Loopy


Hi! I’m Loopy!

That isn’t my proper name, of course, but I’ll tell you how I got to be called that later in this true story.

I was a perfectly normal, happy, bad-tempered young rainbow lorikeet until I failed to notice that window. You see, windows are strange things for birds to negotiate. Trees, branches, leaves… They’re all home territory as far as birds are concerned. The rest is the territory of non-flying animals, like cats, dogs, kangaroos and goannas [very large lizards]. Ugh! How I hate them! Goannas are plain nasty. That’s one reason why I prefer to keep to the very tops of the tall gums. That’s where my food is. That’s where we all live, us gregarious lorikeets. Simple isn’t it?

However, on this particular bright sunny morning – and most mornings are bright sunny ones in the subtropics – I executed a particularly graceful swoop down…down…down… And before anyone had the opportunity to explain to me what a window was, I crashed headlong into one. I knew instinctively that I ought to have gained height quickly and evaded that silly house altogether, but I just couldn’t. My wings simply wouldn’t respond to what my brain told them to do. I didn’t know it then, of course, but I was already suffering from a disease that would ultimately… But that will come later in my story.

So, here I was swooping down gracefully, joyfully, enjoying the heady feeling of swooping down gracefully, joyfully, but heading straight for a large shiny sheet of glass…

Crash! Bang! Splat!

I thought at first I’d broken my neck, but then reasoned I hadn’t because it moved when I told it to. It wouldn’t if it were broken, would it?

I tried fluttering my wings, but they only worked in my imagination. Truth to tell, nothing worked properly. I was lying in an undignified heap on the ground under that wretched window, feeling extremely sick and sore. In fact, I didn’t feel terribly well at all.

Nor could I move to protect myself when a massively huge ginger cat came up to me and sniffed me speculatively in the disgusting way that cats have. I don’t mind admitting that I was pretty scared, but I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t take any evasive action. In fact, I couldn’t do anything but lie there in a disreputable heap, my feathers all ruffled up, my neck all kinda floppy.

Then, to my horror, a female human person came clattering down the steps that led from the front door of the house to the ground where I, a noble tropical bird, lay in a disreputable heap on the ground.

She tut-tutted, as female human persons tend to do, then carefully gathered me up in her hands. I didn’t like that much as us birds find human hands terribly hot, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. I wasn’t dead, as she quickly discovered, but unconscious – in shock.

And who wouldn’t be, after flying headlong into a window that some inconsiderate human had left lying about like that?

She carried me indoors – strange feeling that, for a bird – tut-tutting all the way and called out to a male human person who had heard the bang of my poor little birdie head coming into violent contact with the kitchen window. For that was what had happened. Executing that glorious downward swoop, I’d slammed into the kitchen window. I hadn’t broken the glass, but I instinctively knew that I hadn’t done myself much good.

Together, these two human persons, both tut-tutting like crazy, put some shredded paper in a little basket and carefully put me in it, then put a towel over me to keep me warm. One explained to the other that I mustn’t be given anything to eat or drink as I was in shock. As if I wanted anything to eat or drink in my wretched state!

They then put me in the corner of the room and told that grotesque ginger cat not to eat me. As if a cat could understand something as unnatural as that! I ask you!

I tried to go to sleep, and I felt very sleepy, but the human persons kept on tut-tutting. I missed the cries of my bird persons, but guessed I would have to put up with this strange noise for a while. Until I felt better and could go soaring up to the very tops of the tall gum trees, where I belonged.

Then the tut-tutting got worse as the human persons had a guest for the evening. And he, to my utter disgust, poked me with a stick and proclaimed that he thought I was a gonner and that I wouldn’t see the night out. He seemed to think that he was an expert on being a gonner as he was a priest. I wanted to tell him that he was wrong, that there was plenty of life left in me yet, but I couldn’t. I felt too ill and floppy to be able to tell anyone anything.

