Apartment 1 – Pedro

Living with Pedro isn’t by choice.

“You look like something I drew with my left hand.” He is sitting on the back of the couch, staring at me, his beady eyes shining with self-imagined comedic brilliance. The fact that he doesn’t have a left or even a right hand escapes him.

“That shirt must suit someone, but it doesn’t suit you.”

I ignore him, not that it makes any difference. There are occasions when I would happily punch him off his perch, but I remind myself that he’s nothing but a brainwashed bird. Perhaps he’s not that happy about living with me either, but for now, neither of us have a choice.

My marriage broke up two years ago. My wife left with Pedro. We were happy for around five years, but I got promoted and ended up having to work away a lot. Dana bought Pedro, an African Grey Parrot, for company. She named him after a hook-nosed Spaniard she met on holiday as a teenager. Her first love—apparently, as usual, there was no consideration for how I might have felt about that.

As her resentment of my solo trips grew, she took solace in teaching Pedro to insult me. At first, I found it funny, but the insults became steadily more vicious.

“Your parents must have been cacti because you are nothing but a prick.”
Pedro cocks his head to one side as if waiting for a reaction. His insults carry the northern Irish lilt my wife had, which is even more disturbing now that Dana is dead.

Three months after she left, Dana called to ask if I could look after Pedro for a few weeks. “I’m in desperate need of a holiday; it’s been hell at work, and Mandy asked me to go away with her. I can’t find a pet sitter for Pedro; would you mind having him?”

I thought that maybe I could teach him some new material and turn things around a bit. The thought amused me, so I agreed. Besides, it would leave Dana owing me, and although I couldn’t think of anything I could demand in return other than a particular bookcase she’d taken without asking me if I wanted it, I agreed.

Dana never came home. A tsumani hit the island she was staying on; she was swept out to sea, and six months passed before the remains of her shark-bitten body washed up on a distant shore. Mandy, who’d been lucky enough to escape, showed up at the apartment with some of Dana’s belongings. I don’t know who was more in shock, her or me. We sat drinking tea while I tried to think of positive things to say about my ex-wife, but having had to listen to Pedro telling me what a low-life I was for months on end, kind words didn’t come easy. My feeble attempts at retraining him had failed miserably.

“So, would you like to look after Pedro?” I asked, trying not to sound too pleading.
Mandy and Dana had been close friends since their teens, and I hoped she would agree. A long shot, as I knew she had cats.

“Pedro is used to you; he’ll be much better off staying here.”

Mandy looked uncomfortable; she obviously knew the foul things Pedro squawked out on his deceased owner’s behalf. I expect she and Dana had many a good laugh together at my expense. After making a few tongue-in-cheek suggestions on how to retrain him, she made her excuses and left.

I placed an advertisement on the vet’s noticeboard in the hope that Pedro can be re-homed. Whatever I do, I can’t seem to train him to quit the insults, and I really want to start dating properly. There’s no way I can bring a woman back to the apartment with Pedro running me down at every opportunity. Also, not everyone likes animals. Then again, I might end up with someone who pays Pedro more attention than me, and I don’t want that either. Let’s face it, I’ve been through all that before.

Even if Pedro could stop the insults, I really don’t want to be tied to a parrot for the rest of my life. Pedro is only five years old, and he could live until he’s 50 or even 90 years old if I keep spoiling him with tasty morsels. He’s fiercely healthy anyway. Despite the insults, I do feel sorry for him. Parrots are naturally friendly, but because of the repetitive put-downs, it’s hard to feel any affection for him at all. I shut him away from me most of the time; he can’t be happy to be alone. If I bought another parrot or animal to keep him company, then I would be even more tied. After so many years being unhappy with Dana, I think I deserve some happiness and freedom.

I’m off out now to meet a new lady for dinner, and Pedro is pacing up and down, shrieking that my teeth would make good jail bars; they are so gappy. I do have a gap between my two upper front incisors, and I avoid smiling because of them. Dana used to say that I should get the dentist to fix them, but I never got round to it. Maybe I should think about doing it now. I’m sure not all women are as shallow as Dana; she obsessed over her looks and loved to criticize mine. It’s almost as if her spirit has taken over. He’s glaring at me just as she used to when I had to go to work in the evening. I will admit, I have always been a bit of a workaholic, but the money I slaved to earn, paid for her cosmetic surgery and penchant for designer clothing.

