Sunnyvale, California, United States
February 05
I was born the same year Kennedy was assassinated. My parents got divorced during the Summer of Love ('67) I'm not a journalist, I'm just a dedicated Democratic Library Assistant with a lot of bottled-up rants. But I'll try to be amusing when possible. _________________________ My Late Friend Kim would agree with this: "Nobody should die because they can't afford Health Insurance. Nobody should go broke because they get sick." Teddy, Greg and Roger, I'm SO with you on this one. And also with everyone else displaying this. --------- "I wrestle like Jane Austen and write like Jesse 'The Body' Ventura." Justice must be done for Trayvon Martin.


AUGUST 28, 2011 2:04PM

Mynah Mine

Rate: 20 Flag
Mynah Bird


       “They live how long?”  Just then, I hated how much my squawk of dismay made me sound like Machiavelli, my recently inherited Mynah bird.             

 "Eight to ten years is average," the reference librarian on the other end reported. "It depends on the species of course, but this book states that with good care, some Mynahs can live up to twenty years."

               “Twenty? Shit!!”            

   “Twenty shit! Twenty shit!” Machiavelli repeated from his perch with far too much glee.  It gave me a pang how much he sounded like his late owner and my best friend, Brian.                  

      “I beg your pardon?”      

         “No I beg yours” I apologized. “It’s just that my best friend died very suddenly this week, and I adopted his Mynah bird.  I’m kind of stuck as I don’t know anything about them, so I was just hoping they didn’t have that long a life span.”        

     “Kinda stuck, kinda stuck...”        

      “Oh shut up!” I hissed to Machiavelli, although I didn’t move the phone far enough away from my mouth or cover it with my hand. Since  Machiavelli had arrived three days ago, I hadn’t been able to have a single phone conversation without his input. My exasperation with him has led to some unfortunate telephone conversational  non-sequiturs on my part. I don’t like it when people speak rudely to me on the phone, so my conversations have been laced with embarrassed apologies, lately.       

       “Is there anything else I can help you with, ma’am?” The librarian’s previously friendly tone was gone, and she was clearly hoping this call was over.      

       “Sorry, I was talking to the bird, again,” I apologized.  “He won’t stop talking. Thank you, you’ve been very helpful—“      

                  Click I was talking to dead air.   “See if I donate any more books to your stupid book sales!” I muttered. “And don’t call me ma’am.”            

“Talking to the bird!  Very helpful! Very helpful!”  Machiavellli cawed.         

    “Brian should have named  you Eddie Two Times.  Why couldn’t you have been a parakeet with a three year lifespan, instead?” 

      I flopped down onto my old sofa, wanting to scream and beat the cushions with my bereavement and frustration. After Brian’s funeral that morning, I felt too exhausted to do anything but loll.  The musty old green velvet upholstery smelled  like buttered popcorn, with a parfum of  Luigi’s Monster Combo Pizza with a whiff of Szechuan Beef; Brian’s and my dietary history on weekend evenings  while we shared this very couch watching vintage bad movies from the 1950’s.   We both ate too much, stayed up too late, watched too much bad television and drank too much beer. We exercised too little, made and saved too little money, and we were both the oddballs in our respective uptight socially conservative Pennsylvania families.  

“You’re a terrible influence on me,” I’d told Brian while we were in college. “Promise me  you’ll never change.”    

I think our friendship lasted over twenty years because neither of us ever tried to improve the other, or nagged one another to change in any way, even while we tacitly accepted  the need to be self-supporting adults. Neither of us ever had to explain our jokes to the other, and we knew we could count on the other to laugh at them. On my 21st birthday, Brian's present to   me was a black tee-shirt saying  “You’re perverted, twisted and sick! I like that in a person.”      

  Brian had been here just last Saturday night, quoting the worst lines from Day of The Triffids verbatim in his best, deadpan Edward R. Murrow impression, making me laugh until my soft drink bubbled up painfully in my sinuses. It took my mind off my financial worries during my latest six month streak of unemployment. Nothing moribund about Brian, no intimation that  thirty-six hours later, he’d die on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Or that he’d be pulled from the flattened steel pancake that truck had made of his Mazda, covered head to toe in sticky Brer Rabbit molasses. 

