Excerpt for Blue Tara; Or, How Is a Hyacinth Macaw Parrot Like a Tibetan Goddess by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

This page may contain adult content. If you are under age 18, or you arrived by accident, please do not read further.

Blue Tara; Or, How Is a Hyacinth Macaw Parrot Like a Tibetan Goddess?

Book One The Princess Tara Chronicles


By Michael Ostrogorsky


Copyright 2017 Michael Ostrogorsky

Smashwords Edition


Smashwords Edition, License Notes


Thank you for downloading this ebook. This book remains the copyrighted property of the author, and may not be redistributed to others for commercial or non-commercial purposes. If you enjoyed this book, please encourage your friends to download their own copy from their favorite authorized retailer. Thank you for your support.


Dedicated to the Hyacinth Macaw Parrot Princess Tara, My Favorite Witch. And yes, she really is a witch. I should know.


Special Mention to the Blue and Gold Macaw Parrot Aboo, Princess Tara’s sidekick. Princess Tara is a hard act to follow, but rest assured, Aboo will get his special place in the spotlight.


Table of Contents



Introduction

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Epilogue



Introduction


I originally got a parrot because an old black guy with parrots told me it would help me pick up chicks. And I don't mean the poultry kind. Picked out a parrot at this old black guy's bird store here in Seattle that was big, blue, and loud. And a princess. The loudness I didn't learn about until it was too late. But that was the least of my problems. First of all, turns out I didn't actually pick out the parrot. The parrot picked me. Not only was the parrot big, blue, and loud. And a princess. The parrot was a witch. Not a figurative or allegorical witch. A literal witch. A witch of the spell casting kind. The abracadabra kind. A witch with a coffee addiction. Once I entered the bird store the parrot cast a spell. The kind of spell that caused me to open my wallet for a big, blue, loud witch. The kind of witch that didn't abide with girlfriends. The kind of witch that didn't abide with not getting her way. The kind of witch that turned out to be my guardian angel and a proverbial albatross around my neck at the same time. A witch named Princess Tara.


Chapter One

Part One


Driving makes me hungry. Driving up Aurora Avenue in North Seattle I craved a cookie. Any kind. I just wanted a cookie. I wasn't particular when it came to my cookie obsession. I pulled into the PCC parking lot. PCC. Puget Consumers Cooperative. One of the many lefty cooperatives that sprung up around Seattle back in the fifties and sixties of the last century. Like geoducks after a hard rain.


Maybe not like geoducks. Geoducks aren't flora. Or fungi. Geoducks are giant mollusks. The macaws of the mollusk world. I like to throw geoducks out in conversation because what separates true Seattleites from the countless immigrants flooding the city to work at Amazon or Starsucks or Microsoft is knowing how to say geoduck correctly. But back to cookies.


I just wanted a simple cookie. Oatmeal raisin. Chocolate chip. Gingersnap. Didn't matter. I have a weakness for cookies. I admit it. Snickerdoodle is my favorite. And PCC makes one of the best snickerdoodles in Seattle. I parked and walked up to the door thinking cookies. Suddenly I started thinking parrots.


Guy standing at the door stopped me. He was hard to miss. Besides the fact he was standing in the doorway blocking my entrance. A stunningly brilliant blue and yellow parrot perched on his shoulder. Properly called a Blue and Gold macaw (Ara ararauna) I learned later. One of the largest and most brightly colored of the macaws. Hard to miss. Especially when there's one right in front of you perched on a guy's shoulder blocking the entrance to the store that sells the cookies you're currently craving.


On this day I knew nothing about parrots. I'm an historian. Got a Ph.D. in history. And another Ph.D. in archaeology. So I know Ph.D.s. I've gone through life collecting academic degrees like some people collect cars. I've got a bunch of them. Bachelor’s. Master’s. You name it. Certificates I can't even remember now. Pretty useless. I never enjoyed a particularly stellar academic career. I wrote a lot. Mostly reports people never read. Published some. Traveled for research and field work. I had my ups and downs. Mostly just downs, now that I think about it. I could never achieve tenure, so I bounced around living out of a suitcase as an adjunct professor. Idaho, Oregon, Alaska, California. Finally Seattle. But it kept me from making pizzas or washing dishes for a living. Not that I didn't make pizzas or wash dishes while I was collecting my degrees. But don't get me started.


