November 05, 2005

A Bird In the Hand ... Sometimes Doesn't Move

Meet Corky. Well, this isn’t really Corky, but he sure does resemble him. This is a Googled parakeet. Corky was my mother’s parakeet.

My daughter and I killed Corky but we didn’t mean to.

I had given my parents this wonderful living-gift about seventeen years ago when they first moved to Connecticut. My mother had always been an avid bird-fan and my father needed something new to complain about, so I figured this would cover both of them as a meaningful Christmas present.

They each took turns enjoying Corky, trying to get him to speak and cleaning out his little cage. Depending upon the outdoor weather, they would move him from one room to another so he’d stay warm and cozy. They did take excellent care of him, and he seemed to thank them very, very often in his high-pitched bird voice.

Corky quickly became a household word over at mom’s place. He stayed quite popular among the younger grandchildren (and me) for a good couple of years. He was a fine bird.

Mom and dad took a short vacation back to the city to visit my sisters who still lived there. They would only be gone for four days or so, and they asked me to take in their mail, feed and let Sam the dog out a few times a day, and take care of Corky. This was never a problem for me because we lived so close and I liked keeping an eye on things for them.

On the day they were due to return, my daughter and I went over early in the morning to vacuum, dust and clean things up so they could come home to a nice neat house. We let Sam the dog out in their obscenely huge backyard, then we started to dust and clean. There really wasn’t a whole lot to do, and my daughter, being about nine years old wasn’t too keen on helping much.

As I walked into the living room, I noticed her standing by Corky’s cage that hung in a corner by near the fireplace. She was talking to him and petting him through the bars.

I returned to the kitchen and started puttering around when I heard a huge crash and scream from the living room. I raced inside, heart pounding, thinking for sure Sarah Jane had somehow hurt herself.

Corky’s cage was on the floor! SJ was standing there crying and looking rather helpless. I’ve never been the type of mom who can maintain her cool during a trauma, so I stood there and yelled “NOOOO!” then ran to the cage.

“Oh my GOD what happened?” I asked.
“I’m sorry mom, I didn’t mean it! I thought Corky might like a ride so I was twirling his cage around and suddenly it fell off the hook!” she cried.
“Oh God oh God!” I not-so-calmly reacted.

Mind you, my parents were now due back in about an hour. Just great.

I didn’t know what to do first. I tried to calm SJ by telling her “He’ll be okay … you didn’t mean it,” but I kind of already knew better. Let’s face it, birds aren’t the strongest creatures in this world.

I crouched down to the cage and looked at Corky and his eyes were open, his head was moving and one of his wings was slightly moving. “Oh excellent,” I thought … “He’s alive!” I picked up the hand-held vacuum and started cleaning up the mess that the fallen cage made – birdseed all over the place, little fluffy feathers …

Then we realized he was stuck between his water bowl and the bars of the cage. Just stuck there. He wasn’t talking either. Hm.

What happened next, I could never explain in a million years, because it makes less sense than Michael Brown being head of FEMA, but I picked up the phone and called my sister in New York.

“Lynn, oh my God SJ and I dropped Corky’s cage and he doesn’t look so good! What do I do?” I hollered into the phone.

I can only imagine the look on my sister’s face at the time, as she said very calmly, “Okay, first thing, calm down… is there blood? Is he dead?”
“Nope. He’s moving. But he looks stuck between his water bowl and the bars,” I answered, catching my breath.
“Well you have to take him out of there and see if he’s okay - do it slowly,” she offered.

I took him out and held him in my hand and let’s just say that he didn’t seem pleased. His head sort of sagged a little and he didn’t make any attempt to get away, to fly, to speak, or anything at all. I was horrified as he gently closed his eyes while I held him … and stopped moving altogether.

I told SJ to tell her aunt that Corky appeared to be dead. She cried her eyes out and told my sister, then handed the phone to me.

“Listen,” Lynn said, “There’s nothing you can do. What happened, happened … but you HAVE to stay calm for SJ’s sake, and you have to do something with him.”
“D O S O M E T H I N G?” I asked in horror.
“Well yes, you’ll have to bury him before they get home. It will be better that way than seeing him dead,” she explained.
“Oh GOD! I can’t bury Corky!” I cried.
“CALM DOWN!” she ordered, “What choice do you have?”

So SJ and I found a small bag and we put him in it and took it out beside the garage. To take her mind off this yucky experience, I had asked her where she thought would be a nice place to bury him. She told me she thought he might like it right under the window of the garage where birds always build a nest every year. I agreed and we started to dig.

While we were digging, my parents pulled into the driveway, smiles on their faces and beaming with joy to be home again. They saw us out there and assumed we were looking at the other bird’s nests.