       Only Brian would have appreciated the tragicomedy of the molasses and his having made a huge mess  on a public road which no one could expect him to clean up.  Once, he’d told me he daydreamed about faking his death so that he could catch his family out at his funeral. But he hadn’t burst in today to  laugh at his extended family of phonies at  the canned service in that awful faux-medieval funeral chapel, convincing me at least of the awful truth.  He’d have hated that stiff ceremony, as had I since it did so little to honor the  real Brian Milne I'd known. 

       I heaved myself  up and fumbled for a tissue to mop up my wet, salt-water stung eyes, the last in the box I’d bought on Tuesday after hearing the news. This was about the time of evening when Brian would show up with a pizza, or Chinese food from the Szechaun Chef to eat while we watched the movie. It was getting dark in in my livingroom, which weighed on my spirits even more, but I had no energy, even to  search for the nearest light switch. I knew there was nothing to eat in the fridge, I’d been too overcome to do anything useful all week. A memorial pizza from Luigi’s, not frou-frou crustless caterer’s tea sandwiches, was the way to honor Brian’s memory. I lumbered over to the phone, and just as I put my hand on the receiver, it rang, making me jump and it made Machiavelli look up and rustle his wings.       

  In the dimness, I didn’t stop to check the caller ID; that damnable human compulsion just made me pick up the receiver and say hello.  At the same moment, Machiavelli said “HYEL-lo?”  mimicking Brian’s tone and inflection so perfectly, that for a second, I looked around for him.  Of course, Machiavelli would have picked up words that way, his perch always having been in easy earshot of Brian’s phone. Brian had always been an ‘active listener’; if I wanted to have my say, I’d learned to interrupt loudly, and even talk over him if I had to.   

    “Ms. Donaldson?” The adenoidal voice of  my least favorite harassing bill collector sounded puzzled by the double greeting. I just couldn’t deal with her now, so I held the phone out to Machiavelli.     

    “Yes yes, I’m listening,” Machiavelli cawed. He sounded so much like Brian again, that I felt my eyes prickle with tears.    

  “Ms. Donaldson, Ethan Allen has received no payments for your recent purchase of your bedroom furniture suite in the last three months. If you do not resume your scheduled payments, the store will be forced to repossess the items in twenty-one days.” 

How long? Twenty? Shit! Twenty? Shit!”  Machiavelli now sounded like me.  I pressed my hand to my mouth so this collection agency bitch wouldn’t hear me giggle even while my heart sank at this new low blow. I wondered how long it would take her to realize she was talking to a Mynah bird. I could picture her, a heavy-set bitter woman with a beehive hairdo and cat's eye glasses--a woman right out of The Far Side.

    “Kinda stuck, kinda stuck!”  

     “Hello?” Ms. RePo   now sounded suspicious even though her voice was faint with the phone receiver  away from my ear. “Is anyone there? Ms. Donaldson, is this some kind of joke?”     

      “Talking to the bird! Very helpful, very helpful!”

