T’ings gets real dark when y’ been livin’ in de slammer all yer life. Y’ starts t’ wonder if there’s any such t’ing as freedom. At foist I had a couple a buddies around, talkin’, laughin’, and goofin’ off. With dem close by, I could almost forget de walls. Den one day de Warden hauls me off and locks me up in Solitary. I ain’t seen m’ pals since.
Now and den I starts t’ dream, and in m’ dreams I’m always flyin’ wild ‘n‘ free on dose Australian plains. But den I wakes up and remembers who I am, just a sad green parakeet livin’ in a cage.
Now, t’ings ain’t all rotten here in Solitary. I get m’ seed regular, plenty of fresh water, and clean newspapers twice a week. De Warden, well, he may be some kind of a scribbler, but he ain’t a bad character. Now and den he unbends enough t’ talk t’ me.
“Hello!” He says, fillin’ m’ seed cup. “Say ‘hello!’”
“Not on yer life,” I t’inks t’ m’self.
“You’ll talk one of these days,” he says.
“I’ll never talk, bub,” I t’inks. “Y’ can’t make me.”
“Some day,” he says, grinnin’.
I watch as he plops down before dat black box of his dat whirs and hums. His fingers start clickety-clackin’ up and down.
“Just wait,” I t’inks t’ m’self. “I’ll be free, no matter what.”
Next day, when de Warden brings m’ seed, I sidle up t’ de door, real phony friendly. As he reaches in for de cup, I takes a quick nip at his fingers.
“Ouch!” he yelps, yankin’ back his hand.
Yeah! With a glad squawk, I squeeze t’rough de door, spread m’ wings, and sail across de room.
“Hey, stop!” de Warden yells, givin’ chase.
“Y’ wish!” I t’inks, flappin’ toward a patch of blue sky. Almost dere….
Bam! De next t’ing I know, I’m down for de count, seein’ stars.
De Warden’s footsteps t’under across de floor, but all I do is sit and stare at de sky. It’s so close. I hop towards it. Again, somet’ing blocks de way. I stare at de t’ing, and peck at it, too. It ain’t wires. It’s clear and hard, keepin’ me inside.
Helpless, I turn t’ de Warden. He’s just standin’ dere, watchin’ me.
“It’s called a window,” he says, quite calm. “This may be my home, bird, but it is also my cage. In some ways, I’m no more free than you are.”
Den he plucks me up, real gentle, and drops me back in de slammer.
After dat I keeps watchin’ de Warden. Most days, he spends all his time writin’, only leavin’ now and den, as if lettin’ himself out for a short flutter.
Den one day he comes stompin’ back, slams down a pile of papers and says, “That’s it. I quit! No editor will ever publish my story.”
“Listen to this,” he says, starin’ at me, kind of wild. “Do you think I’ve wasted my time?”
Den he reads, “Caesar glared at Marcus, and said to his Praetorian Guard, ‘Throw him to the lions. If he will not praise me, he shall be prey. Do not pray for mercy; all such prayers are vain.’”
Now, I don’t know who dis Marcus guy is, but it comes t’ me dat he’s a part of de Warden’s dream, his way of escapin’ de cage, and dat t’ ditch him would be a cryin’ shame. But how t’ make him understand?
“Hello! Hello!” I squawk.
De Warden blinks. “You did it,” he whispers. “You spoke.”
Now dat I got his attention, I repeat a woid I hoid in his story. “Prey! Prey!”
“Prey! Prey!” I screech.
Den he starts t’ laugh, a laugh like a sob, and droppin’ t’ his knees he starts talkin’ t’ someone, someone I can’t see.
“Father,” he says, “Can this be true? Did I really just hear my parakeet say ‘pray’? Pray! Yes, Father, I will pray, and perhaps you’ll help me understand how to change my story.”
He sits quiet, den says t’ me, “Thank you. You’ve done more for me than you realize. Now I’ll do something for you.”
Den he sits down and writes, and as he writes he reads, “It was on a hot Australian morning that a small egg hatched and a young parakeet was born.”
And as he keeps writin’ I see m’self out dere, sailin’ across an endless blue sky.
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