The First Bird
and The Bad Karma Diamond
Theo is an African Grey parrot that has the unique ability to tell his own story. He is a channeled combination of Mark Twain, Dorothy Parker and Gandhi. We follow his adventures from 1938 San Diego through a colorful cast of keepers to present day Washington DC and the White House. Along the way we're treated to an irreverent insight into the human experience while Theo tries to unravel the mystery of The Bad Karma Diamond.
The idea for this book came to me on a boat trip from Lahiaina to the island of Lanai. I just wanted to read my book. The couple behind me were chattering like magpies about the flying fish and their trip to Avalon on Catalina Island in California. I remember thinking, "these people will never shut up. They're like a couple of parrots and parrots live a very long time." The next thought was, "Why not write a story from a parrot's point of view." I turned to my new best friends and borrowed a pencil and began writing notes that lead to this book. The book will be published in 2006. My publisher has agreed to offer the first chapter on this site.
I've chosen to partner with a wonderful organization to co-market the book, The Oasis Sanctuary. Oasis is committed to the preservation of exotic birds and is often the only alternative to euthanasia for birds who cannot be placed elsewhere. Oasis will receive a portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book.
How could an African Grey parrot could write a book? I didn't scratch the story into a patch of dirt hoping some scholar would find it and I didn't peck at a writing machine. I had help from an old friend. We grew up together, but none of that would be interesting or meaningful if it hadn't been for "The Incident." But, I'm getting ahead of myself.
I'd been living for about two years in the home of my first keeper, A Hawaiian named Kimo, when The Incident took place. His house rested on a hilltop overlooking the Pacific ocean Just north of San Diego. He'd named me Baby. Kimo's wife, and her insipid Chihuahua dog hated me but Kimo and his two-year-old son, Ricky, loved me. The males held a three to two majority. Some areas of the house were off limits to me, such as the kitchen. The misses kept the meat cleaver in the kitchen. She'd get a gleam in her eye when she sharpened that cleaver, glancing over at me.
When Ricky began to speak I would mimic his sounds and he would repeat them back to me. It was great fun. He had an impish spirit and was adept at creating plays with me as the leading character. He knew to handle me gently without being told or corrected. He is the only human I never once considered biting. I'd forgive him anything.
The day The Incident took place began as any other with Ricky and me playing on the floor. I heard Kimo's car door slam and watched him rush into the house. He hurried over to his desk and tumbled a clear stone out of a leather pouch he'd snatched from the middle drawer. He placed the rock in my water dish. What he was doing looked important so I didn't nip at his finger like I usually did when he intruded on my space.
"Be a good bird. Guard this with your life," he said.
Then he rushed out and sped off in his cherished Buick. The stone all but disappeared in the water. Knowing exactly where it was, I saw it plainly.
A short time later some men drove up in black cars with white doors. They were dressed in dark blue shirts and pants except one that wore a gray suit with a white shirt and tie that marked him as their leader. The leader had some white papers he called a search warrant, which clearly gave him run of the house. Andrea seemed pretty upset and picked up the black telephone on Kimo's desk. After yelling at the telephone for a few minutes, she returned.
One of the men in blue began opening drawers in Kimo's desk, removing things and making a general mess of the room. When one of Andrea's favorite lamps was broken, she shouted, "Who's going to pay for that?"
The gray suited man laughed to one of the men in blue, then turned to Andrea sneering. "Lady, when we find that diamond you're all going to jail, so why don't you sit down and shut your mouth?"
Then he jammed his hand in my cage and grabbed for my seed holder. I feared for my life, so I bit him. I really let him have it. This was a beauty, right down to the bone on his index finger knuckle. He let out a yell and reached behind his back, coming up with a handgun. I knew I was in trouble so I cowered in the corner of my cage.
He tried to use his gun but his finger was cut so badly he couldn't. This made him even angrier. He took a wild swing at me, knocking my cage off the table and onto the floor. I moved around in the cage trying to hide but all that did was move the cage under the table. I nestled down on my cage liner covering the stone that had fallen out of the water dish. I was inside my cage, under the table, looking up at a furious man making wild kicks at me as his blood dripped on the floor.
The assault stopped when Kimo and his friend Larry rushed into the room shouting for the police to stop their search. Larry had some other white papers that he showed to the intruders. Apparently some papers can cancel out others. What do I care? Paper is just cage liner as far as I'm concerned. The intruders eventually left. Kimo settled Andrea and Ricky down then came over to pick up my cage. He noticed I was huddled over the stone.
He said to Larry, "This is one smart bird. He didn't let that haole cop see the rock. Lookit him, sittin' like he gonna hatch that diamond. Aloha Baby. You a good bird."