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I just got home from a wedding in Narbonne. I have had about 4 hours of sleep the entire weekend and am not functional enough to do much reading and commenting, but I came onto OS in spite of myself and boy am I glad I did! Your piece is the only one I'll read, because I have to eat dinner and (finally) get to bed, and it is AMAZING!!!! (your story, I mean, not eating an early dinner and going to bed because I can no longer funtion without sleep). I absolutely love it - the narrator's voice, the mynah bird, the way the situation (and even Brian's death) is quirky, but very sad, and there are so many deep truths here about losing a friend. I was moved when the bird sounded like Brian. This was a perfect balance of wacky and something that in a way could happen to anyone (though we hope it never will). Brilliant, brilliant job - and I LOVE the ending. This is sincerely one of the best stories I've read in a very long while, ANYWHERE! Great writing!
WELL DONE...well done. :D
My friend had a bird like that but I think we should train them all to speak with bill collectors.
Sympathies for your loss. One can only hope the bird becomes a better roommate, realizing how lucky he is to have you.
Rated and will return after I get packed to leave for USA.
@Hawley, Thank you, but this work is purely fictional. =o)
Really, this is terrific! r.
This is what is meant when people say "fictional truth." Because this is a wonderful picture of what a great relationship looks like. AND it's really fun!. GREAT piece of work!
This had me really going...Thanks!
“You’re a terrible influence on me,” I’d told Brian while we were in college. “Promise me you’ll never change.” HA! Enjoyable read this was and I wish you the best with the repeating birdie.
mi god shiral, you can write up a storm! love the twenty shit
What a tale, and fantastic use of the prompt. You might want to consider renting Machiavelli out to do screen calling.
This makes me so glad my dogs can't talk. They see so much, and discount anything that doesn't involve a) food or b) affection or c) disapproval. In that order. I'm just so happy that there's no one willing or able to post about the time I tried on my daughter's thong. I'm sincere when I say I would have looked a thousand times better nekked under Walmart lighting than I looked wearing that. Good thing the dogs can't type, eh?
Hello, everyone, thanks so much for reading and commenting! I just want to reassure everyone on a few points, mainly that this work is ENTIRELY fictional and not at all autobiographical.
1. I have lost friends to death in my past, but none within the past twelve months, and nobody named Brian. So I’m not home weeping into my tea.
2. I don’t own a Mynah bird. (Not a great idea in a two cat household.)

Hi Alysa, I DO wish you could work up some enthusiasm. ;o) Given your state of exhaustion after the wedding in Narbonne especially, thank you for taking the time to read and comment! Who knew so much could come from the letter M? Thank you, I was trying for that balance of Wacky and sad—I like tragicomedies.

Tg within, Thank you, thank you. =o)

Jramelle, thank you very much! Some stories fight me all the way, but this was one of those lucky ones that just come pouring out when I get out of my own way and stop over-thinking things.

Hi Linda, I was wondering where you were! =o) I got the idea from this story from a family I knew years ago who owned a parrot. The mother of that family LOVED to talk on the phone, so gradually, the parrot learned all his vocabulary from her. Whenever the phone rang, the person who answered would hold the receiver out to the parrot who always said “Hello” I can’t think of a better use for a talking bird than to sic them on harrassing bill collectors on the phone. =o)

Hawley, thank you. I guess I was more convincing than I meant to be! But all is well at my end.

Wendyo, Thanks for reading and commenting. Good luck with the packing!

Jon, thanks! Glad you enjoyed it.

Roger, thank you. Let’s hear it for misfits who find one another.

Algis, thank you. I’m glad you liked it.

Kate, thanks! I can’t think of a better use for talking birds other than to turn them lose on telemarketers and bill collectors.

Dr. Spudman, thanks. I actually did say that to my college roommate at one point. She could always talk me into going to Alf’s, a burger joint near campus that had fresh blackberry milkshakes that were to DIE for. Not that either she or I needed more milk shakes in our lives.

Sheila, thanks for reading and commenting!

Diananii, thanks! I’d better be careful, I don’t want to whip up the literary equivalent of Hurricane Irene.

Out on a Limb, Thanks! I f I had a Mynah bird, I probably would turn him on the telemarketers who interrupt me when I’m writing. =o)

Bellweather Vance, thanks! It makes me glad my cats don’t blog. =o) Those little blighters have a bit of dirt on me, I can tell you…
“See if I donate any more books to your stupid book sales!” I muttered. “And don’t call me ma’am.”

I felt like I was reading an engrossing novel...your dialogue and all encompassing story within such a small snippet. You told us so much in such a unique have a gift. truly. loved it.
Wow, great ending! You really took the prompt and ran with it. Well done.
hard to believe it’s fictional! felt so realistic. ! (: your a great writer. I strive for such perfection. Rated with envy (the good kind (: )
Totally. Frickin'. Brilliant!