Like a five year old caught with her hand in the cookie jar, I ran to my mother and said, “Something terrible has happened! We didn’t mean it!” And she looked at me with horror because she assumed something happened to Sam the dog.

I told her quickly that it was Corky and that we killed him, then I quickly changed it to “I killed him” because I could see the look on SJ’s face.

“But how?” mom quietly asked.
“Well, SJ kind of dropped his cage, but he was still moving - then I did the stupidest thing, I vacuumed right near him and I’m sure the noise scared him to death,” I confessed.
“Well I want to see him. Where is he?” mom asked.

I took her to the place where we had started to bury him, but luckily we hadn’t had time to cover him up. She opened the bag, looked in and took him out. Typical of my mother, she had to confirm that the bird was indeed dead and that I hadn’t been mistaken. I say this with great affection, of course.

“He’s dead,” she said, as though she were the first one to say it.
“Yes, he’s dead,” I agreed.

Apologies were made for the remainder of, I think, that YEAR. Mom insisted that it was just his time to go (good job, mom) and dad just let it ride. They kept saying that it wasn’t our fault and that the same thing could have happened while they were sitting right there. Somehow, I just don’t think so! But parents (and grandparents) are so cool about such things.

So SJ came away from this with a lesson in bird cage twirling, as in "DON’T,” and I came away from it feeling more guilty than I had the day I was late for 9 a.m. Mass because I fell and twisted my ankle on the way to church. (trust me, that's some guilt)

Poor Corky. He wasn’t very old (just about seven), but I suppose he lived a good life while here.

Way to go taking care of mom’s house while they went away on vacation! Woo hoo!

"We call them dumb animals, and so they are, for they cannot tell us how they feel, but they do not suffer less because they have no words."
Anna Sewell (1820-1878)


Blogger Wicked H said...

I am so sorry that you and SJ had to go through that - and Corky of course. But I think under the circumstances it was handled well.

11:12 AM  
Blogger Dave Morris said...

What more could you have done with Corky? It was his time, fate applies to parakeets too.

I had a guinea pig when I was little. While I was cleaning out his regular cage, I put him in a temporary dog cage. The dumb shit ate some of the paint off the side and was dead the next day. I guess guinea pigs are allergic to dog cage paint. Who'd a thunk it?

11:19 AM  
Blogger the Monk said...

Guess you had a bad time...Great writing,though...I've never had a pet, unless you count the time when I put this other-small-fish-eating fish in a tank with a whole lot of other small fish. By next morning, I had no other small fish. The next morning, the cannibal fish also died. Probably of overeating.

12:13 PM  
Blogger CarpeDM said...

Oh, Carol. That is a horrible and touching story. I'm sorry. I've killed a few pets in my day as well, mainly fish.

I'm sure Corky had a good life and you will always have your memories. The GOOD ones. Not the guilty one.

12:39 PM  
Blogger Alisa said...

Oh no! It's always traumatic when a loved pet dies. It sounds like it was handled well by your folks. In a panic, I would have done something asinine, like try to buy them another bird that looked like Corky and hoped they didn't notice.

1:27 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

So sad for all of you! My mother often tells a story about how they left their grandma's bird out in the house and it was sucked into the ceiling fan. Awful stuff.

Glad you didn't try to replace it with another one. ;)

5:51 PM  
Anonymous Simply Coll said...

By the time I got to the fifth sentence I was a little hesitant to continue. Oh my god.. I thought.. they killed the bird?
By the end of the story I was both laughing and near tears. What an awful experience for you and your daughter (not to mention, Corky). I felt as if I was there. You are one heck of a writer!

7:03 PM  
Blogger kenju said...

This post is both funny and sad, Carol. You have reminded me of the 2 birds we once had and I think I will post about them soon. Poor Corky, spinned to death.

12:43 AM  
Blogger Johnny Virgil said...

When adjusting the little air-blowing treasure chest in your fishtank, don't drop the light in by mistake. It's not good for the fish. Don't ask me how I know.

12:46 AM  
Blogger Lyvvie said...

Birds are sort of frail like that, you shouldn't feel so like ages and years later.

I'm amased though that your family were all so open and told the truth and confessed everything. We once had a standard poodle called Licorice who was a rescue dog. We had him for a few weeks when I came home and he wans't there. Mom told me we had to get rid of Licorice because he kept leaving huge poohs on the carpet and Dad couldn't cope with it anymore. I was so mad!

I found out last year (So this would be 22 years later) that we didn't really get rid of Licorice. My brother was playing with him one day and while pretending the dog was a horse (I think he was chariot driving the poodle) he broke free and was hit by a car. My brother was guilt ridden. So, they blamed my Dad instead.

This is very typical stuff in my family. I like yours better.

