• Vol. 08
  • Chapter 12
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The key

Looking back, there were pockets of happiness. I could lay my childhood out like a shuffled pack of cards on a table, and select one or two that stand out with bright, cheerful images.

He always let me get the key myself; I’d reach up on tiptoes and feel its cool, rough face, sliding it off the wire. Taking a minute I’d trace my finger around its pretty shape, wiping rain and imaginary dirt away, before I couldn’t wait any longer and I’d pass it to him.

Smiling together we’d make a bit of a pantomime about opening the door, what would we see, what were they up to today, would they be pleased to see us? We both knew it was silly, we could hear their excitement as soon as we got to the door, and it was the same every time. But it was a shared moment of happiness and I wasn’t going to let that go.

I knew the routine, he’d open the door slowly, I’d look at my feet, examine the floor, walk in slowly and quietly, whatever you do, don’t flap your arms. Once we were both inside I could look up.

I’d always stay looking at the floor for as long as I could, the pale grey grit was always clean, he’d make sure of that on each visit. In amongst would be the odd bit of dropped seed and my favourite find; a feather. I collected those feathers; every single tiny one was picked up, examined and placed in a treasured chocolate box, with a sliding lid.

I’d slowly look up when I couldn’t wait any longer.  


The key

Above my head were probably fifty beautiful budgies, flapping, chattering, every colour I could imagine. Rows on perches cuddled up next to each other, bobbing their heads at their best friends, others trying to push in. Some would be in mid flight, little bobbing journeys from perch to perch. Others would settle on the floor, hunting for dropped seed or to congregate around shiny china saucers brimming with water to drink and bathe in.

If I stood still like a statue, they’d sit on my shoulders, sometimes tiny warm feet on my hand. Heads would be cocked to look at me, bright happy eyes shining.

I would just stand, in the middle of cheerful colour whilst he cleaned and refilled feeders.

He’d glance back at me sometimes, I’d see he was smiling but puzzled.