Barnaby Rodriquez was a simple man living a simple life in a simple cottage. He had never married and that was just fine with him.
His two sisters Natalie and Kate were both married and that life suited them, but not Barnaby. Kate and her husband, Brian, lived in Texas on a ranch and had four sons. Natalie, on the other hand remained in their small hometown of Otus with her husband, Keith, and daughter, Amber. They lived just down the street and were often frequent visitors to the cottage. Amber thought the world of Uncle Barnaby and, though he hated to admit it, Barnaby was quite fond of Amber as well. It should have came as no shock to Barnaby when Natalie came to him with a request, but, it was.
“Because she is your niece and I am your sister and I haven’t a holiday with my Keith since our wedding ten years ago!” Natalie pleaded, “Besides, Amber adores you!”
“Humph! Amber adores my dog.”
“See, you’ve given her a playmate. Please, Barns.”
Barnaby huffed his disgust, “Natalie, you know I like my priv-”
The door slammed, “Uncle Barnaby! Look what I found!”
Barnaby glared at Natalie before turning to Amber who was waving a stick in the air, “A stick?”
“No, not just a stick. See? A cocoon!”
“Well, I can see it now that you stopped waving it.” Barnaby grumbled, “Bring it here!”
Amber flew over to Barnaby’s side, “It’s for a monarch butterfly!”
“Now who on earth told you that??!”
“You did, Uncle Barnaby.”
Barnaby looked over at Natalie who raised her eyebrows in mock surprise showing a bit of a smile. “Well, yes. Yes I did. Of course I did.”
“Do you think we could put this in your butterfly house and watch for it to come out? It should come out soon, right?” Amber looked up at him adoringly.
“Well, yes. It will, over these next few weeks, but you may not see it at your place.” Barnaby looked down kindly. “It could happen when you aren’t here.”
“Oh,” Amber looked thoughtful, “well, then I guess maybe I should get my stuff.”
“Well, I’ll have to stay here to see it, won’t I? You said!”
“What?!” Barnaby stuttered a bit and then looked accusingly at Natalie, “You planned this!”
Natalie put her hands up laughing, “No, I did not! I swear I didn’t!”
Barnaby groaned, “Well, I can see when I’ve been had. Fine. She can stay with me when you go but it better not be for long!”
Natalie, “Thank you so much, Barns!”
Barnaby looked from one to the other and then grumped, “Come on, Amber. Let’s go get the butterfly house from the shed.” He stalked out the door.
Amber walked over to her mother holding her hand in the air which Natalie high-fived. They both grinned at each other.
Amber arrived the next day right after church. Natalie came up the walk first carrying a pillow and suitcase followed by Amber holding something large under a tablecloth. She sat it on the side table next to the picture window.
“What’s that?!” Barnaby was suspicious.
“It’s P.J.!” Amber announced.
“PJ?!” Barnaby hooted, “Why didn’t you just pack them in your suitcase?”
Amber giggled, “Nooooooo. PJ, my parakeet, see?” She removed the cover.
“Now wait a doggone minute!” Barnaby roared. “Nobody said nuthin’ about bringin’ no bird over here!”
Amber’s face went to a pout, “But he can’t be alone. He’s get lonely!”
“Why you did, Uncle Barnaby, when you bought him for me when my bestest friend moved away. Remember?” Amber peered at him through her long eye lashes.
Barnaby glared at Natalie, “What are you giving this child?!”
“What do you mean?” Natalie looked confused.
Barnaby pointed at Natalie, “What are you giving her that sharpens her mind so well that she can repeat what I said verbatim et literatim?”
Amber’s forehead scrunched up, “What is tomato at libertine?”
“Verbatim et literatim. It’s Latin- means word-for-word.”
“I didn’t know you could speak Latinese.”
“It’s Latin and I can’t and you are also apparently good at getting one off-topic.” grumbled Barnaby.
“Wow,” Amber’s eyes grew large, “I’m good at a lot!”
Barnaby sighed, “Put the bird on that table and then go outside to play so I can get the last minute manual on caring for you from your mother.” Amber deposited the bird on the table indicated and skipped outside. Barnaby turned toward Natalie, “Now what do I got to do as far as getting her to school in the morning allowing me several hours at not being under oath?”
