Drawing of a sulfur-crested cockatoo on a tree branch. Caption reads: "A sulfur-crested cockatoo named Kevin."

Kevin short story by Iris Carden

Settle in dear reader while I tell you the strange tale of Margaret, who wanted a pet for companionship, but found herself with something unexpected.

After the break-up of her marriage, Margaret was lonely. She’d been kept isolated from her friends and family for a long time, and only realised it now she was alone and had to try to rebuild some of the damaged relationships.

Feeling overwhelmed and alone, Margaret decided to get a pet, a companion animal who would keep her company. She opted to go to a shelter, to find a pet who needed her as much as she needed it.

She’d gone expecting to find a cat or a small dog. She left with a sulfur-crested cockatoo named Kevin. Staff at the shelter told her Kevin could talk, in fact he’d been returned to the shelter several times because potential owners had not liked the things he said.

Margaret knew birds didn’t understand the things they said, they just mimicked what they’d heard humans say. If he said inappropriate things, her lack of social life gave her plenty of time to teach him to say something new.

Kevin was soon set up in a corner of the lounge room, with a cage that was kept open when Margaret was home and could make sure he didn’t get into any danger. He had a big perch, and plenty of toys.

“Who’s a pretty birdie?” Margaret said.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Kevin replied.

“Kevin want a cracker?”

“Nah. Have you got a bit of apple or sunflower seeds?” Then he began to recite The Man from Snowy River.

If Margaret hadn’t known better, she would have believed Kevin knew what he was saying.

Humans are arrogant, dear reader, we often think ourselves smarter than other forms of life. Margaret was about to learn she’d misjudged this bird.

On Monday morning, Margaret said to the cockatoo. “OK Kevin, I’m off to work. You’re going to have to go into your cage for a while.”

Kevin replied, “Drive carefully. You never know when a tyre’s going to blow out.”

It was a very strange thing for anyone to teach a bird to say, but the shelter had prepared her to hear odd things from Kevin.

Margaret’s house was on the outskirts of town, and it took her twenty minutes to drive to work. As she was driving on a fairly quiet stretch of road, a semi-trailer came up close behind her. Margaret watched the huge truck in her rear view mirror, and mentally willed the driver to back off. The truckie, of course, did nothing of the sort.

Then her front passenger-side tyre blew. As she fought to wrest control of the steering, the truckie tried to slow down, and failed, hitting the back of her car and sending her spinning off the side of the road. The car came to rest against a fence, as the truck hurtled past, only to slow and stop further up the road.

Margaret was unhurt, but dazed, when the truck driver called an ambulance. After a brief visit to the hospital emergency department, she was cleared to go home.

The next day, as Margaret put Kevin in the cage, before she went outside to await a taxi to work, Kevin said: “Severe weather warning. Torrential rains. High winds. Hail.”

Margaret thought Kevin must have listened to a weather report at some time.

In the office that day, Margaret had a lot of work to catch up on, after missing the previous day. As she closed one client’s file and returned it to the file room, she glanced out the window, and noticed the dark, heavy clouds gathering, and the sky taking on that miserable greenish tint of impending hail. Trees in the park across the road were bending with the strength of the wind.

She chose another file from the secure file room and took it back to her desk. Outside a lightning strike hit transformer on the overhead power pole adjacent the building, as a massive boom of thunder sounded, sparks flew, and the power went out. Margaret and her co-workers were left sitting in darkness, with no access to their computers.

The manager told the staff to lock whatever files they were working on in the file room and go home for the day.

Gail, a co-worker offered to drive Margaret home, an offer she gladly accepted. As they were travelling along the same road where Margaret had suffered her accident the previous day, the ran began. It didn’t start gently, but with a sudden dump of water. It was as if they were driving through a waterfall. The wipers swished at their highest speed, but visibility was minimal. Then the hail began. Great rocks of ice thumped the car, and one smashed the windscreen. As they arrived, sodden, at Margaret’s house, Margaret suggested Gail park in the carport, and they wait the storm out inside.

