Sunday, December 19, 2004


And then, before he was ready for them, before he had stood at the top for even a minute, the parrots appeared. David heard a cry answered by a clamor that sounded like a troop of chimps in the trees, and at that moment a dozen or so of the birds flew out of the thicket toward him. They were bright green, and the flock banked together in formation in the sunlight. Their orangish underwings flashed in unison as they headed north toward Fisherman's Wharf. Even at that distance, with no special training as a birder, David recognized them. They were Little Wittgenstein birds, cherry-headed conures.

The sight made David so excited he shouted, "Wait!" at the retreating flock. A man standing nearby on a deck, talking on his cell phone, assumed that David was shouting at him. He put a hand over the receiver and shouted back, "The guy you want to see is down there." He pointed up the street, and following this indication, David found Greenwich Stairs, which dived sharply in several flights into the trees below.

He had not chosen this, David thought. Out of the blue his father had given him a parrot, and this chain of events had begun, which now included finding the birds in the palm tree on Dolores and meeting Henry Peak with his directions and now this stranger with a cell phone virtually ordering him down the stairs. But a sense of fate kept him going. Though more of the same was sure to follow if he went down there, he had to put side any doubts he still had. He had come this far. Who was he to object, if it were fate? David descended the steps into the shade of the trees.

Jim Paul, Elsewhere in the Land of Parrots
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