April 5, 2006

Funny, edgy read: "Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot"

Every day I find myself laughing out loud at least once; on some days, however, that number can jump into the fifties.

Today, that laugh-out-loud moment was when I read a short story called "Jealous Husband Returns in Form of Parrot" by Robert Olen Butler in my Writing Fiction book by Janet Burroway. So what is this excerpt that made the people in the lounge wonder if I'd lost my mind?

"That dangling thing over there with knots and strips of rawhide and a bell at the bottom needs a good thrashing a couple of times a day and I'm the bird to do it."

While the narrator is lighter than Kafka's Gregor Samsa, the premise of this story's protagonist is reminiscent of "The Metamorphosis." Don't be fooled, though. The story is not focused on the change into the creature, but rather the effects of the world around him because of his change and his powerlessness within it.

The narrator seems just as unreliable as the man-turned-bug. When the narrator describes his supposed "wife's" nose, for example, he says he doesn't quite remember it that way, so throughout the story the reader is really wondering if this is really his wife...if he is really a parrot...if he is a stalker of some kind...

The flying images and the conflict of freedom that birds always imply are one element that seem cliched. I like the ruffling of the feathers images that Butler offers because it implies the pain and pleasure of this "husband" who is seeing his wife again, but going through man after man, and cannot express what is on his heart. Instead, in his current state of parrotness, he mimicks the simple words of others. Compelling stuff.

I caught myself wondering, How many times have I also felt things that could not be expressed, things that I know I should have said and didn't? Instead, I usually fill the quiet space with parrot chatter and peeps that don't really add to the communication at all, but inhibit it by not facing the issues that really lie at the root. Don't we all do this?

The jealousy in this narrator is not toward humanity, but in the side of him that says "no" because of extreme jealousy, hatred, fear and loneliness. And I don't think this is the avian element speaking.

A great read.

Posted by Amanda Cochran at April 5, 2006 5:18 PM | TrackBack

Extremely well written


Posted by: Cockatoo Care at April 13, 2007 2:52 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?