Natalie rolled her eyes and then administered the instructions.
The next morning was a-flurry as he awakened Amber for school. Once he was confident she was up and moving he proceeded downstairs where he decided to wash windows. He retrieved the supplies needed and set up the step ladder in the living room at the large window. Till Amber came down the stairs, hair brushed till it glowed, Barnaby was sitting at the kitchen table enjoying a cup of coffee, his mongrel, Mutsy, curled up at his feet. “Did you feed the pigeon?”
“It’s a parakeet, Uncle Barnaby!”
“Parakeet, sparrow, pigeon, ostrich, whatever! You need to feed it before school and make sure everything is shut up tight as a drum!” Barnaby shook his head.
“You have nothing to worry about. PJ won’t come out of his cage unless I call him. He is a very good boy! He’ll sit on my finger and I will talk to him. Unfortunately he never talks back, but I’m working on that.” Amber disappeared into the other room.
“Well, whatever you do with the eagle, do it quickly. We need to get to school!” Barnaby called. “I’ll go out and start the car.”
A minute later Amber was in his old Dodge and he pulled onto the street, “What about breakfast?”
“Already thought of that!” Barnaby tossed her a small silver package.
Amber held it up by the corner, “A Pop-tart? Really?!”
“What were you expecting? Eggs Benedict?”
“Mommy would never let me have these for breakfast.” Amber responded in a tattletale voice.
Barnaby looked over at her, “Guess what! Mommy ain’t here.” Amber rolled her eyes.
After dropping her off, he returned, parking in the driveway. Barnaby decided to take the long way in, going through his garden, inhaling the fragrance of the hydrangeas. Whipping his pocket knife out, he cut a few light blue and white ones to display in the house. Pausing at the tomatoes he noticed a large ripe one and picked that as well. He was startled when Mutsy started barking and hurried into the house to the living room where Mutsy was barking at the top of the ladder. Barnaby’s gaze followed the dog’s to spot a mostly blue bird. PJ!
Groaning, Barnaby ran over to the ladder dropping the flowers and tomato next to it and scurried up the ladder. When his eye level reached the top of the ladder, he stopped and looked at PJ, “Nice birdie! Good birdie! Now you sit there and I will mosey my way the rest of the way up and very gently pick you up and take you back to your cage.” Barnaby advanced another step and reached out for the bird…. but the parakeet wasn’t there, “What the tarnation?!” Barnaby looked up again to spy PJ had flown up to the top of the curtain. Sighing he advanced two more treads, reaching up to grab the wayward bird, “Gotcha! OUCH!!!!” Jerking back his bitten hand, he lost his balance, felt himself falling and suddenly, with a hard thud, everything went black.
When he came to, he was holding a feather. The room was blurry and it took a moment to realize his glasses were no longer on his face. His entire body ached, especially his head. Barnaby was mentally checking over his whole body to make sure there were no broken bones when he realized there was a lump underneath him. Rolling over he picked up whatever he was lying on top of and and looked at the bloody blue blob realizing with a sickening feeling what it was, “Oh no! I killed it!” Barnaby brought it closer to his face for a better look. That was when he smelled it…… tomato and hydrangeas. Blue hydrangeas. “Of all the fool things!” He flung them away, “When I find that bird, I’m going to kill it! So help me! Gotta find my glasses.” He felt around the floor for a minute locating them near his foot. That was when he realized how much his foot hurt. Carefully pulling on his slightly bent glasses he surveyed his swollen foot. “Argh! Where are you, you cotton picken’ bird?!!” He visually inspected every inch of the room from his spot on the floor until he spotted PJ, on his perch, in his cage, head tucked under his wing, sleeping.
A week later he was sitting with his wrapped foot propped on a pillow on the davenport with Amber putting a puzzle together at his feet, dog curled next to her, bird cage next to him….. wired shut. “Oh my word! What happened?!!!” Both looked up to see Natalie staring at his leg.
Amber flew across the room, “Mommy! I didn’t hear you come in!”
Natalie sat on the nearby glider, “I can see that. What happened to Uncle Barnaby?”
Barnaby and Amber looked at each other and then Barnaby spoke up, “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you!”