On the second of July, 2005, as the four of us crossed Commonwealth Avenue, we did not know that our lives were about to change (not even in that "wow look a parakeet sort of way). No, we were recovering from a well-conceived and deliciously-executed mission to Taco Bell, during which I learned that the teal, screaming green, and cherry red varieties of Mountain Dew are not interchangeable, Christophe* determined that the CrunchWrap Supreme is indeed "good to go" as advertised, Rebecca* grew more disgusted with the male species, and Mikhail* rebelled against all notions of proper comportment in a public setting. The rebel.
As we prepared to mount the curb at the north side of Commonwealth Avenue, at the Granby Street intersection, Christophe warned Mikhail with a girlish shriek against stepping on the parakeet. Surprisingly, this was not another of his shrieks-against-fictional-dangers, but rather a sincere injunction intended to spare the life of the yellow bird hopping on the sidewalk.
We cordoned off the scene, and examined the critter. He (or she?) seemed yellow, uninjured, and docile. And flight-worthy, proof coming when it attempted to fly into an adjacent linden, and failing at that task, flapping over the road until settling in the far traffic lane.
What could we do, but rescue the poor creature? Rebecca removed her cardigan, and your brave narrator leapt fecklessly after the fugitive bird. He evaded my first attempt with a short flying hop ending in the path of the oncoming trolley. "Run, bird!" we all exclaimed, thinking only later it perhaps would have been better had we advised the avian to take to wing rather encouraging a pedestrian escape.
But the train was not the most immediate danger. Indeed, it had stopped six feet before our feathered friend, held back by a red traffic signal. Danger free, then? No! Vehicular doom approached, a car crossing the tracks. Fly bird, fly! Stop car, stop! Who listens to the young? The car galloped over the yellow victim . . .
. . . who wisely ducked. Huzzah! Unscathed, he took flight once more. I ran after, cardigan in hand, knowing that the red-tailed hawks patrolling campus would not hesitate to snatch this golden nugget of parakeet meat from the very air.
Perhaps the bird knew I was offering refuge from the unwelcoming wilds of the outside world. Perhaps he got tired. Perhaps he wanted to eat some of the tortilla crumbs peppering the pavement outside the Taco Bell. For whatever reason, he landed and there—as diners watched through the plate glass—I scooped him gently into my arms, wrapped in my girlfriend's white wooly cardigan. Thank you for the applause, patrons of Taco Bell. This one is for the birds.
I rejoined my companions, who had lagged behind, certain the bird would not allow itself to be captured (oh cynics, they). We wondered aloud what the next step was.
"We should find his owner," suggested I.
"He's been out here a while, look how dirty he is!" cooed the concerned Rebecca.
"Dude, that's totally a bird." That was Mikhail's contribution.
"What are we going to keep him in?" asked Christophe.
As resourceful or larcenous as ever, I knew what to do. "The Metro box!"
A few feet from the location where we had originally discovered our new mate stood a green-and-glass Metro distribution box with a flip-out front door, sans the expected chain lock attaching it to the neighboring lamppost. The boys went at it with a will; Christophe and Mikhail hefted the box, and we made haste to our habitual and undisclosed home base. What else could we do? This innocent bird needed a home, however temporary, and fast. If you are an officer of that fine free daily newspaper the Metro-Boston, I'd like to thank you for making your boxes so suitable for birds, and so unchained to lampposts. If you'd like to discuss compensation for what I admit was a gentle theft, please e-mail me and I will be glad to make arrangements for return or reimbursement. Though really, it would be nice if you could just let it go.
A little tinkering made things more comfortable. We removed the spring-loaded platform on which each morning's stock of fresh newspapers was usually deposited, and hung from those springs a wooden dowel suitable for grasping toes. Other amenities: a juryrigged water dispenser; butter cookies hung from a string, CDs packaged with university textbooks were transformed into playtime mirrors. Sunflower seeds purchased from the campus convenience store were Christophe' brilliant idea.
As we are committed to journalistic accuracy, we knew the cage had to be renamed. No longer did this paper box contain Boston's #1 Newspaper. No! It was now the home of METRO BUDGERIGAR, BOSTON'S #1 PARAKEET! Signs were posted to reflect the new occupant.
Pictures were taken without incident after Metro was installed in his new home, apart from a single half-hearted escape attempt. Don't worry, we caught him . . . birds have very small brains, and we have very large ones, so it wasn't very hard to outsmart him.
Update! Metro has been recovered! Check out the aftermath here.