Chapter 43: Mathematics, acrobatics, and poo

In the morning there was no sign of the scruffy grey parrot, Sancus, except for one small grey feather that floated away when Harrison Gus awoke and lifted his blanket to hop out of bed.

After breakfast, the pirates set about fixing up their makeshift tents and beds from the night before, gathering firewood, and searching for anything edible that might improve Cook’s stew.  Harrison Gus suspected that would be a fruitless exercise, no matter what delicious and delicate fruits, plants and meats they might find.  Although Cook’s stew certainly allowed plenty of opportunity for improvement, the minute Cook’s hands fell on any ingredient, they just seemed to suck all the pleasantness out of it.

Mid morning, as Harrison Gus, Captain Greeneye and Sir Jones rested together for a spell under a big tree, their conversation was interrupted by a loud rustling.  The rustling grew louder.  A tree opposite them appeared to be the source of the noise.  It began to wave its branches about, and as they watched the tree became really quite agitated, then nothing less than frantic, until at last, Mario, the beautiful red and blue singing parrot Harrison Gus had met before, popped backwards out of the foliage.  Harrison Gus thought he saw a flash of grey in the tree behind Mario, just before the foliage sprang back into place.

Mario tumbled through the air but quickly recovered himself and landed as gracefully as he could under the circumstances, right in front of Harrison Gus.  Mario kicked the dust with his feet a few times, shuffled about a bit and squawked grumpily, tossing his head from side to side.  Then, at last, having gathered himself, he turned to the pirates, bowed for Harrison Gus, and repeated his audition from several days earlier for this larger audience, singing his beautiful, sad and happy songs, and, once again, bringing tears to the eyes of all who heard him.  Mario bowed and flew back into a tree, managing to look both pleased with himself and his performance, and irritated, presumably at having to repeat his audition.

Shortly after, the same tree began to shake again.  This time out popped Midas, the yellow treasure-hunting parrot, followed closely by the little green parakeet Harrison Gus had also seen before.  The duo repeated their audition also, the little green parakeet flying off and hiding the golden ring for Midas to find, Midas returning with it shortly after.

Sir Jones clapped unreservedly for their efforts, whereupon he received a sharp squawk and a not too gentle peck from his own parrot.  Sir Jones stopped clapping and cleared his throat, rubbing his arm, but still managed a wink and a nod to Midas and his green companion.

The Captain too was very impressed with Midas. He laughed and clapped Harrison Gus on the back appreciatively and, it must be said, quite hard.  So hard, in fact, that Harrison Gus slipped forward off the log he’d been sitting on and fell on his bottom on the rather unyielding ground.

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‘Ooph’, Harrison Gus grunted and up he scrambled, trying to clap for the birds’ performance while surreptitiously rubbing his sore bottom.  It was not a good look.  Midas and the little green parakeet barely bowed before they flew off, Midas with eyebrows raised haughtily while the little green parakeet tweeted bitterly over its shoulder as it flew.

“Well”, said Captain Greeneye, “that’s two parrots wantin’ ye already, and you’ve not been here but two days!  And a treasure hunting parrot at that.  Well, well, well!”

Sir Jones ignored the others entirely now, which was wise given his own parrot’s jealous nature.  He concentrated whole-heartedly on patting his parrot, which lay luxuriously stretched out in his lap, its head tilted back across one arm (from which position it found it could no longer move because of the weight of its twinkling, golden beak) as Sir Jones scratched its tender white feathery throat.

“Course none are as attractive as this ‘ere parrot, eh, Jones!” The Captain laughed and clapped Sir Jones on the back.

“He is very beautiful, Sir Jones”, Harrison Gus said.

Sir Jones’ parrot practically purred under all this praise, tried hard to lift its head to look at them all, confirmed that no indeed it couldn’t, and flopped back down again.

“Alright well, enough chatter”, the Captain said.  They got up and got back to work.  Harrison Gus gathered dry broken branches in his arms and carried them back to Cook’s improvised kitchen, guarded by Cook’s big, blue parrot.  The big, blue parrot eyed Harrison Gus as he dropped the branches haphazardly near a growing pile of wood and stood staring into the trees.  The parrot watched Harrison Gus stand there for a while, and then he squawked.

Harrison Gus jumped at the sound.  He bent down and tidied the branches he’d dropped.  Strange, he thought, he was certain he’d seen Sancus in the trees earlier, and again just now in the tree over there, but Sancus would not come out and show himself.  Why was he here?  Was he going to audition?  What if he didn’t? But Harrison Gus was pleased that Sancus had (he assumed) made Mario and Midas audition again.  If Harrison Gus did want to pick one of these parrots, it would be hard to explain to the pirates how he’d ended up with a parrot without it auditioning first.  But… did he want Mario?  Or Midas?

Over the next several days, three more parrots came forward to audition for Harrison Gus.

One could do simple sums, not a bad talent for a pirate who could not read or write but wanted to manage or keep track of his wealth.  Harrison Gus, however, was able to match this parrot’s mathematical skills easily, having had some education at school before his great journey with Captain Greeneye had begun, so he dismissed this parrot from his deliberations immediately, particularly since it seemed rather aggressive, and pecked at other parrots that came near.

Another was able to perform acrobatic tricks in the air, great tumbling loops and swoops, cartwheels and somersaults,  rapid divebombs from great heights, pulling up just before it hit the ground, and flying low and fast dragging its toes through the dust, leaving behind a trail of swirls and patterns on the ground.  It was a fabulous display, and Harrison Gus and the pirates who saw it hooted and clapped, until the parrot relented and performed another short routine for them, flying upwards in tight little circles like a tornado and then diving straight back down with its little body straight and its wings tucked around its body, at the last minute spreading its wings and landing softly on the ground, bowing low.

It was spectacular, yet, Harrison Gus felt, this talent could not compare to the beautiful songs of Mario, or the treasure hunting skills of Midas.

The third was a strange little bird.  It was small with tufts of wispy pale yellow feathers stuck haphazardly here and there, its pink skin clear between them.  It very softly introduced itself as Petunia.  The pirates sat in silence and watched and waited as Petunia sat cooing on the ground, twisting and turning and looking rather sheepish.  Finally she lifted herself off the ground, and clutching her wings to her sides and shutting her eyes tightly, gave a tiny little fart and deposited a small poo on the ground.

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She landed back down and poked the hard round little poo with her beak, rolling it towards Harrison Gus and the pirates.   She looked up at them triumphantly.

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