4:10 AM  
Blogger phoenix said...

awww Birds are indeed fragile. I have a parrot and although she is tough as nails in the scheme of things, she can easily be hurt.

Great story ;)

4:32 AM  
Blogger dan said...

looking after pets is always hazardous and i'd advise anybody against it.

and never try to replace the pet with a similar looking one. animals have personalities too.

6:25 AM  
Blogger Tabor said...

i kept relating to the older sister---since I was the older bossy one in my family of five kids.

6:36 AM  
Blogger madcapmum said...

When I was younger and much more obsessive, I couldn't stand the dirtiness of our fishtank, so I took all the fish out and gave it a good bleaching.

They all died.

I cried so hard I soaked an entire bathmat. I was a MURDERER!

Great story, Carole.

10:33 AM  
Blogger happyandblue2 said...

Great story as usual.
I would have told then it died of a broken heart when they went on holidays.
Might as well make everyone feel guilty..

1:52 PM  
Blogger frustratedwriter said...

I probably would have told them that Corky died because of a gas leak, therefore he died giving his little life to save SJ from aphyxiation... then proceed to give him a hero's burial.

5:36 PM  
Anonymous colleen said...

First, I'm thinking "googled parakeet." Is this anything like the gilded nightengale? Believe it or not we once had a parakeet just like the one in the photo (name Pisces) who survived a car accident. A couple of years later he flew out the door when it was inadvertenly left open.

I love the line about Michael Brown stuck in there. Great moving story...well told.

6:04 PM  
Blogger PBS said...

Oh, Corky was so pretty if he looked like the picture. I've always wanted a bird but have heard horror stories about how delicate they are and my house is cold in the winter.

You handled the situation really well and it makes a great, if a bit sad story!

9:41 PM  
Blogger kenju said...

Oh, Carol, you had me laughing with the comment not meant that way! HA! if they both go down, won't it get crowded?

11:40 PM  
Blogger Swathi said...

i am not into pets at all...i remember when i was very young my mom had a parrot n i made sure that the day it had proper wings ,I opened the cage n let it fly...

i can imagine ur guilt for having killed the bird n parents being parents r alwayz their understanding self

1:37 AM  
Blogger anumita said...

Hey really sorry about Corky. But like your mother said, it was his time to go. But beautifully told story! As usual! And did I mention the new pic rocks?

4:06 AM  
Anonymous pallavi said...

poor corky... but sometimes you cannot help in such situations.. SIGH

4:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave Morris, I have no idea why you would expect your guinea pig to know that there is lead in the paint. Critters chew on things.

When I was little I had a salamander escape and it dehydrated by the time I found it. I put it in a cup of water thinking he'd come back to life! I waited a while until my mother put him down the toilet.

6:33 AM  
Blogger Courtney said...

I've never had a bird, but I have had a cat who swallowed a thread that wrapped around his tongue and extended throughout his intestines. Because the thread was virtually invisible, the vet and I couldn't determine the source of his vomiting and lethargy.

By the time Brach had surgery 1 week later, the thread had cut his tongue (not straight through) and had bore 18 holes in his intestines.

Brach is thriving now (thank you Dr. Bill), but still attracted to string (doesn't he understand string was almost the death of him?!).

The moral: Despite the common idea that CATS + STRING = GOOD FUN, string is not a good toy for felines.

9:34 AM  
Blogger Grant said...

I think this situation called for the standard "Steel Magnolias" bait and switch. E.g. "Mom, dad, SJ's dead!" After the horror sets in, say "Actually, she's fine. It was the bird that died."

10:03 AM  
Blogger sands of time said...

Poor Corky.It was an accident though.

10:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sad yes... But what everyone fails to aknowledge is that SJ killed corkey by spinning his cage, until it crashed to the ground. I hope you scolded her for that. She should lean to respect other living creatures.

12:33 PM  
Blogger Weary Hag said...

I love how the coward anonymous readers like to hide their identity. Probably some PETA PITA (pain in the ass).

Such an ignoramous. We can only hope you never have occasion to breed.

12:43 PM  
Blogger jac said...

Anna was so correct, they are not dumb at all.
Nice post.

2:42 PM  
Blogger Jay said...

That's a tough thing to go through, but really, it was an accident. I had a budgie when I was small, and one day my youngest sister decided my bird might like to groom itself with her barbie brush. Well, my bird instead decided to eat the brush. Polly choked and died during the night. The next morning, my mother told me she'd buried the bird in the back garden, so of course I could never eat string beans again!

3:44 PM  
Blogger Ovedya said...

Ah, yes, birds: That most delicate of animals.

We had a couple of rare cockatiels that each died in their own horrific bird ways. It's really never pretty when a bird dies. Thankfully we rarely ever see an actual bird death outside, and the critters usually pick them up off the street pretty fast.

