as if the twelve years separating it from him were twelve minutes. A passing man like so many others, except that this one paused and took notice. He walked forward to look down at the blue feathers, matted with mud and rain. Deep black avian eyes gazed back and saw kindred loneliness reflected. In that moment a link formed and held. The man knelt and tenderly enfolded the trembling bird in his rough hands. He spoke with reassuring calm as he lifted it carefully from the damp black street and trudged to the bus stop. For the entire ride home he held the parrot close against his chest.
In the twelve years since, Timothy and Hamish rarely parted company. Hamish grew used to Timothy’s warm, calm presence. It was a part of life, a thing he’d come to simply accept. Whether he was reading in the den, bustling about in the kitchen, or working in the garden he was always there. He even left his bedroom door open when he slept so Hamish could see in.
When Hamish remembered the depression and the futility of his months amidst messes of garbage and foul smelling sewer grates in relation to the consistence and solitude conferred by Timothy, it seemed not like living, but merely existing. He had thought many times that he couldn’t possibly return to that loneliness and survive.
Sometimes his mind returned more toward the present, and he tried to reconstruct that turbulent Thursday in his head, in an attempt to make sense of what had happened. Breakfast had followed routine precisely: granola with raisins and milk, a cup of earl grey tea, a graham cracker, and the morning newspaper. After that, custom was not so rigidly adhered to. Timothy’s phone saw little use, but it rang as he was tidying up after breakfast. The conversation was short and polite. A few hours later the doorbell rang. It was Dirk, Timothy’s brother. Shoes were removed, a drink was offered, and conversation commenced.
Hamish always paid close attention to discussion; he couldn’t understand much of the dialogue, but he could recognize a word here and there and he recognized the implications of tone and body language perhaps even better than some humans. It started off affably enough with routine pleasantries, but soon voices rose and tempers flared, especially Dirk’s. He paced, yelled, clenched his fist. Discomfited by the rising anger, Hamish huddled at one edge of his cage and gnawed at his cuttlefish bone. After biting words had flown back and forth for what seemed too long, they eventually subsided, and the two brothers stalked out of the house. Relieved by the silence, Hamish then drifted into a sleep, only to be woken sometime later by a siren’s wail.
As desolate hours or perhaps days skulked past, he returned again and again to that moment. His last memory of Timothy. He saw an angry sheen in Dirk’s eyes, heard the thump of pacing feet across the hardwood floor, flinched at the crack of a glass slammed down. Each time the scene was re-enacted on his mind-stage, the actors grew more wrathful, the volume increased, and the threat of violence mounted. The glass shattered as it struck the coffee table. The pacing feet kicked over chairs. The words became threats. The threats were fulfilled. Sometimes he felt Dirk’s clenched fist as if it were around his own feathered neck, squeezing, choking.
A rage grew inside his weakened, hungry body. It became a companion in his loneliness. It told him not to waste away idly. It propelled him toward the edge of his cage to the untouched food dish. With what little force he could muster, Hamish attacked the seed as though it were Dirk, smug and cruelly grimacing. He pecked and chewed and swallowed. Eventually his strength began to return, and the newfound energy fed his fury.

The driver’s foot jerks frantically to the brake and the grinding whir of rubber on tar escalates to a keening screech as wheels scream across the slickened street and the automobile is dragged to a halt.

Hamish surveyed the hall from his vantage point, partially hidden behind a half used cereal box. A floorboard creaked. And so—as expected—Dirk left the den and ambled along the hall toward the kitchen where he’d likely fetch a beer from the refrigerator.
In his mind Hamish saw the grim, feelingless set to Dirk’s features about a week ago as he had entered the old house and strode purposefully toward the cage. A little too dignified for the receding dark brown hair, thick neck, thin lips, paunchy figure, and loose Daytona 500 T-Shirt. Dirk had flashed a toothy grin at the glowering bird and carried the cage out into a waiting car. So it was that Hamish had been jerked out of his listless days of brooding in his cage, and brought under the nose of the object of his burgeoning hatred. At Timothy’s he had always had plenty of time. But in the grungy unused room cluttered by all manner of accoutrements and paraphernalia he also had purpose. Eventually he had learned how to pry open the latch of his cage from inside, and now he sat on a kitchen shelf late at night, watching.
Dirk approached. In the dim light his lethargic television-stained visage seemed markedly pathetic. Hamish’s talons squeezed the ridge at the back of the shelf so tightly he could feel the smooth sanded grain digging into his skin. Something inside his chest pattered like the wings of a hummingbird.
One step, and then another. How could anyone walk so slowly? Hamish cocked his head to one side, flexed his neck, traded weight from one foot to the other, and counted to twelve, then leapt from the shelf above the refrigerator. He felt a rush of stale wind against his feathers as he shot purposefully toward the man below and slightly in front of him.
Almost to the fridge, Dirk’s shadowed figure stumbled backwards suddenly, letting out a startled fuck as flailing beak and talons forced their way beneath the skin of his face. He grasped at the ferocious mass of feathered blue, managed to tear it away and hurl it towards the floor.
Hamish crashed awkwardly into the doorframe and felt a jarring pain in his shoulder. He caught a brief glimpse of Dirk lurching to his feet, one hand fingering his wounded face, the other grabbing wildly at the air. Hamish stumbled frantically through the kitchen door into the living room, followed by the sound of a lingering groan and a muffled thud.
As he hastened toward the front door, he remembered Timothy again, for the first time in longer than he realized. So many times those large, worn hands had enfolded him so delicately, and eased him from the perch out into the spacious air of the living room. He would stand and gently ruffle Hamish’s smooth blue feathers. He spoke sometimes, words that no parrot could comprehend. Pretty bird. His eyes serious. And my only friend. Self-deprecating chuckle. I don’t know how I survived the loneliness before I found you.
Hamish remembered, and felt nothing.
How old are you? How long have you got left in you? ’Cause don’t go dying on me. I’d probably go insane.