The following morning, when it began to get light, I proved the silly priest person was wrong, and that I had seen the night out. I could hear other bird persons singing high up in the gums, so I knew I was still alive. Just because I was a bird person, didn’t mean I was stupid, you know. Far from it. Us rainbow lorikeets are generally reckoned to be pretty intelligent. And I was a particularly clever specimen. After all, I knew how to swoop down… I decided not to think about that any more at the moment. I didn’t want to think about bumping into that wretched kitchen window.

The male and female persons tut-tutted excitedly when they realized I was going to get better. They were a bit slow on the uptake as this didn’t sink in until I climbed out of the basket and went to go for a walk on the floor.

Slip, slide, wallop!

I’d never gone such a cropper. You see, normally us birds clamber about on branches and things. We just aren’t in the habit of walking about on polished wooden floors.

Slip, slide, wallop!

Over I went again, my feet sliding in all directions. So undignified! There was no way I could keep my balance at all. And, to make my predicament worse, the two human persons laughed. Whilst the ginger cat… He just stood there, mouth open, showing all those nasty pointy teeth, looking completely discombobulated. Clearly, he’d never seen anything like it either.

But, gradually, I learnt how to do it and took up residence under the settee. It was nice and dark there, and the cats couldn’t get at me. Yes, cats… In the plural, for there were no less than three of the wretched things.

As I recovered, I tried to fly. There were some nice curtain rails over the windows and sliding doors which looked like being inviting perches for a bird person. But, shame upon shame, I discovered I could no longer get off the ground. I was land-locked. I didn’t care for that much at all but, being a pretty intelligent bird person, I decided I would make the best of it and not bother myself about the flying bit. After all, the human persons and those wretched cats seemed to manage pretty well. And none of them ever took flight.

And, I discovered also, I couldn’t perch as well as I used to be able to. In fact, I couldn’t really perch on things properly at all. When I tried perching on the rim of my basket, for example, I simply rolled over and looped the loop. To my utter disgust, the male person sniggered. And that caused him to give me my new name: Loopy. Because I looped the loop. Get it?

Then, when I got better, and had learnt how to keep the three cats in order by pecking them hard where it hurt most, someone decided I should go and see a qualified nurse. Accordingly, I was bundled into a cardboard box and taken by four-wheeled fuming monster to the next town where I was supposed to strut my stuff. This female person pulled my wings right out to their fullest extent and studied them, she felt me all over, paying particular regard to joints and bendy bits, and finally pronounced that I was fit – nothing was broken. This pulling about made me rather bad-tempered (rainbow lorikeets are always bad-tempered, you know) and I got a few really spiteful pecks in with my nice sharp beak. And that made her tut-tut rather irritably.

It was decided that I should go to another wildlife carer who had some more rainbow lorikeets which could fly, but were restrained in an aviary, the idea being that I might be inspired to copy them and fly. Sort of physiotherapy, I suppose.

What nonsense! I had no need for flying by that time. I was being nicely looked after by all these kindly human persons. I could even strut about on a polished wooden floor without tripping over. Well…not too often.

Then something happened to me that I didn’t care for much. I started loosing my feathers. First, my lovely long tail feathers went. It was announced that I had runners disease. A sickness that causes your feathers to drop out so that you can no longer fly. And that was, of course, why I flew into that wretched kitchen window in the first place. I had been hatched with runners. My flight was impaired. I was doomed to be landlocked for as long as I lived. And, although I would be fit and well otherwise, and wouldn’t live out my normal eighty-five years, I would never be able to fly again.

Sob, sob!

I was returned to the first human persons, where I was immediately terribly unhappy. You see, I had become used to living in an aviary and didn’t like being free much. I felt exposed and terribly unsure of myself. So, imagine my delight when the male person proudly produced a small aviary he’d made and opened the large door wide. I ran wildly towards it, tripping over again and again in my haste on that polished wooden floor, but finally made it. I clambered excitedly up the side and stepped out on the highest perch. Only to swing upside down again. Looping the loop, the human persons called it. But I didn’t care. I was home. And why should I care? Us lorikeets invariably do lots of things upside down – like eating. We’re clever. We treat gravity with utter disdain. Not like human persons who have to stay the same way up all the time. How utterly boring!

