The Parrot Lover from Brazil


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December 21, Sarasota, Florida, 3000 block of Clark Avenue. Just before 5:00p.m.

Sometimes if you pause for a minute you become a captive audience in a world of strangers. The pausing gives someone else a chance to speak.

So there I was sitting outside on a bench on which was painted an advertisement I didn’t care to notice, waiting for my daughter Olivia. She had run into a convenience store to buy a cool drink.

I saw a petite, olive-skinned woman in her sixties with a crimson red scarf look at me and pause as she got into her white Ford Taurus. Was she looking at me or at someone in the window of the store behind me? It seemed like she wanted to say something, so I chose to help her by looking right back at her and giving her my full attention.

“Do you see the parrots over there between the trees?” she asked me. She pointed far away. It was an unusual remark from a stranger and it took me a minute to see what she was talking about. Then, I saw some distinct shapes on the telephone wires. At first they looked like the common birds I see back home in Ohio, but on closer inspection, and to my amazement, I saw by their hookbills that they were indeed parrots. There were several groups of them, perched side by side as close as possible to each other.

“Yes, I see them,” I said. Cars and trucks drove under them in rush hour oblivion.

“They mate for life,” she said.

How romantic, I thought.

“If one dies, it’s just terrible,” she went on. “The other will kill them self, by pulling their feathers out. I’m from Brazil, I know a lot about parrots.”

“That’s so sad,” I said, picturing a lone parrot with just a few feathers left on its wing.

“It’s beautiful up there, yes?” she asked me.

“Yes,” I said.

She smiled at me, got in to her car, quietly closed the door and started her engine.

I stared at the parrots . . . wild, in love on the telephone wire. I wouldn’t have noticed them if she hadn’t pointed them out.

The Man with the Novel Voice


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There was only one woman waiting at the doctor’s office when I opened the door. She was petite, with the kind of sterling gray hair we all wish for in old age. She held a Ladies Home Journal magazine close up to her nose and barely looked up as she saw me come into her line of vision.

I nodded hello. She barely acknowledged me. A few minutes of ensuing silence went by. She read and I flipped through torn magazines noting several missing pages. I considered staring into my phone, but decided that the doctor’s office desperately needed redecorating or should I say decorating, and I began imagining it transformed, beginning with a scarlet red paint on the walls, a large oriental rug ( a variety of plants, three at least consisting of jade, spider and fern. I considered the time of day 2:00p.m and the sun. A coffee table, that’s what was fundamentally missing in this room…. I weighed materials: Glass? No, not good for a doctor’s office, bamboo possibly, a …

Suddenly a large man wearing a white dress shirt and khaki pants opened the door. “Good afternoon, ladies,” he said like he knew us. His bass voice was so powerful, it could have rearranged our chairs. “I hope you all are having a good day.” .

Do you mind,” he said to Ms. Sterling Locks as he walked slowly toward an empty chair next to her, “if I sit here and look out the window for my mother?”

“No,” she murmured, mesmerized by this man. She pretended to keep reading, but. I could tell she wasn’t. Her magazine had lowered ever so slightly. Not a page moved. Not a rustle was heard.

They need music too in this office. I thought. A little “Bubbly” by Colbie Caillat would help.

I observed him carefully; I didn’t want him to think I was staring. He didn’t move an inch as he continued looking out the window for his mother, as if were the only job in the world.

He treated the doctor’s unattractive waiting room like someone’s home. I respected him for that. Somehow he had learned you don’t enter a space without greeting the people in it, whether they are strangers or not. And you don’t sit next to people unless you ask their permission.

I was sure that he entered all spaces the same way and I wanted to ask him about it. Just as I was thinking about how to word my question, the nurse called my name. I gathered my handbag and stood up. I only wish I could have seen how he greeted his mother. I imagined he fussed over her with that sonorous voice of his. Maybe he would even sing to her. What a lucky woman.