It was the ugliest thing she had ever seen. The caterwauling made it worse; it sat in what had been the budgie cage, screaming murder–she was sure of it, because nothing good could be screamed about in such a foul manner. “Quit looking at him like that; he doesn’t like it,” Joel reprimanded and stood with crossed arms on the other side of the kitchen. She took notice that he did not approach.
“How do you know it’s a he?”
“The man told me,” Joel rolled his eyes as if the answer was nearly too obvious to speak aloud.
“And you believed him?” She hushed as Joel seemed to swell with upset.
“Now see here, Audrey,” he came at her, pleading. “How can you be so cruel? Don’t you like Patrick?”
“You named it–”
“–after my brother?! Oh, Joel–how could you?” She examined it unnoticed by a sideways glance; it favored a marsupial with its prehensile thumbs, but that was where the similarity to a normal mammal ended. The claws looked sharp as it clung to the bars; she worried about its strength. It yawned to expose three rows of sharp teeth. She grinned at the horror of it, at which point it noticed her again and began screaming anew.
Joel reached as if playing a spirited game of “Twister” and, without stepping closer, grabbed Audrey’s arm to tug her into the living room. “Leave him alone.”
“I didn’t do anything! I was trying to understand what it–”
“–is! Oh, Joel–that thing is simply frightful and you’ve gone and named it after my brother! How awful. What will he think when he gets back?”
Joel pouted. “I bet he’ll think it’s swell. After all, I got it for him.”
“That’s what I was trying to tell you. Your brother sent me a picture of one when he was stationed on Ceres. They live in cave pockets there that have atmosphere much like here. Sure, theirs has a smidge of underlying sulfuric acid but without that they still do fine. All the manuals say not having the acid makes them more docile anyway.” Joel puffed out his chest a bit, as if he was proud of his knowledge.
Audrey sighed. “And from whom did you procure it?”
He gave her a dreadful look but did not correct her, having accepted the fact that she refused to recognize Patrick as a male. “He said he was a trader from Europa,” he mumbled.
“You actually bought something from a Jupitatian trader?” She bellowed. “Joel, you know they’ve been banned from trading inter-world since the 25th century! They lie, they steal, and they cheat!” She paused long enough to purse her lips at him. “You really don’t know what that thing is, do you?”
Joel shrugged and end to the discussion. “It doesn’t matter. Your brother liked it, so I got him one, and that’s all there is to it.”
“Joel, what does it eat?”
He looked at her with a dismay so intense it made her heart hurt. He scrambled for his mobile phone and dashed from the room. “Hello,” she heard him through the door, “is this the Europa Trading Company? Yes, I made a purchase from one of your merchants earlier today and I have a question.”
Please don’t ask me why.
Okay; I’ll tell you. I was washing dishes and thought about parrots. I’ve never had one but the image came to me of what it must be like. Bird, cage, talking; I think that about sums it up. My imagination took over from there and voila–Patrick was born! The Cave Mistress has a collection of weird little ditties. Pop over to the primary blog (One Starving Activist) and check out her collection of short stories called “From Reality’s Edge” for more…