Carla leaned out her window and yelled down to the boy on the street. “And don’t smash the bread this time!” He waved a hand at her without looking up, and she laughed out loud. “He’s gonna smash the bread again,” she said to the parrot swinging in his cage next to her sofa.
The parrot merely blinked at her, shuffling his feet along his perch. The parrot had never spoken, as long as Carla had known him. He was an inheritance from her favorite aunt, who passed suddenly four years ago after a brief battle with cancer.
She sat down on the sofa next to the parrot and dug through the cushions until she found the TV remote. When she turned the television on, she was pleased to see two women screaming at each other on a court show. Carla grinned and dropped the remote next to her, where it sneakily began to slide back between the cushions from whence it came.
A little less than an hour later, long after Carla dozed off to petty court battles, she woke to a knock on her door. She checked her watch and realized that it must be David, back with her groceries.
David grinned at her when she opened the door, and held up a single brown paper grocery bag. Carla sighed, knowing that her loaf of bread would be all the way at the bottom. She passed David a five dollar bill and told him to tell his mother that she said hello before closing the door and bringing the bag into the kitchen.
Sure enough, the bread was smashed at the bottom of the bag. Carla shrugged. It still made pb&j’s, just not the prettiest of pb&j’s. And at least David never brought her broken eggs. She poured herself a glass of lukewarm orange juice before putting that away in the refrigerator, and leaned against the kitchen counter, slowly sipping to make room for the vodka that she always added.
Vodka bottle in hand, Carla returned to the couch, where she dug once more for the remote, and turned the TV off. She topped off her orange juice with a shot of vodka and picked up the paperback romance novel that rested on the coffee table, licking her thumb to more easily flip through the pages until she found where she had left off.
Just as she was getting into the story, the parrot rustled in his cage. She set the book in her lap and cocked her head to watch him. He was a beautiful bird, and excellent company in spite of never speaking a word.
The parrot turned his head to meet her eye with his own, and squawked, “Ronald.”
Carla was so taken aback that she jerked, knocking her book to the floor and nearly dropping her screwdriver.
“Ronald!” The parrot repeated, more insistently. “Ronald!”
Carla’s eyes nearly bulged out of her skull. “That’s not my uncle’s name, so that must be yours. Nice to meet you, Ronald.”
The parrot agreed. “Ronald!”
Carla spent the next three hours trying to explore Ronald’s vocabulary, but it seemed that the only word he would say was his own name, which was plenty good enough for Carla. She just hoped that he would stop saying it before bedtime.
Rick sauntered down the alleyway, following his nose. His nose had an eye for trouble. He cocked his head to the side as the strains of Blue Oyster Cult trickled down from an open window high above him.
“Turn that up, will you?” His voice shouldn’t have been loud enough to carry that high, but it did, and the music player obliged. Rick carried on, headed straight for the graffiti artist near the corner of the building.
“Nice job you’re doing there,” he said, admiring the work. “I’d say, complex in its simplicity.”
The tagger looked up from his spray paint cans and squinted at Rick, trying to decide how to take that comment. He was only writing profanity on the wall, but he was trying to be artistic about it. He decided Rick was sincere.
“Alright, thanks man.”
Rick took a step closer. “I just got back from Idaho. Can’t find good work like that there. Well, maybe in Des Moines, but I didn’t spend much time in the city.”
The artist lowered his can, turning his body to face Rick. “I thought Des Moines was in Iowa.” He was starting to look a little more concerned about Rick’s motives.
Rick laughed. “You got me, man. I ain’t never been out of state.” He held out his right hand, as if to shake. When the other man tentatively reached out, Rick snatched his hand back and spit on the ground. “Pick up your shit when you’re done. We don’t like littering in this neighborhood.” He jammed his hands in his pockets, spun on one heel, and walked off.
“What a weirdo,” the artist muttered to himself, turning back to his profanity.