The Little Parakeet
Edith lived in between the Glowjob tanning salon and the Third Eye Tattoo Parlour, Art Gallery and Recording studio. There was always a song in Edith’s heart but she never felt inclined to have it recorded. It was just there within her waiting to be sung in its various forms. She sang when she didn’t know what else to do, this was usually when she encountered another person at their wit’s end. People who were mute or screaming after a potent cocktail of too much stimulation by media and an excess of neglect by their fellow man.
Edith met these sorts of people often on her wanderings. Every day she discovered a different mission as she found novel paths along the same way. At first she had selfishly worried that waking up and following her cravings might lead her to become obese with her own desires. Yet she soon understood that so long as they were really her actual desires and not unnecessary longings introduced by the slavish advertising world, then she wouldn’t ever get fat with stuff.
In fact she was pleasingly plump by her own navigation. She always thought that her creator was coaxing her towards the best version of herself though she sometimes wondered if there was a more direct route than the one she was on. Mistakenly she believed that she knew what that was. Does everyone suffer at some time or another from this confusion? The idea that God’s plan is known through some image put into the mind by a few men has created so many strangely structured belief systems, fuelled so much suffering after all…
No, Edith was actually exactly as she ought to be. She was neither rail thin as she believed her bouts of asceticism ought to render her, nor criminally fat as so much of the world had become from following the passions of the flesh. Edith was however slightly embarrassed at the way she went about. She looked a bit like a tramp to people who caught sight of her. Like some rare bird she stepped along the pavement, traipsed into parks where other birds alighted.
Early one sizzling Florida morning after Edith had skirted shopping malls and convenience stores, she found shelter at a WAWA service station. There she would exercise her patience by giving way at the checkout line to people in a hurry; those folks who rushed to pay for their gas, to fill up on the caffeine, the varieties of sugar the shop specialized in.
Each day she would procure enough fuel for her own slow progress. Several chocolate bars, a pile of baked goods, and if she was feeling flush, she would indulge in one of the new improved bags of candy that were always on offer at the cash register. This was usually after she had won an extra large sum with her lottery ticket purchase. That little action set the tone for each day. It was a small phenomenon that the clerk had duly noted and discreetly alerted the manager to; Edith won a few dollars on her lottery tickets every single day.
“Here comes the winner” the clerk would chuckle under his breath every time Edith sidled up to the counter having allowed several harried folks ahead of her. The cheery burst of beeps which indicated the “win” that came from the Lotto ticket verification system was sort of like an invitation for Edith. Hearing it reminded her how lucky she seemed to everyone as a result of her dedication to the truth in her very own heart.
“Oh, she’s so lucky! You’re so lucky” People would say.
There was a time when these exclamations had made her wince. She knew she was not lucky at all. She knew she was simply blessed. That every accident in her life that felt like a terrible suffering was actually a part of the big plan, the giant lottery that she was always winning by surrendering to it. By this logic, each little upswing had been predestined too.
So on a Saturday in November when Edith set out, when she emerged on the sidewalk by the Glowjob tanning salon, it was not serendipity that there were two bright green parakeets sitting on the electric wires above her head. It was because she was out like them walking the tightrope that is life in her own exotic way.
I first saw Edith on that hot Florida morning when I was just about to give up and take the short cut home from a long bike ride. Her appearance was like the beginning of a film I had long forgotten. In the opening sequence of that artwork a majestic mountain vista was revealed to be only the worn photo in an advertisement on a huge billboard on the outskirts of a slum in New Zealand somewhere.
The film’s director had made a big splash with his depiction of the sad fate of the Maori warrior. He then succumbed to temptation, disappearing into the Hollywood action picture vacuum that gobbles up so many auteurs, creators who are reeled in by the promise of greater renown when all they really need is an understanding that one masterpiece in a lifetime is quite adequate. One Enfants de Paradis is better than ten thousand Gangster flicks, after all.
So there was Edith in the film’s opening scene – my Saturday morning film. The film that actually unfolds each day for me – if I pay attention. The film whose cast are the people in the real world. The most interesting characters, the people who are not in fashionable clothes driving fancy cars. In fact on the day that I first saw Edith I was still digesting the sight of another bit player in this epic we call existence.
I’d been careening around one of my preferred parks on a bicycle when a woman driving a corvette veered towards me. She looked to be enjoying the curve we were on. I appreciated the determined look on her face. In the passenger seat next to her was a skeleton.
This sight has remained burned in my mind, providing me with hours of wonder. So there I was remembering the woman who had liberated her skeleton, when Edith ambled into my field of vision. She had a huge plastic beverage container at her mouth. She was walking and sipping through a plastic straw as she rummaged in the plastic bag brimming with her sustenance. One of her lottery tickets fell away from the hand she was also clutching a chocolate bar in. Edith was working on its contents between sips. The chocolate bar’s wrapper was fluttering in the gentle wind that had risen signalling a storm that had been incorrectly forecast to arrive the night before.
Edith looked at me with the kind of guilty suspicion that neglected children have on their faces in films like Oliver. She swiftly altered her route to put some distance between us. I took the image I’d formed of her in my mind along with me as I continued to cycle the bends in the park’s road.
On the turnaround towards home I was drawn to a large pond filled with blooming lilies. I stopped to take in the scene. What, I wondered did these delicate blossoms have to tell me? That is the question I suppose I am always asking when I pause in nature. “Why so much beauty? What is the reason you are so pleasing? Could it be there is no reason…the same fact that accounts for Edith’s intriguing existence? Could it be that we are all just players in a film that begins in every single second of existence and continues through each hour of eternity? Who is your Edith- the woman who can but doesn’t always sing? Where is your home- that place that some find in between the Glowjob tanning salon and the Third Eye tattoo parlour? Will you write a song about your home someday and record it at the Third Eye? Or will you take the time to paint a picture of your Ediths, the living confirmations of glory you encounter daily? Will you exhibit your rendering at the Third Eye’s gallery? Or will you just say a polite hello?”
For my part I can say I made a lame attempt to engage with Edith but she was having none of it. She appeared as I was standing in front of the lily pond deep in memories of Monet’s version of this Florida scene that also happens to be like a scene from somewhere in France where said master recorded his impressions. As I gazed at the nature that artist captured, considering the way his version had influenced me without me realizing it, along came Edith still carrying her props. I could see she was stumbling a bit.
“Are you okay?” I asked, I was too distracted to remember that I could have implied my concern by just being a kind presence. My haste in speaking destroyed any hope for a real encounter. Edith veered quickly away.
Over her shoulder she blurted “I’m good.” It was not a melodic expression.
Edith might be lying in the morgue now, dead from too many chocolate bars or stabbed by some crazy Florida retiree. Or she may be enduring because you saw her in these descriptions. Now she has a place in your memory. Maybe Edith reminds you of another lucky lotto player you often see but never stop to just be with? You recall a connoisseur of good fortune who keeps appearing somewhere along your way. That person who is actually singing your song.