Every morning when Amanda is up before me, she goes downstairs and brings up he pet bird Chuck, who says “Good morning!”. What I often found amusing was that he would even say this when he would go to sleep for the night. Though he could say “Good” by itself (usually when starting he is being a “Good Boy!” Or a little grosse, stating he did a “Good Poopie”) and “night”, he could never pull off “good night”. I like to think he was trolling us, with that cheeky beady-eyed state of his.
When I drive home from work everyday, there’s this loud, squarky little voice that calls out from inside the house- Chuck was like a guard dog, sensing everything from approaching cars to uninvited birds in “his” garden. I would approach his cage, and he would climb down his ladder and branches like an armless spider-man, quietly grumbling and whistling at the bottom as if to say “nice to see you. But don’t touch my stuff.” I’d hold up a sunflower seed, he’d pause and come to the edge of the cage, and with his little but strong voice, say “I love you”, and happy squeak in approval while munching on his seed.
Chuck loved his food. The mornings when I was home for breakfast, I would make up my Tupperware bowl of wheetbix, dried fruit Muesli and cereal, and as I’d walk out of the kitchen, I’d save him a piece of fruit. Throughout the day, if I’d go to the cupboard for a Muesli bar, I’d always give him first bite. At night, if I was cooking Amanda and I dinner, I’d chop him a tiny serve of veggies- peas and corn was his favourite, and I learnt recently that he was big on Zucchini, which is fantastic, since I call it “the devil’s vegetable”; I was happy to part with my share. Sometimes he was cheeky enough to con his way out of the cage at breakfast, sitting on the edge of the container, picking at the cereal, and flicking soy milk-soaked coconut flakes and soggy oat crumbs onto me.
When it’s time to leave for the day, a simple wave at him would prompt him to say “bye!”- in a particularly Aussie twang. I often heard him repeating the word as we locked up the house and head to the car. Sometimes, he’d say it without prompt, simply because I had finished packing my bag and was heading for the door.
Life has been hectic for a while now; teaching, finalising the doctorate, writing and teaching Uni tutes and lectures, freelance and spec work, comic book drawing, and trying to find time to sleep and spend a little time with Amanda. But my favourite part of the day is usually after dinner, where Amanda and I sit in the couch to watch a little tv before I’d go back to work, with Chuckie always opting to sit on my knee, quietly preening before snoozing. Sometimes if he was really drowsy, he’d let me scratch him on the head, or if laying down, on the belly, without his usual attempt to take a chunk out of me. He would also sit on my knee while I drew- I recall a number of recent soldier pages and commissions being scribbled with Chuck “The supervisor” either sitting on me or nearby on the back of a chair; Somedays if he felt I wasn’t paying him enough attention, he’d take it upon himself to remind me by taking a small chunk out of a finger, knee or stomach, but nine times out of ten, he was content to sit, after years of sitting with Amanda while she read. It got to the point that he visited the drawing board so often, his own container of seeds sits at the top of the desk, and “Chuck the supervisor” got a special thanks in the credits of the latest comic book.
Shower time was fun; Chuck would strut around the top of the shower like a nazi general, or like he owned the joint, wolf whistling, or gibbering to Amanda; he loved warm water, and would say over and over “Do you wanna have a shower?” Despite already being in one. Amanda would talk about her day while Chuck would comment “really?” And would lean out from the shampoo holder to sip some warm water from the shower head. When Amanda would ask “where’s Paul?” Chuck would start yelling that squawk he does when one of us drives home, not stopping until I walked into the bathroom, asking “what are you doing?” If I walked back out. Then he would grumble and shake his head when it was my turn to shower, clearly not a fan of “dudes”, but would happily sip warm water off my index finger, albeit under mild protest until going back to whistling, or wrestling with a tube of facial scrub. Amanda’s Dad taught Chuck “Pop goes the weasel”, though for the life of me I could never figure out why he always dropped the third last note. After the shower, he would play with a small pile of toilet rolls on top of the sink, and I would sometimes spend a stupid amount of time standing there in a towel while Chuck and I clicked and made Predator growls into the tubes, while he would laugh like the laugh track from the sitcoms he’d watch with Amanda.
He constantly made us laugh. Only just last week while packing for Perth or Adelaide, Amanda and I were in quiet hysterics last week- if you’re quiet enough in the morning, Chuck would forget we are still home, and would use the opportunity to practice his “English”. Usually a warm up of “Pop goes the weasel”, followed by a Dr Doom- rivalling “Chuckula, hah hah hah haaaaaaaaahh”- like some sort of tiny super villain. He pauses the evil laughing by announcing loudly he has “pooped”, followed by a series of “Get to tha choppaahhhh!”- something I was immensely proud of.
I recall him once climbing down from the top of the couch, onto the floor, wandering out to the kitchen whistling like I was his lost dog when I walked out of the room. Another time, he walked in squeaking to get my attention, nipping me on the foot, and laughing like a maniac while he ran away. Actually, no, he stood there- taking full advantage of the fact that I wouldn’t do anything about it, the cheeky sod.
The last night he spent at home was the night after we returned from Adelaide. He was a bit quiet, but surprisingly affectionate- I think he reached up for at least half a dozen little beak kisses while he sat on top of his cage. I gave him a seed or two, and he said “I love you” and “Bye” as Amanda put him to bed. The next morning, something was wrong with him, and Amanda was preparing to take him to the vet. As I left for work, his “Bye” had a quiver in it.
In the afternoon after work, I had a few minutes before the vet closed to visit him. He was very tired, but allowed me to scratch his head. Perhaps he knew it was the last time I’d see him. I was hoping to be awake early enough before work to visit before my lecture, but I was up very late as usual putting slides together that I didn’t get a chance . I still regret this deeply, and can’t say it’s not the first time I’ve been frustrated by my commitments, but am thankful I still got to see him the day beforehand.
Though I’ve only had a bit over 14-15 months with him, I’m so honoured and thankful that I got to bond with Amanda’s amazing bird, that she shared him with me, and taught me so much about him. I may have jokingly called him my “sometimes friend”, but really he was my best little friend. A small human being with a golden personality. Sometimes a “floor shark”, sometimes a “noisy Chuckett”, sometimes made my finger bleed, but always made me smile. The tears will go away soon, but the many stories and memories I’ll cherish forever. Amanda took such good care of him; he was very loved, spoilt and we were blessed to have him.
I miss him.
Good morning, Chuck.
I love you.