Scarlets and Cubans


Second prize winner of the 2nd Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest.

Their names were Leland, Groucho, Ricky, Mindy ii, Dale, Andy, Captain Hijinks, Wilbur, Sailor, Agnes and Louise. Four females and seven males, not that it matters a whit when your genitals are the size of a bitten-off hangnail. Maybe it mattered to them, I don’t know or particularly care.

Dale was a female, in case you’re wondering. Named after Dale Evans, Queen of the West. People get confused, especially kids, a lady macaw named Dale, but a name’s a name and you can’t go changing it just because it doesn’t square with someone’s idea of what a name ought to look like. Dale Evans’s first husband before Roy Rogers was named Butts, so there you are.

I know what you’re thinking. Lonely man keeps birds as surrogate children, names them after dead relatives and old-timey TV characters. Loony old guy dies alone in La-Z-Boy, is found by neighbour, eyes pecked out and neck deep in guano. Pathetic geezer in sailor that picks bird mites out of underwear for kicks. I’ve heard it all, and when no one would stoop to speak to me, not even brats with candy floss gummed to their chins, I saw it in their nickel-bright eyes. I don’t give a rat’s patootie, as they say.

They were all Scarlet macaws except for Ricky, who was a Cuban macaw, so he felt right at home in Miami, ha ha. Andy was blue but he was Scarlet, and Ricky was scarlet as a monkey’s nether regions but he was Cuban. It’s funny how these things work. When Ricky went down the slide his toenails went scrit scrit scrit like he was trying to get a grip on things.

My wife used to call them parrots. I said that’s like calling the Hope Diamond a rock. She said people do call them rocks, and what’s more, some people even buy them for their wives. Har har, I said, that’s funny, Mindy, have you given Wilbur his vitamin supplement?

It’s hard not to feel the clutch of nostalgia when I think of the old technicolour days, before digital cameras made everything clear and focused like you’ve just woken from a coma. First time I saw one of those things was in the sweaty paw of a young guy from Omaha or Manitoba or somewhere equally flat and desperate, with greased hair and breath like pickle brine. He was taking pictures, giffs or tiffs or jaypegs or whathaveyous, of his lady friend standing next to Leland’s swing set and the chariot racing arena.

Do they like doing tricks, the lady friend asked—whether him or me I couldn’t tell. They’re birds, ma’am, I said, they do what they’re trained to do.

Well I think it’s miserable, she said. They just want to be free.

Lady, I said, you don’t know the half of it.



Anna Leventhal lives in Montreal and writes fiction and nonfiction. Her first book of short stories, Sweet Affliction, was published by Invisible Publishing in spring of 2014, and is available in bookstores across Canada, and online. You can follow her on Twitter at @annalevz.



Dogs Fall in Love at First Sight, You Know

Honourable mention in the 6th Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest.


Honourable mention in the 3rd Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest.

What I Want to Say

Runner-up in the 2nd Annual Geist Literal Literary Postcard Story Contest.