The Grey Roost
How The African Grey Got Its Red Tail, Continued
The Yellow Wren flew away but soon came back. Again the Yellow Wren stuffed the young cuckoo with food. The Yellow Wren did this several times and the Little Gray Parrot watched in amazement. Finally the Little Gray Parrot said, "Cuckoo Bird, why does someone else feed your baby? Why donít you feed him?" "What a stupid question!" said the Cuckoo Bird. "Iím going on vacation tomorrow!" And he flew away. The Little Gray Parrot was amazed! When the Yellow Wren came back the Little Gray Parrot called out to her, "Yellow Wren! Yellow Wren! May I ask you a question?" The Yellow Wren first fed the young cuckoo, then flew down and sat on a springy shrub close to the Little Gray Parrot. "You must be quick," she said. "As you see, I have a baby to feed and cannot talk long." "I see you are feeding the Cuckoo Birdís baby," said the Little Gray Parrot. "I came all this way through the forest to ask you for some of your beautiful yellow color, but now you are tired. Your feathers donít shine like they used to. You used to be a spot of sun on a leaf, but now you are dull and used. Why do you spend all your energy feeding the Cuckoo Birdís baby until you are no longer beautiful? Donít you think that is a stupid thing to do?" The Yellow Wren looked long at the Little Gray Parrot. The Little Gray Parrot began to regret her words. Then the Yellow Wren lit on the ground beside the Little Gray Parrot. She smiled at the Little Gray Parrot an old, earth-worn smile and said, "Little Gray Parrot. What is in my nest is mine. When a baby cries for food I cannot be deaf. It is life calling to me. If I do not answer I have taken the bony hand of death into my own. We walk through the forest and only dry, spent leaves are in our path. I will not befriend him. Any life that comes to me I will preserve. I am often second in my own life. But in this, first in the earth. Do you understand?"
The Little Gray Parrot hung her head, and then looked at the Yellow Wren from her bright gray eye. "I do understand," she whispered, "I think you must be the smartest bird in all the forest! You give life, and that is the greatest thing on all the earth! You are a Mother, and love with a motherís heart. This is your true beauty, more radiant than yellow feathers. Your heart is yellow and warm as the sun. I will put this in my red wagon instead of a yellow feather." And she did. The young cuckoo began calling again for the Yellow Wren, and she kissed the Little Gray Parrot on the tip of her gray beak and flew away. The Little Gray Parrot watched her fly to her baby and again pulled her red wagon through the forest. "I only have one more bird to find," said the Little Gray Parrot. "But he is the most beautiful of all!" And the Little Gray Parrot went into the deepest shade of the forest, for that is where the Peacock lived. The Little Gray Parrot pulled her red wagon through the quiet darkness. She tugged and tugged it over tangles of roots and fallen branches. Soon the Little Gray Parrot was tired and stopped to rest. She sat on a fallen log and admired the green museum walls around her. Her gray eyes fell on Monet and Manet, and Van Gogh hiding in a corner painting daisies. Of a sudden the Little Gray Parrot heard a loud voice booming through the trees. "Ku-wow! Ku-wow! Ku-wow!" it said. It sang like Big Ben, it rang like Liberty!
The Little Gray Parrot was very pleased. This was the voice of the Peacock, and she followed his song along a crooked path until she found him sitting in a flowering tree. How beautiful the Peacock was! His neck was like the sky, and it shimmered like water! On his head he wore a crown that bobbed around on long stalks growing from his brow. And his tail was made of thousands of green, blue and golden eyes, each looking in a different part of the forest. And when the Peacock danced his tail rustled like a brideís dress, and all her ladiesí together! Surely the Peacock could spare a feather for the Little Gray Parrot to make God happy. Soon the Peacock jumped down from his perch. He gathered the ball-gown of his tail around himself, and began to tap his yellow feet lightly. Dust rose around his yellow ankles, and dry leaves too. In figure eights the Peacock danced, life on the parched earth. Green like Mother he was, and Blue like Father too, mixing the two worlds. The Little Gray Parrot watched the Peacock for a while feeling something akin to envy. Then she said, "Peacock! How beautiful you dance!" The Peacock stopped his stamping on the ground and looked at the Little Gray Parrot. "Thank you," he said, and resumed his dancing. Dust sprang up from the ground and mingled gold and green, and the Peacock danced and danced. The Little Gray Parrot was bewildered. "Peacock," she said, "I do not understand. People say you dance a beautiful dance when you are thankful for the rain." The Peacock bobbed his head beneath his crown. "Yes," he said, "I am thankful for the rain." The Peacock circled the Little Gray Parrot. He dropped one gold wingtip into the dust and drummed hollowly. "I am thankful for the rain," he sang as he danced. "Thank you God for the rain," he sang. The Little Gray Parrot coughed and brushed the dust from her feathers. The Peacockís dance was very dusty indeed! The Little Gray Parrot watched the Peacock dance. Finally she could not contain herself. She stamped her small gray foot and said, "Peacock! How can you be thankful for the rain? It has not rained for several weeks, and people say we are in a drought!" The Little Gray Parrot thought the Peacock was certainly silly!