After a while, I was joined by a scaley-breasted lorikeet which had been injured and needed recuperation. He was called “Sparky” because he was a really bright spark. I helped there by being particularly bad-tempered, lying on my back and squawking indignantly when he came towards me. He, of course, was used to rainbow lorikeets behaving like that and responded with typical scaley-breasted dignity and looked concerned, which enabled me to get in a few crippling pecks when he wasn’t looking. Like that, we became firm friends, and I was rather disappointed one day, just before Christmas, in the hottest part of the year, when the male human opened the door of the aviary wide and released him. I watched as he – that is, Sparky, not the male human – flew round in a big, wide circle, then up to the very top of the tall gum trees, where he joined a flock of scaley-breasted lorikeets. Bully for him!

I thought, sadly, that I’d never see my friend Sparky again. But he often comes back to see me, bringing with him his mate. They stand on the top of my aviary and we talk and talk. That way, I feel as though I am in touch with other bird persons, even though I know, in my heart of hearts, that I’ll never be able to join them. We laugh about the way the male person got Sparky to fly again by encouraging him to fly backwards and forwards in the living room, not letting him settle. I used to enjoy watching, and sometimes felt jealous. But not for long. After all, why bother to fly when you don’t have to?

In time, I tamed the three cats to my satisfaction. The ginger one liked to saunter into my aviary when the door was open – which it often was – and stretch out on the floor of it on his back and go to sleep. This was an excellent opportunity for me to climb onto his tummy and curl up on his nice soft fur and go to sleep too. You see, by now, I was loosing rather more of my feathers and I began to feel the cold. Though, otherwise, I felt great.

The female person asked the local vet if she should knit a little coat for me, but he said it wouldn’t be a good idea as I might get too hot, so she irritably clicked her needles and made the male person a sweater exactly the same color as my former neck feathers.

Another scaley-breasted lorikeet was introduced to me. He was called “Indy” because he moved with the speed of an Indianapolis racing car. But I sensed that he’d never be released into the wild as he had the same complaint as myself, though by no means as badly.

Gradually, I lost more and more of my feathers. But that didn’t stop me from being noisy, bad-tempered and copying the way the human persons talked. I could, by now, say quite a few words nice and clearly. The feather loss continued until I only had feathers on my head and throat. I still felt fit and well and chased Indy about and terrified the marmalade cat by pecking her hard when she wasn’t looking. For some reason, she hated that. I thought it was super fun.

I enjoyed playing another game too. I used to lie on my back and pretend I was dead. I got lots of people worried by doing that. Including that priest person. Then, of course, I could have a lovely hard peck at them when they touched me to find out. Real fun, that! I enjoyed it, and did it lots!

The human persons began to get worried because the cool season was coming on and they were fearful that I would catch a chill. Accordingly, they brought the aviary indoors at nights.

Then, one morning, I just didn’t feel like pecking anyone. I didn’t even feel particularly bad-tempered. I just felt very tired. Nicely content, but tired. The human persons got out the little basket, the one they put me in after I’d crashed into that wretched kitchen window, filled it with shredded paper, put me into it and covered me with a nice warm blanket.

I tried to get up, but couldn’t. I felt more and more sleepy. Indy watched me with deep sympathy in his eyes, but knew he couldn’t help. The male and female persons tut-tutted concernedly over me. They stroked me and told me again and again that I was a good boy. Which I already knew.

I took a steadying breath, looked up, tried to move my head and found I couldn’t. I felt so nice and tired, and really relaxed.

I quietly said one of my favorite words, “Hello,” and . . .

– Warren Roff-Marsh

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