Chapter 41: How much would you pay for one live dodo?

Harrison Gus sat and watched the parrots in the trees and the dodos milling around on the ground.  The two dodos who had chased him down here had wandered off, their purpose apparently having been achieved.

There were countless parrots in the trees, of any and every shade imaginable.  Three parrots in particular caught his eye, or perhaps he caught theirs, he could never be quite sure.  The first was a fiery red parrot with pale blue wings that flew straight at him and at the last moment turned and landed in the grass near, but not too near, his feet.  It sat there and looked at him until he looked away.

The second parrot was yellow, or rather a range of quite distinct shades of yellow.  It had pale yellow wings, a saddle of dark yellow on its back, a golden throat, and the rest of its body was a bright canary yellow.  The yellow parrot sailed towards him from some distance away and then flew in increasingly smaller circles around and around him, until it veered off and settled in a nearby tree.

The third parrot was a grey scruffy looking parrot that looked at first as though it might be a juvenile and not quite grown into its adult feathers.  But when it landed on a moss-covered log less than a metre away from him, Harrison Gus could see that it was an adult.  It was also not entirely grey.  Underneath its wings were ribbons of dark green, light blue, dark blue and black.  The bird shuffled up and down the rotting log peering at Harrison Gus through sparkly black eyes.

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The clearing grew strangely still, and in the stillness, a beautiful golden tone rang out, and another, and then another.  It was the red parrot with the pale blue wings sitting on the grass before him.  It was singing the most beautiful song Harrison Gus had ever heard.  He felt the purest joy and a great sadness all at once.  Tears ran freely from his eyes.

The song made him think of home, his mother and father, his comfortable bed.  It made him think of the sea, the smell and the feel of the waves and the spray that skipped up along the bow and over the gunwale into his face when they sailed, and the cry of the seagull, calling out ‘land! land!’.  He found the song almost impossible to bear, yet when it stopped the silence itself felt for a moment unbearable.

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Harrison Gus stood and clapped his hands together.

“That was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard!” he said to the bird, which bowed low, eyes twinkling.  It hopped around in a circle two times.  Then it burst into song once more; this time a jolly, pleasant tune that lifted his spirits and made him feel light and airy and happy.  When it’d finished the parrot turned and hopped around and bowed again.  Harrison Gus bowed playfully in return.

“That was wonderful!”

The bird nodded, almost as though agreeing, and then slowly retreated.

Not long afterwards the yellow parrot spread its wings and glided down from its tree.  It waited until it had Harrison Gus’ undivided attention and then spat something out of its beak.  Harrison Gus wrinkled his nose, but when he looked more closely it appeared that what the parrot had spat out was not some masticated food but a ring, a golden ring.  Harrison Gus picked it up and wiped it on his sleeve.  It was plain, except for two deep jagged scratches.

The yellow parrot squawked twice.  Harrison Gus looked up to see another parrot, a small green parrot with a small red patch on its head, actually more of a parakeet really, swoop down and snatch the ring from Harrison Gus’ hand.  With the ring clutched in its claws it flew away.

A while later the parakeet returned, without the ring.  The yellow parrot now tilted its head and sat quietly, as though listening, then jumped up and spread its wings.  It flew away.

Harrison Gus shrugged.  He was thinking about the beautiful songs of the red and blue parrot.  The heart-breaking song, and the light, lovely tune that followed.

There was a loud shriek, followed by a strange snort.  He looked around to find the source of the noise and found himself looking at the scruffy, grey parrot on the rotting log.  It stepped from foot to foot and back again.  It flicked its head from side to side, staring at him with its round little eyes.

“Impressive, old Mario.  He can sing some ditties”, the bird said.

“What?” Harrison Gus stared at the parrot.

“The parrot.  The blue and red parrot that sang for you.  He can really belt out a tune, huh?”

“Um…”

The grey parrot rolled its eyes. “Never heard of a talking parrot before?”

“Well… yes… but…”

“I’m a little more articulate than your average psittaciforme?”

“What?”

“Psittaciforme.  Parrot?”

“Oh.  Well… yes, you sound like… a human.”

“I’ve been around a while.  You pick things up.”  It ruffled its feathers, a bit proudly really.

“Ok.” Harrison Gus continued to stare at the parrot.

Just then the yellow parrot swooped down and landed on the grass in front of him.  It spat something onto the grass.  It was the ring.  Harrison Gus picked it up.  He found the same two scratches on it.  He looked at the parrot.  The bird bowed.

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Harrison Gus dropped the ring back on the ground in front of the yellow bird.

“I should probably get back”, he said.

“Not impressed?” the grey parrot asked.

“With what?”

“Old Midas here.  He’s a treasure hunter.  That little fellow there” he nodded to the little parakeet, “he flew that ring off and hid it somewhere on the island and Midas found it again, pretty quickly too.  Sometimes he takes quite a bit longer.”

Midas squawked angrily.

“Well you do.” the grey parrot said.

Midas flew up into the little spindly tree again and sat on a branch, preening.

“That’s amazing.” Harrison Gus said, looking at Midas.  “He can find treasure?”

The grey bird nodded. “He’s got some kind of weird second sense for gold.  Whenever there’s any nearby he’ll fly right to it.  Handy, eh?”  It stared hard at Harrison Gus.

“Yeah”, Harrison Gus said wistfully.

Midas hopped off his branch and glided down to Harrison Gus’ feet where he sat and preened some more.

“You parrots are really talented.  Midas can find gold.  That bird before sang like a… like… like an angel.” Harrison Gus sighed.  Then he looked at the grey parrot.

The grey parrot looked at Harrison Gus.  Its expression might suggest that if it had eyebrows it would be raising them in rather a challenging way round about now.

Harrison Gus cleared his throat.  “Well… I should be getting back.  I don’t suppose you know the way?”

After a prolonged silence the grey parrot said, “I tell the truth”.

“I’m sorry?”

“That’s my thing, I tell the truth.”

“You tell the truth.”

“That’s right.”

“Ok then.  Well… so, I should go.  Do you know how I can get back?  I’m pretty sure I can’t climb back up that hole I fell in.”

“No you can’t”, the grey bird said.  “But first, tell me, are you going to tell those pirate friends of yours about this place, the dodos?”

“Shouldn’t I?”

“No indeed!  This is the last bastion of the dodo, the only place they are safe.  I’m sure you think kindly of your friends, but do not forget they are pirates.  How much do you think a dodo might be worth?”

Harrison Gus stood and stared at the parrot, frowning.

“I can’t tell them?”

“I would prefer you didn’t.”

“But…”

“No.”

“But the Captain wouldn’t…”

“Not one of them.”

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