One night, before going to bed, Luisa’s father mourned:
“We are happy, we lack nothing, but I do not understand why I always have the impression that we lack anything.”
The mother thought for a moment and said:
– It is true! I have the same impression. I think what we lack is a pet.
– Ah! Yes, I… we, ”said Luisa, who would also like to give her opinion.
Without paying attention to him, his father continued:
– You’re right! To feel really good in our home, we need a domestic animal. I would like to have a dog. It can be carried everywhere and is an easy-to-teach animal that obeys the slightest wink. By the way, all my colleagues have one!
– Oh no! Replied the woman. – A dog smells bad and can even bite. I preferred a cat. It is a more independent, cleaner animal. And it’s so nice to hear you purr!
“Maybe, but you can’t leash him and a cat just does what he wants!” A cat, no way! – answers the husband.
– And I … – Luisa becomes, but does not continue because nobody listens to her.
The next day, as they had not yet been able to reach an agreement, Luisa’s parents decided to go to an expert, a pet trader. They reviewed all the pets in the store, unable to make a decision.
Already saturated with hearing them, the shop owner suggested them a parrot.
– A bird that speaks up is original! The parrot is a very intelligent animal: it can learn whole sentences and repeat them without the slightest mistake! It can scare the thieves and guard the house. In addition, the wonderful colors of your plumage will make a beautiful effect in your living room. And he bragged about the qualities of the parrot with such pride that it was like talking about a son.
Her arguments were so convincing that Luisa’s parents bought the bird. Also advised by the store owner, they also took the book How to Teach Your Parrot to Speak.
Returning from school, Luisa was dazzled to see the parrot at home, since she had long had this desire hidden, but never revealed it.
He pulled the sofa in front of the cage and sat staring at the beautiful bird for a long time. So much so that you even forgot to watch your favorite television show. He was also watching her out of the corner of his eye as he bounced from swing to swing with a very busy air.
That afternoon Luisa had been invited to play at a friend’s house. The father also went out for a bike ride with his friends, so the mother immediately began parrot education, and decided to give her the first lesson. He opened the manual and read the first sentence very carefully:
– Good Morning! I am a beautiful parrot. I’m fine thank you! And how are you?
The parrot just looked at her calmly.
For an hour the mother tirelessly repeated:
– I’m fine, thanks, thanks. And you… and you…
When, already hoarse, he stopped to rest, he found, amazed, that the parrot slept soundly.
Disappointed and tired, she spent the rest of the afternoon watching television.
During this time his father bragged about the qualities of his parrot to his friends, who listened to him with, it must be said, a tinge of envy. Not all people are lucky enough to own such a unique pet.
When he returned, the woman told him of his disappointment.
– This parrot is for nothing. He refused to speak and fell asleep at the first words of the lesson.
– It’s because you didn’t know how to teach it. You’re sometimes very clumsy, ”he said with a shrug. “Tomorrow morning, I’m going to take care of him!”
The next day was a Saturday, and as soon as he had breakfast, his father sat in front of the cage. He looked at the parrot very harshly and said to him in an authoritative tone:
– My dear parrot, you have to learn to speak! So you will listen to what I tell you, you will be obedient and repeat to me: I am a happy parrot!
And articulated very clearly:
– I… AM… ONE… PARROT… HAPPY.
The bird looked at Luisa curled up on the couch and flapped her wings slightly. Then he shook his head and closed his eyes.
– I told you so! Exclaimed the woman triumphantly.
The father decided to continue the lesson in the office, face to face with the parrot.
They heard him repeat incessantly all morning:
– I… AM… ONE… PARROT… HAPPY.
– I… AM… ONE… PARROT… HAPPY.
– I… AM… ONE… PARROT… HAPPY.
– Hey, don’t fall asleep! Go, repeat, or I still twist your neck! He shouted at times, annoyed.
Through the morning his voice grew weaker and weaker, and the phrases the parrot was meant to say grew shorter and shorter.
– Says: Quim, Quim, Quim… thank you… yes… very well… thank you…
Still tried some:
– Pope Pope.
Then there was absolute silence.
