My Handsome Yellow Songster

I HAVE always wanted to have a pet dog, but my kid sister Cynthia has severe allergy. So we decided to have a pet bird instead, and we named him Terry. That was almost a year ago. My father bought us a canary, a handsome yellow songster who would delight us with such cheerful tunes almost everyday, especially when the sun is out.

Terry’s home is a hanging, bell jar-shaped birdcage, shielded from the elements by a wicker blind on the left corner of our balcony. We keep it clean twice a week, every Monday and Thursday. The duty alternates between my father and I—mine falls on Mondays, my father’s on Thursdays.

Bath days are joyful days for Terry. The moment I slide his other cage, a box-shaped wooden one, right next to his home, he’d be waiting in the wings with great anticipation, impatient to hop into his temporary abode, eyeing his porcelain bath dish, through its open door. Once his cage door goes up, he’d hop right into the dish. Dip, dip, wiggle, and splash! He keeps at this with a certain rhythm, his birdie boogie woogie. I enjoy watching him, always tickled by his glee—which is, honestly, the only fun part of my cleaning duty.

I don’t really care for clearing out the poop-splattered newspaper sheets at the bottom of his cage or showering the whole shell of his home and then drying it with a towel inside and out. That whole bit of cutting newspapers to size to line his cage isn’t exactly fun too, certainly not as fun as lining a cake tin with parchment. As for replenishing his seeds, that I don’t mind.

Last Monday, out of sheer lack of focus—I was zipping off WhatsApp messages back and forth—I swore I could have lost Terry. For some stupid reason, I hadn’t released the catch on his wooden cage door, so that it was wide open.

Just as I put my phone down on the kitchen counter, and walked right into the backyard with his now pristine cage, there he was, bobbing about by his wooden cage. He didn’t seem to register the shock and anxiety on my face, but merely continued to bob around and preen a little, poking at his left wing then right.

As gently as possible, I lay the cage on the ground, and began whispering: “Okay, Terry! Come along, come along, don’t fly away!”

Lucky for me (and him), he didn’t. He just hopped right into his cage as if it was the most natural thing to do when he heard “Come along!” I guess it was because he loved his cage so much that he knew better than to fly away. Imagine if he did, we’d all be heartbroken, and he would likely go hungry and lonely.

Randall Ng, Primary Six
January 2015

This essay is built around the theme “Narrow Escape” and takes, as a writing cue, a picture of a bird in a bell jar-shaped cage—one of three given picture aids.


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