The Peacock stopped dancing. He cocked his head to one side. Then he cocked his head to the other. Finally he said, "I am thankful for the rain even when it does not come. Should I only pray when I get my way?" he asked. The Little Gray Parrot looked at the Peacock. He was very beautiful with his backdrop of tail. He was beauty standing on two long, long legs. Finally the Little Gray Parrot sighed and said, "You are right, Peacock. We should be grateful whatever the weather. I came to ask for one of your beautiful feathers for you are rightly called the most beautiful bird in the forest. But your gratitude is more beautiful still. I will put that in my red wagon instead." And she did. The Peacock nodded to the Little Gray Parrot. His blue crown bobbed on the stalks on his head, and he began to dance again. The Little Gray Parrot turned her red wagon around and said, "Thank you, Peacock. I must go now for it will soon be dark and it is a long walk home." The Little Gray Parrot could hear the Peacock singing as she pulled her red wagon through the forest. The wishing star was already in the sky when she got home, and she was very tired as she put her red wagon away. "I donít have any more color now than I had this morning," she said. "My wagon is empty except for the ideas I put there. I will never be able to please God as much as the colorful birds do." She was very tired as she climbed into her bed high up in the tree. It was not long before she fell sound asleep as Mother drew her cobalt and white bed curtains around her. But God was still awake. He had watched the Little Gray Parrot pulling her red wagon all day. He watched her as she talked to the Jungle Bird and the Scarlet Parrot. He watched her as she talked to the Yellow Wren and the Peacock. And God was very pleased with the Little Gray Parrot for trying to please Him, and he looked down on her gray head sleeping on her gray bed and said, "My Little Gray Parrot. You went to ask the other birds to give you things to make you worthy of Me. But you could see what was truly beautiful in my creation. You gathered the most pleasing things into your wagon, although it appears to be empty. For this reason I will have you pull your red wagon behind you for the rest of time. In this way everyone on earth will know how you have pleased Me."
But the Little Gray Parrot simply slept, dreaming of the creation of stars. She woke again the next day to the voice of the Jungle Bird calling his brother into the sky. The Little Gray Parrot was still tired from the long walk of the day before. She was still disappointed she had no gifts for God. But she was a good little parrot, and got up to groom herself as she had been taught. Like the other parrots the Little Gray Parrot wore a little comb inside her beak to comb her feathers, and she began to preen and stretch her wings. How long and sleek her flight feathers were! How soft the storm-cloud gray feathers on her belly! After the Little Gray Parrot combed the feathers on her legs; she turned her head around to comb her back. But what a surprise! The Little Gray Parrot could hardly believe her gray eyes! For, much to her amazement, her tail had turned bright, bright red! She stared and stared at her new shining tail. But it did not change at all; it stayed bright red! It was redder than the Scarlet Parrot! It was red just like her wagon! All that day the Little Gray Parrot looked at her tail. When she walked through the forest she looked back to make sure it had not changed back to gray. And that night she tucked her beak under her wing looking back at her tail. All night she opened her eyes to look at her tail. But even the darkness did not change it back to gray. Even in the night the Little Gray Parrotís tail was red. How happy the Little Gray Parrot was now! She had the most beautiful red tail in all the forest! And to this day her tail is bright, bright red. And to this day it follows her everywhere she walks, swaying back and forth behind her just like a red wagon.
Author Falco, Timneh African Grey
Meet the Author! Falco is a ten year old African Grey Parrot who lives at Fletcher Publishing with her sister Faun, a twenty-eight year old Orange Winged Amazon, and her brother, Clarence, a six-year old Green Iguana. Besides writing and editing, Falco collects paper wads and "decorates" furniture, floors, walls, shoes, etc. Her favorite toy is a box of tissues. The Little Gray Parrot is Falco's first book. The Little Gray Parrot can be purchased directly from Fletcher Publishing. Please contact:
938 13th Avenue,
Huntington, WV 25701, located in the new Paisley Parrot Gallery for more information.
The Little Gray Parrot is also donated in memory of Fletcher Christian, a Festive Amazon, to The Oasis Sanctuary, a retirement home for special needs parrots and other birds.
All proceeds from purchasing the book from The Oasis Sanctuary go for the support of the feathered residents. Click here to buy The Little Gray Parrot from The Oasis Sanctuary.