Saturday 24 June 2023

'Jailbird' by Minglu Jiang

My cellmate had a trio of pet parrots named after the Three Tenors. Emphasis on “had.” When he got nicked, he used his one and only phone call to tell his brother that Luciano, Plácido, and José need fresh produce 4 times a day, water dishes cleaned and replenished as often, pages from the latest issue of The Strad at the bottom of the cage, at least 3 hours out of their cages daily and ceiling fans and electrical wires and hanging lights, all those things that exist not in the amazon parrot’s natural habitat, removed.

My cellmate was an operatic bass who starred in every high school production despite his lack of falsetto. He attended Colburn and didn’t pay a penny and didn’t receive any either after graduation. 2 days after we met, he came down with a delirious fever and raved lovingly about Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. My only experience with music was as a roadie for a friend’s shit punk band that dressed like they knocked off a Hot Topic clearance. They probably did. We were that broke.

Luciano, Plácido, and José died in less than a month and in that order. With proper care, the amazon parrot’s lifespan is about 30 years in captivity. My cellmate wept and it made me angry. He loved those birds, he said. But if God intended birds to fly, caging them must equal suffocation, and what sort of love is that?

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