Blue-naped Parrots See More Than They Say by Judy Darley

I date Brodie while I’m visiting Seattle. He shares a draughty old house with a bunch of roommates, including a blue-naped parrot who lives in a big cage looking out at a treehouse. The parrot cries “Good night!” every dusk and “Good morning!” every dawn.

I whisper snippets of scandal hoping the parrot will tell Brodie I’m not as sweet as he believes so he’ll stop treating me like a girl made from glass.

Brodie claims he’s Welsh. I narrow my eyes at him and his West Coast vowels, and he shrugs. “My mom’s great, great grandmother was born near the Brecon Beacons.”

At least he’s heard of Wales. “My mum’s great, great, great oma came from Borneo, when it was a Dutch protectorate,” I say. I imagine a tall woman with burnished hair swirled into plaits like a crown of baked goods, but when I see her perched in Brodie’s treehouse, she’s no bigger than the parrot. Her hair is flowing and white, reflecting the sunset’s pinks and yellows. The sky has been shedding feathery snow all day. 

“Can I go in your treehouse?” I ask Brodie.  

He frowns. “It wouldn’t be safe.”

He doesn’t know I suck danger into my mouth like toffee licorice at every chance.

Brodie is almost a decade older than me at thirty-two, which makes me think he must be very mature. Yet he shares a home with pals and looks like he doesn’t quite know how to get his life started.

The next morning my ancestral oma sits in the treehouse swinging her legs. Her hair glimmers with the cinnamon and orchid pinks of sunrise.

I tell the parrot Brodie needs to wake up and stop being so cautious.

“Good morning!” the parrot replies.

I lace my sneakers, creep out of the backdoor and clamber up the rope ladder. The moss-stained rungs are so cold my hands ache. I haul myself into the treehouse and hug my knees tight.

Oma perches on a nearby bough. She smiles at me. “A hornbill in Borneo seals herself into a tree to protect her young, but only after ensuring her partner can adequately provide.”

I scowl. “Is that meant to mean something?”

“Only if you want it to.” 

Her hair shines as blue as the sky, as green as spring leaves.

Brodie will leave soon to drive to downtown Seattle. If I don’t share that ride, I’ll need to catch bus after bus after bus. I gaze at his bedroom window and try to muster the nerve to admit I’m too scared to climb down.

“What will happen to me?” I ask.

Oma squeezes my hands. “Eventually you’ll marry your old boyfriend and have a job in an office, but you’ll never grow out of wanting your own parrot and treehouse.”

Distantly, I hear Brodie yell.

Oma spreads her fingertips into feathers. She flutters upwards and twinkles out of sight. 

I cup my hands to my mouth and call Brodie’s name.

Judy Darley lives in southwest England. She is the author of short fiction collections The Stairs are a Snowcapped Mountain (Reflex Press), Sky Light Rain (Valley Press) and Remember Me to the Bees (Tangent Books). Her words have been published and performed on BBC radio and aboard boats, in museums, caves, a disused church and artists’ studios. Find Judy at;

attentive macaw with colorful plumage resting on tree twig
Photo by Victor Pace on
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