Then he kissed me on the beak and fed me a cashew from his never-empty pocket. I liked that a lot. The way Larry looked at Kimo picking up the stone let me know there would be trouble ahead with Larry. Andrea steamed out of the room at Kimo's display of affection taking Ricky with her. Her displeasure was not lost on Larry.
"Sometimes, Kimo, I think you like that bird too much. Your wife isn't too keen on him you know."
"Shut your mouth Larry. You say anything else about this bird and I'll smack your head. I don't like this bird. I love him. He understand me like no one else, woman or man."
"Can we get back to business? We need each other. You need the money from the transportation of my gems as much as I need you to move them. Let's not be foolish about our arrangement."
"You think Kimo some stupid Hawaiian? You think I don't know you make big money off what I move around the world for you? I live fine without you and the trouble you bring. Police bust into my house, scaring my family, knocking my bird around."
"Kimo, you're drunk. You don't think for a minute that I had anything to do with the search do you? I'm your lawyer. I was the one who got them out of here, remember? Do us both a favor and get that stone to the man in Jakarta like we planned. Let's put this unpleasantness behind us, shall we?"
"I gotta answer for you Larry Stein. Here, take your damn rock and get outta my house now," Kimo said tossing the stone to Larry. My big Hawaiian friend looked like he was ready to pounce on the smaller man.
The stone tumbled end over end in a perfect arc toward Larry catching the light in flashes of brilliance. I let out a squawk as Larry managed to bobble the diamond, first with his right hand, then his left hand, trying to catch it. Instead, it bounced off his hand toward the floor. The stone hit the floor with a click and bounced into the sunlight streaming through the window. Keeping a wary eye on Kimo, Larry angrily walked over and picked up the stone, erasing the double rainbow it had cast against the wall.
"Don't never come back here Larry," Kimo fumed as Larry turned and left.
On his way out Larry said, "I'll be at my home if you want to talk. There is no need to break up our arrangement over this. I like you Kimo, but there are others who can move things for me."
Kimo silently seethed as Larry left the house. Then he looked at me and smiled. He placed me on my new perch, then gathered my cage, taking it outside for a cleaning, muttering slurs on Larry's ancestry.
As I preened Ricky entered the room as only a five-year-old can, bursting with energy and racing to discover new delights. He watched the white wall opposite the picture window as hundreds of rainbows shimmered. The sun had shifted and glinted off something close to where Larry had picked up the stone. I saw that that the pretty stone from my water dish lay under the chair in the corner. It had apparently caromed off one the lamp baubles the police had scattered. Larry must have picked up the bauble by mistake. I recognized the curious look on Ricky's face and knew the crooked little smile I loved was not far behind. The pretty rainbows had piqued his interest.
Evidently he wanted a closer look and bent over to where it lay on the floor, thumping his head as he did so. If another human had been present, he'd have cried. I fluttered down to the floor to be with my little partner. He was totally entranced by the spectacle of the stone. It seemed alive with light. I watched as the tiny rainbows, flickered and danced across the wall whenever Ricky passed the stone into one of the Sun's rays slanting through the window. As some of the rainbows fell on my wings, I felt illuminated inside and out, an odd experience. When I looked back to the stone it blazed with internal fire. I can't say how long we watched the dancing lights.
Ricky set the stone on the floor and spun it around. The effect dizzied me as it slowed. He spun it again and it hit a leg of the chair causing it to slide across the shiny wood floor toward the wall near the big hole where the heat comes out. Ricky crawled over to where it came to rest and tried to pick it up. As he did so it slipped out of his grasp and skidded across the crisscross grate toward the baseboard vent. I watched as the stone disappeared down a hole in the larger grate at the baseboard. It bounced a time or two inside the heater, landing with a small thump.
I recall thinking, 'Well, that didn't go well.' Had I only known.
Ricky's face showed that he knew he'd 'been bad' but in looking around he didn't see anyone but me. His crooked little smile had just a touch of mischief as he realized we shared a secret that could get us both in trouble. He stood, raised his right index finger to his puckered lips and left the room. His secret was safe with me.
My flight feathers had grown back but I was in no hurry to let Kimo know that fact. Some secrets are best kept to oneself. Kimo found me on the floor below my perch.
He laughed and asked, "What's up Baby? You fall off the perch?"
He gently picked me up and put me back on the perch while I tried my best to look like everything was normal. Kimo lined my cage with clean paper, got me fresh water and placed me back inside. I glanced at the floor vent and watched the sun slide into the horizon.
Sometime after nightfall I heard loud noises. Kimo had taken to draping my cage to keep me quiet at sunrise, so I couldn't see what all the commotion was about. I heard Larry's voice, then Kimo's voice. They started quietly but quickly began shouting.
"Where is the diamond?" Larry said. "You gave me a worthless piece of glass."
"What you talking bout," Kimo said. "That ting came off of the lamp those haole cops broke. You better quiet down or I'm gonna mess you up."