Christina had a parrot that growled. Cleo noticed it immediately when he visited her flat. She happily waved him inside and took a slight bow, like a doorman for a grand hotel, and in he went, happy to do so, until a big, fat green with a hard, awful voice growled at him from atop a soiled sofa.
It was a green, a shade of green, an amorphous, bilious color on the beat up hunk of furniture as if painted in a mad swipe by a disturbed god that abhorred the vacuum of sane things. It beat its useless wings and growled.
It did not squawk or squeak or ask for a cracker; it growled, like a burp loosed from some green hell lorded over by evil peas. Cleo recoiled from it before he ever knew it was a parrot. A deep, subconscious part of him, that most instinctual sense of the rightness and wrongness of the world, knew his fingers and toes and protuberant extremities wanted no part of it. Christina laughed and asked him to meet Cookie, her pet.
She extended her hand and let the mobile mildew stain bite and crawl its way up her arm until it was gnawing on her ear. Smiling the smile that had emboldened Cleo to ask her on the date in the first place, she bent her shoulder to his face for Cookie to give him a kiss.
It grew in Cleo’s vision and he watched it like a rapt third-party, incapable of moving his own stiff legs, his insides squirming with the impending contact. Cookie growled again, its aduncous beak snip-snipping like a scissor’s edge grubby with feces and sunflower seeds. Cleo screamed at it, and it growled, and he slapped it, the bird flying wildly – not flying at all, really – tumbling off Christina’s shoulder and striking the sofa, bouncing off the bare floor and scattering feathers like wispy husks of desiccated boogers. The bird growled and launched itself at Cleo’s sneakers, trailing its meaningless wings behind it like the green trains of a goblin bride. Cleo kicked it hard, while Christina screamed over its gastronomic growls and his frantic apologies. It somersaulted in the air and sailed on its raggedy wings – just shy of missing the spinning blades of the ceiling fan before a cross wind threw it aside and blew the thing into a thousand emerald pieces.
Cleo threw himself down the front porch of Christina’s flat, chased by the girl and the bits of Cookie clinging to her hair. He looked back once to see her pick one out in breathless disbelief, its shape that of a twisted shamrock, hollow bone listing in the cold March wind.
There was not a second date.