Mandy brought me back Dana’s jewellery. Amazingly enough, despite floating all those miles and being nibbled by sharks, her gold bracelet and a couple of expensive rings remained on her. I didn’t want them, but Mandy insisted I have them. I’ll parcel them up and send them to my niece when I track her down; she’s another one who likes to disappear off to distant lands. Last I heard, she’d landed in Venezuela. Maybe she can sell the jewellery to help fund her travels. To be honest, I don’t care what she does with it. I have no emotions left when it comes to Dana or her belongings.

I stare at my reflection in the mirror. I smell nice. My confidence waned with Dana and Pedro always putting me down, so I looked up some tips online on how to be attractive to women. Apparently, smelling good is a big plus. The helpful lady on the perfume counter at my favourite department store recommended this one, and she upsold me body wash to go with it. My wallet is significantly lighter as a result, but now that I won’t have to pay for Dana’s plastic surgeries as she grows older, I’m pretty well off.

“If laughter is the best medicine, you could cure any sick person with your face.”

“I love you too, Pedro.”

I grab my jacket, quickly check the sky through the kitchen window to see if I need to take my umbrella, then lock up the apartment and look forward to a few hours in the company of someone who hopefully won’t insult me.

Short stories from the Apartment Block Series





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Author: Petra Kidd

Norfolk UK is my home, I live in Norwich by the River Wensum where everyday there is something different to see and learn. I feel a big affinity with the river as I grew up in Cambridge, another great river city. My childhood and teens involved many walks along the Cam where we would watch 'The Bumps,' raft races and as we grew older we enjoyed adventures on our punting pub crawls. Growing up in a multi cultural university city definitely influenced my reading choices, I am a big fan of Japanese fiction, love French literature and enjoy Shakespeare. As a young teen I entertained myself with Jilly Cooper and Dick Francis and then became quite obsessed with Henri Charriere's Papillon. At school all I cared about was English, Art and French, in that exact order. When I finished with school I went to live and work in Greece for a wonderful year before returning to study English Literature and Sociology. At this point I read more classics like the Wyf of Bath, Wuthering Heights and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man plus poets such as Wilfred Owen. My first UK full time job was with Heffer's Paperbacks where I devoured several books at a time, excited by the fact I could borrow what I liked. Bizarrely for me I remember reading The Zurich Axioms, I have no interest in the stock markets but it had me gripped. I can't remember why I picked it up but I have never forgotten it. Heffers introduced me to so many authors, via their books and sometimes in person. It was here I learned about all the genres, it fascinated me that science fiction and horror were so popular, I tried reading it all. Aside from writing letters, it didn't really ever occur to me to write anything myself for many years as I worked my way through a variety of interesting and varied jobs. Then on a visit to the London Aquarium I became struck by an idea so powerful I sat down and wrote my first novel. It went nowhere as really I wrote it because I wanted to. I wrote another novel and again, didn't have the persistance or determination to take it further, I simply enjoyed the process of writing and my characters. Then years later another idea struck me and during a severe bout of Pleurisy where I couldn't do anything physical for months, I wrote the Eight of Swords and The Putsi. This time I published them as ebooks and they became pretty popular. When I fully recovered, I had to concentrate on my business and looking after my mother who has various health issues and the writing went adrift again for many years until 2020 when the Coronavirus pandemic hit the world. March 2020 I moved to my apartment alongside the Wensum to live alone for the first time ever. During the first lockdown I began to write a diary and then the idea for a new set of short stories came to me and in February 2021 they will be published. The Covid-19 Pandemic is not simply a scary virus, it is a historical time and here we are trying to live through it. To many it will feel like a punishment but to me as a writer, in some ways, it came as a gift. Please stay as safe and as well as you can. I hope to entertain you with my stories as we all try to get through this together, even though we are apart. Petra

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