Great post!


4:01 PM  
Blogger Lightning Bug's Butt said...

Oh my! What a sad and compelling story.

My first dog was named Corky.

8:38 PM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Well i was kinda hoping for a happy ending. I was alo expecting you to say that your mum was keeping from you that Corky had died like 2 years earlier and not to upset you they'd replaced him! i have a strange mind LOL.
Poor SJ, must have been scared to death, glad it went smoothly in the end.

10:22 PM  
Blogger brooksba said...


I'm sorry to hear the woes of Corky. You told the story beautifully and I'm sure it was a tough experience.

I have a sick sense of humor and I'll apologize up front, but am I the only person who thought of Monty Python and the Dead Parrot? Sorry! Blame me and my father for giving me this sense of humor.

1:58 AM  
Blogger Green-Eyed Lady(GEL) said...

Oh Sarah Jane must have been frightened out of her wits. Good advice of your sister. Great grandparents, too. (Reminds me of a parakeet I had when I was younger than 5. I didn't rattle the cage, but I loved seeing it fly free in the apt. Did I open the cage? I think it was my imaginary friend.)
Told with such flair, you keep us on our toes with captivated interest. (I noticed he was GREEN ;)

7:51 AM  
Blogger Green-Eyed Lady(GEL) said...

Oh and that quote really got to me. People who believe that are not human. (Plus I like another quote of hers and probably more.)

7:56 AM  
Blogger Spider Girl said...

My grandma loved her budgies, she really did. Trouble was, she smoked her cigarettes right next to Tinker's cage. Poor little fellas.

I remember a long series of identical Tinker birds. They are delicate little things.

My sympathies for your experience with Corky!

10:50 AM  
Anonymous Gail said...

THIS WAS NOOO ACCIDENT, THE Kid was being a brat and doing something she knew (or should know) is wrong and bad!! She was torturing the bird. The bird was not fragile it’s cage was crashed to the ground and it was smashed by the water dish. Whey can’t you all admit the kid killed the bird? And no I am not a PETA person, I am just honest.

11:36 AM  
Blogger Weary Hag said...

GAIL - EE - POO ...

Read my second paragraph you moron.

As to further commentary from you, it is not welcome here. Your first two have been mildly entertaining, but they've gotten old now ... begone!

Besides, I really do refuse to further have a battle of wits with an unarmed person.

1:56 PM  
Blogger katie said...

I'm with alisa on this, I would have probably attempted to buy Corky's twin.
It's always so hard to deal with the death of a pet. As a kid, all of my goldfish would get a proper burial. I cried for days each time.

2:08 PM  
Blogger tonch said...

Omg that poor bird. I'm sure you could have made a quick trip to your local taxidermy though, put him back and told everyone he was imitating a cow and a bear and hibernating standing up.

Either way, great story

7:31 PM  
Blogger The Other Half said...

good story...i'm not allowed to have pets

7:46 PM  
Blogger Justine said...

We killed our cousins' dog when they were on vacation once - it was a really hot day and she couldn't stand the heat, the paw thing.

8:48 PM  
Blogger Walker said...

Great story.
Poor Corky, birds are fragile I have had a few.
But this reminded me about my cousin who was to lazy to properly clean the cage and he used the vacumn to do it.4 hour later he started wonsering why the canary wasn't singing and went to check only to find the cage empty.
He searched the house and couldn't find the bird. He asumed it got out side and flew off. He had to tell his mother that the bird flew the coup.
A week later while he was sleeping his mother came in yelling and smacking him while he slept.
She went to change the bag in the vacumn.

2:56 AM  
Blogger Lizabeth said...

I think thats so sweet that you didn't pin it on your daughter. I'm sure she learned a few valuable lessons that day. You're a great mom!

We had a bird once named "Petey" then umm "he" started laying eggs. Then the intestines came out. Sorry thats graphic, but it was even worse for us to see it!

Great story!

1:37 PM  
Blogger oregoncelticlady said...

You are fabulous! Love your profile (proudly lazy, can't beat that) and your blog. Come visit me sometime...celtic lady's rants. Totally agree about anonymous input...farts in the wind!

6:53 PM  
Blogger oregoncelticlady said...

By the way, if anonymous has children...I feel sorry for them. Children get it and don't need adults (?) like her to rub salt in their wounds!

6:55 PM  
Blogger L said...

poor Corky.... birds are such great pets

8:47 PM  
Blogger Hick said...

Reminds me of my late parakeet, Zeus. Bad experience with him. I finally killed him off but I didn't mean to.

I like dogs better than birds.

9:45 AM  
Blogger Rob Seifert said...

A noble effort to give dignity to a cherished family friend. How terrible it must have been at the time...


11:12 PM  

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