The bird is hammered with enormous force against the windshield, which shudders and fractures with the blow. Bones and tendons scrunch and snap in the impact. The mess of tangled blue feathers remains on the windshield for only a few moments before slipping down and rolling from the hood.

Hand to mouth, the driver stares wide-eyed at the smear of blood. In a stunned haze she slips from the vehicle and hurries forward to look down on the lonely form lying limp upon the pavement.

She kneels slowly and takes the bird tenderly in her smooth hands. She lifts it from the damp black street and moves sullenly back toward her car.

For the whole drive home she cradles the lifeless parrot close against her chest.


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Old 05-14-2002, 07:06 PM   #2
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This is such an amazing story!

I think it should seek publishment of some sort.

I really like how Hamish is as much a character as Timothy or Dirk. The ending is heartwrecnhing. The thought of Hamish as a pet in this situation is incredibly painful. The loss of the pet is definitely one of harder things to handle in life. We'd like to think if our pet has to die, let it be in peace, or at least in the comfort of a home. To lose a pet in this fashion is almost unbelievable. I like this story because it is told so well.

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Old 05-16-2002, 11:19 PM   #3
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Thanks man! This story sure came along way since it's first draft.. If anyone has any other comments/suggestions I'd be most happy to hear them.
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Old 05-17-2002, 01:53 AM   #4
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I think it's great, Skeek. Although a little over the top, the story drew me in cos of the way it's told. I especially liked the sections in bold--those made me think this could actually be a screenplay for an artsy short film.

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Old 06-03-2002, 06:15 PM   #5
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Big Grin

I just got this back marked from our teacher (it was a rather large assignment for our writer's craft class). She warned us that a lot of the marks were a bit lower than in our previous big projects, and that it was the hardest project of the whole year. And I got 100% Whooo hooo! That was happy.
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Old 06-26-2002, 08:31 PM   #6
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Skeek I printed this out when you posted it so I wouldnt forget about it, but I only just got a chance to read it now that schools out and I have a bit of down time.

the structure of this story and how you wove it together is really, really cool; I love it when details are tied together into a story to make a cohesive whole...almost like the delicate compostion in Renaissance paintings. and I think I've said it before, but you have very vivid, real imagery that is distinctly your own; it's great.

and of course, anything that delves into the minds of animals I love, even if it wasn't necessarily the point of the story.

anyway, congrats on your 100%, I certainly think you deserve it!
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Old 06-27-2002, 04:52 PM   #7
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Dude, that is really cool! I love birds, so I took to Hamish right away. The story was amazing, poignant, kinda gross, and even a bit funny! Cool job.
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Old 07-02-2002, 12:01 AM   #8
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well I like just about everything except the title itself (it seemed a bit trite and ridiculous to me, and even though the concept of your story is a bit eccentric, it's a fascinating idea to say the least, and very cleverly told, but I honestly think the title detracts from the story somewhat, but that's just me (not that the title needs to be "heavy" but i think it needs to be more pensive in nature)

anyway, let me just say you're extremely talented and imaginative, that's not something that can be taught; I would advise you to continue reading as much as you possibly can, look at as many different styles and genres as you can and keep writing every chance you get! I have no gift at all for narrative, I seriously envy you people who do, but more importantly I want to see you utilizing your talents
send lawyers, guns and money...
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Old 07-02-2002, 12:15 AM   #9
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The title actually came about because the story is loosely inspired by Shakespeare's Hamlet. Yes... quite loosely! But that's how that worked out. Hamlet, Hamish.. Hamish MacBeth.

I just kinda gave it that title from the get-go and never looked back.

Edit: the 'quaint little story...' part is actually not really part of the title. that was just me being dumb with subject lines. The proper title is "Hamish". I can really see how the subject line in its entirety would make for an assy title.

I do tend to want to continue writing, I'm not so good at actually getting around to it though, unfortunately. this course helped me because it forced me to. It's funny cause I hardly read at all. I know I should, I just never find the time to. Haven't read a novel I didn't have to for school in like 2 or 3 years. I gotta read more though, and I know it. I used to be a total bookworm back in elementary school.

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