They sat in the darkened house, with no power there either. Kevin dozed in his cage while they talked about the strange weather which had come out of nowhere. Gail said the morning weather report had been for sunny skies.

“I had a weather report that predicted this,” Margaret said. “Kevin mimicked a severe weather warning. That bird says the weirdest things.”

“You could earn real money with a psychic parrot,” Gail said. Both women laughed.

Kevin work up, saw his wire door was open, and climbed out to sit on top of the cage.

Gail called her car insurance company, and then her husband. The weather was affecting the mobile signal, and neither conversation was especially clear. She got the message across as best she could.

Kevin ruffled his feathers, and said in a sinister tone: “The visitor won’t make it home.”

“What?” Margaret said.

Kevin sang a verse of Waltzing Matilda.

The storm settled. Gail made her calls a second time. A tow truck came for her car, and her husband came for her.

At work the next day, she heard the news. Gail and her husband had stopped at a fast-food place to eat on the way home. A man with a gun and a mask had come in to rob the place, and Gail had been shot and died instantly.

Margaret thought back to what Kevin had said. Once or twice predicting things that actually happened could be coincidence, but surely not three times.

Her ex-husband called her at work. He wasn’t supposed to do that, and she was angry. Ben insisted that he be allowed to come to the house that night to collect some things he believed should be his. He’d already taken most of the things they’d owned together, and she had simply allowed him to do so, and bought replacements, accepting it as the cost of him getting out of her life.

He hadn’t been able to get the house, because it belonged to her grandmother, whose nursing home Margaret paid for. Margaret was grateful for that, because Ben had cost her so much.

Margaret decided he’d taken enough. She said no.

When she got home, he was there. Of course he was there. Her saying no hadn’t meant anything while they were together, there was no reason it would do so now.

She had changed the locks, but he pushed past her as she went inside.

“Hello loser,” Kevin said, as Ben entered the lounge room.

“Hey, a talking bird,” Ben said. “That’s so cool. Tell you what. Instead of the stuff I came for how about I take the bird? Let me have the bird and I promise I’ll never bother you again.”

Margaret thought about Kevin’s three predictions of terrible things, and how scared she was of whatever he would say next. Then she thought Kevin didn’t deserve to be left with someone as inconsiderate as Ben.

“I’m going with the loser,” Kevin said.

“Really?” Margaret asked, realising she was now conversing with a cockatoo as if the bird actually understood what it was saying.

“I’m going to have fun with the loser,” Kevin said, then began to recite, “I had written him a letter, which I had for want of better knowledge, sent to where I met him…..”

Margaret left Kevin to his rendition of Clancy of the Overflow, and turned to Ben. “I guess Kevin’s decided. He wants to go with you.”

“His name’s Kevin?”

“Yes. He likes sunflower seeds, and reciting Banjo Patterson.”

“You know, he doesn’t know what he’s saying don’t you?”

“I thought I knew that, before I met him,” Margaret said, “but I’ve come to wonder about that. If he wants to go with you, I’ll pack up his stuff. But remember, you promised, you get nothing else. In fact, I want you to write that down and sign it.”

She handed him a notebook and pen. He wrote the note, as directed, and signed it.

Margaret helped carry Kevin’s food, toys and cage to Ben’s car.

“Good-bye Kevin. It’s been an adventure. I hope you like your new home.”

“Get a cat,” Kevin answered. “You’ll like a cat.”

So dear reader, Margaret’s adventures with Kevin are over. She’s taken his advice and got a lovely ginger cat, named Marmalade. Marmalade’s another shelter animal. She’s only got one eye, but she’s a sweet cat who loves to cuddle.

Ben’s adventures are about to begin.

I invite you, dear reader, to look out for more:

Strange Tales

While you’re here…

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By Iris Carden

Iris Carden is an Australian indie author, mother, grandmother, and chronic illness patient. On good days, she writes. Because of the unpredictability of her health, she writes on an indie basis, not trying to meet deadlines. She lives on a disability support pension now, but her ultimate dream is to earn her own living from her writing.


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