Huffy                   Jean A Callender



“ A Budgie!”

Joseph Dinnie stared at his son and daughter in law as they stood in the living room of his small flat.  James was holding a cage which he set on it's stand before lifting off the cover.  Inside was a small yellow green bird. It shuffled on it's perch and gave it's feathers a shake.   It had not enjoyed the journey across the town in the bumpy car one little bit.

“Meet Huffy, Dad” said James.

Joseph looked suspiciously at the bird.

“What am I to do with a budgie?” he asked.

“We want you to look after him for two weeks Dad.  Eilish and I are caravanning with the kids and need to put him somewhere”

“Can't Bertha take it?” asked Joseph, referring to James' mother in law.

“ Dad, you know she hurt her ankle.  There's no one else we can ask but you.”

Eilish placed a sheet of paper and a plastic bag on the table.

“I've written down instructions for his care. You'll find everything you need is in the bag.”

“But I don't know how to feed a budgie!”

“There are two trays in the cage.  Put budgie food in one and water in the other.   And don't worry, budgies know themselves when they are hungry and when they've had enough.  They have more sense than some humans.”

“What if it takes ill?”

Eilish gave him a sharp look before saying  “Well if that happens you won't have far to go for help.  It was being in the company of Victor the Vet in the Caber Bar that made you late for dinner with us last week .”

Joseph looked sheepish. “ That's highland life for you.  There's one street in this town and folk bump into one another. I was just being sociable and forgot the time.”

James opened the cage,  and took Huffy out.  He flapped his wings then flew up to rest on the high curtain rail.

Joseph looked worried.

“How will I get him to come down from there?”

“He'll come down in his own time” said Eilish.

They didn't have to wait long. Huffy was in a good position to have an ariel view of the room and with his sharp little eye spotted some sesame seeds on a plate, left over  from the bun Joseph had been eating for his lunch. He chirped as he flew down from his high perch and began tucking into them. Then with a dainty side step, he hopped on to the daily newspaper spread out beside the table and with a shake of his tail left something resembling a tadpole across the half finished crossword.

“Oh no!” cried Joseph, “Look what he's done to my puzzle. It's ruined now!”

Huffy wisely flew back up to the curtain rail.  James calmly went over to the bag and produced a pack of baby wipes. “These will come in handy” he said  “and don't worry, he'll go into his cage himself.  Now we really have to go. You and Huffy will be fine.”

Joseph realised that he had no say in the matter,  and wished them well for their holiday.

Two weeks later

Looking suntanned and relaxed, James and Eilish stood at the doorstep of Joseph's flat. The door opened and Joseph stood there, however, he was not alone. On his shoulder sat Huffy. 

“Come in, ” he said,  “I'll put the kettle on.”. 

“So you got as far as Great Yarmouth”

“Yes,” she replied, and the weather was great.  We went all around the Norfolk Broads. The kids loved it.  They'll tell you all about it when they visit.”

They entered the living room and sat down while Joseph made the tea. They were keen to hear how he had coped with Huffy. They looked over to the budgie cage and what they saw there surprised them.  

“Well I don't believe it! ” exclaimed James.

When they had last seen it, all there had been besides the food and water trays had been one seed stick.  Now it was a mass of everything that could possibly be bought for a budgie.  There was a mirror, a bell, a small plastic ladder and lots of tasty treats.  There had obviously been a few trips to the pet shop.

Joseph, with Huffy still on his shoulder entered carrying a tray of tea and biscuits.  He handed them a mug each.

“How did you get on with the bird while we were away?”  James asked,  “It looks like you've been buying him a few things.”

“Just a thing or two to keep him happy.  I will admit that it took me a while to get used to him, especially at first.  To be honest, I was as wary of him as he was of me,  but somehow we've taken to each other.   I thought budgies just sat in a cage all day, then I began to see how clever and interesting he was, with his little tricks. When I am shaving in the morning he comes and sits on my head, then he jumps down to the tap and takes a drink of water.  Don't you, Huffy my wee soldier?”

Huffy chirped, almost in agreement. He then flew over to the sideboard where Joseph had placed a long mirror and ran backwards and forwards, pecking at his reflection as he did so.

“That's from the charity shop” explained Joseph.  “Victor told me that it's good for them. They think they are playing with another budgie.  And see that wee ball on the table.  He kicks it about, just like a footballer.  You know, you're right.  I spend too much time in the Caber bar, but it's because I get lonely.  With Huffy here, I've not feel the need to go out so often. He's been all the company that I've needed. 

“So it wasn't as difficult as you thought,” said Eilish.

Roger looked thoughtful for a moment.  “ I suppose that I better get organized so that you can take him home”  he said.

He went over to the sideboard and gently lifted Huffy down.

It was James who noticed the tender way that Joseph held him as he put him in his cage, also the sad look in his eyes as he closed the door.  He whispered something to Eilish who nodded.

“Dad.” he said “We've been talking, and we wondered if you would like to keep Huffy?  We mean for good. You look so attached to him”

“Keep him ! Oh could I? But will the kids not miss him?”

“The kids!” said Eilish, “They will get to see him every time they visit. They are always on about wanting a gerbil anyway.”

“I'll not deny he's been good for me. I promise you I will look after him really well. ”

“I don't doubt that for a minute, Dad” laughed James.

Shortly afterwards, James and Eilish left.  And on the way home, they stopped by pet shop on the main street to buy a gerbil.

Jean A Callender (C) 2020