At lunch, Luisa’s father looked so worn out that he seemed to have spent the morning carrying boulders. He said bitterly:
“If they had listened to me, we would have bought a dog.” Now my friends will make fun of me. It even hurts my throat. The parrot’s dork almost made me speechless.
– But he’s not a parrot! Said Luisa very softly.
But parents were too busy arguing about dogs, cats, and parrots to pay attention to.
They then decided to take the parrot to the shop owner.
This time, Luisa was allowed to accompany them. Sitting in the back seat with her cage on her knees, she looked sadly at the bird, repeating:
“But I tell you, you’re not a parrot!”
Not trying to figure out what she meant, her parents told her to shut up:
– Luisa, that’s enough! We’re very disappointed too, so don’t say anything more! We already have enough hassle.
Luisa’s father addressed the store owner:
“You assured me that this parrot is intelligent, capable of saying whole sentences, when at last he is unable to repeat it, pa!”
“It’s dumber than a fish and stupid than a chicken.” The only thing you can do is sleep. You can’t teach him anything, ”the woman adds.
“Maybe it’s silly or too young, quite simply.” Anyway we would rather…
– New? It’s seventy-five years old! Replied the salesman, without giving his father time to explain that he wanted to exchange the parrot for a short dog or, why not, a Siamese cat. Luisa’s parents looked at each other in surprise.
– What? Seventy-five years? So maybe it’s too old.
“Not at all,” exclaimed the merchant, already frowning. “Let them know that is the right age to teach you how to speak,” he added scornfully.
His father felt a little more comfortable with the idea of buying a good quality parrot. But the woman insisted:
– Anyway, your parrot doesn’t talk!
– But it’s not a parrot! – Luisa tried again, very afraid.
Busy arguing, no one listened to him.
– A little patience! We didn’t learn everything in one day either, ”concluded the trader.
‘Well,’ sighed the resigned mother, ‘we will have to accept this annoyance patiently. Seeing, a parrot is not such an ordinary animal!
The husband was of exactly the same opinion. Once home, Luisa insisted:
“Why don’t you listen to me when I say you’re not a parrot?”
“Of course it’s a parrot,” her already angry mother replied. – All it takes is a little patience.
Stubborn, Luisa repeated.
– But it’s not a parrot!
“So what is it, you smartass?” Shouted his father, already out of his mind. – Is it a penguin?
– No, it’s just not a parrot; It’s a big deal! Said Luisa finally.
– Exactly! Replied the bird energetically.
– He speaks! Our parrot talks! Shouted his father.
“It’s not a parrot,” her mother corrected quickly, seeing that the offended bird was about to close its eyes again.
“Well, let it be a big deal then,” said his father, happy in his life for not being upset. Then he addressed the bird.
– Repeat: My name is Quim.
“But do you think I’m a machine or an answering machine?” – asked the annoyed mammagaia. I hate to repeat the same thing twice; and I can’t call myself Quim!
“Mamagaias never repeat what they are told,” Luisa explained.
“Exactly,” said the mammagaia. “What if they gave me some peanuts now?”
The mammagaia was then very sociable and conversational. At night he recounted all the adventures he had lived in his seventy-five years of existence. He had traveled the world a lot, spoke thirteen languages fluently, and said he understood twenty others. Father and mother didn’t even believe what they heard.
But the surprises were not over yet. When it was time to go to sleep, Mamagaia whistled Mozart’s “Eine kleine Nachtmusik”. Luisa was allowed to hear it all to the end, and to take to her room – just for one night – the cage of “her” mammagaia.
Late in the afternoon, a huge noise roused Luisa’s parents. It was as if an orchestra of flutes, cymbals and drums had entered the stage.
– Again the neighbors of the fourth floor, I’ll bet! Snarled his father.
– No. I think this comes from Luisa’s room. Corrected the woman.
As soon as they opened the hallway door, the noise stopped completely. Intrigued, they glanced at Luisa and Mamagaia. Both slept peacefully. It could be said that the moon, which lit the room with a soft moonlight, smiled with malice.
Her parents tiptoed out of the room, unheard of, and thankfully, the giggles that Luisa and Mamagaia tried to stifle with difficulty. Rafik Schami You’re the one with a perroquet! Paris, Actes Sud, 1996