I can regale you with countless stories about Seattle history until your eyes glaze over. But parrots? On this day, the day I had my heart set on a cookie, I didn't know a damn thing about parrots. Sure, I knew people with parrots. Knew one guy who even went everywhere with his service parrot perched on his shoulder, to the gas station, grocery store, everywhere. But he's strange. People with parrots seem stranger than most. Occasionally see people walking around the Ballard Farmers Market in my Seattle neighborhood with their parrots on their shoulders. My mom had parakeets when I was growing up. Remember them fluttering around the house and landing on my head. Mostly I remember them pooping in my hair. Then mom would make me wash my hair out after she corralled the parakeets back in their cage. My early association with birds was not uniformly positive.


Back to the guy with the parrot perched on his shoulder, standing between me and a cookie. Had never seen this guy before. Had never seen such a gorgeous creature before. Not the guy. The parrot. Stunning. Stopped me in my tracks. And what's really strange. This guy. This guy with a large colorful parrot perched on his shoulder. Someone I've never seen before. He gets between me and my cookie. I mean, he literally put his hand out to stop me. I almost ran into him because I was so focused on my cookie. This guy put his hand out to stop me and said, "There's a blue parrot at Charlie's Bird Store you need to see."


Part Two


Charlie's Bird Store occupied part of the catacombs in the lower levels of Seattle's Pike Place Market off the downtown waterfront. Several floors below the standard tourist haunts. The flying fish. The flower mongers. The Russian bakery. Did I mention cookies? The geoducks. The brass pig. Down the block from the first Starbucks ever. And it goes without saying, every time I visit Pike Place Market I have to pick up a chocolate pretzel at Three Sisters Bakery.


Chewing a chocolate pretzel, I patted the brass pig on his snout for good luck while heading for the top of the Pike Place Hill Climb. The flying fish and brass pig and chocolate pretzels were a good 200 feet above Seattle's sea wall. And only about 200 feet away. Straight up. And straight down. But the thing about parrots is, just follow the squawking. I could hear the parrots well before I found the shop about half way down the hill climb.


Charlie's Bird Store is gone. Part of Seattle history now. A legend and foundation story for many Seattle bird people. Charlie’s an eccentric elderly black guy. Tall. Wiry. Old school. Fancied himself to be a bird whisperer. A born salesman. Today, if it wasn't parrots he'd probably be running a pot shop. Back then it was parrots. Charlie retired after all these events were said and done. Told me he had gone one parrot too many. One particular parrot too many. The closing of Charlie’s Bird Store was big on the local news, Charlie being the celebrity he was. Turned out to be quite the show when hundreds of birds needed to be moved out to new digs.


"Come In" the sign read on the door to the shop. I took a deep breath and pushed the door open. The din of hundreds of birds, parrots, parakeets, and God knows what else rolled over me like the tide at Golden Gardens beach. I thought I heard someone say "Hello."


I paused in an attempt to acclimate to the noise level. Hundreds of birds. Small birds. Big birds. Loud birds. Parakeets, lovebirds, cockatiels, conures. I thought maybe retreat might be my best option. "Hello."


I definitely heard it that time. Toward the back of the shop. Low ceiling, brown concrete block walls, one bank of dingy floor to ceiling warehouse windows facing the water. In another room toward the back I could see larger birds. African Greys. Cockatoos. And the macaws. But no sign of Charlie. "Hello."


Adjacent to the door to the back room stood a stainless steel floor to ceiling cage containing the largest bird I had ever seen in my life. Blue. Cobalt blue from the crest of its big head to the tip of its long tail. Only parts of the parrot not blue were the gigantic black beak and glowing black eyes. If black eyes could glow. And these black eyes glowed. That and the reflector yellow highlights around the eyes and lower mandible.


"Hello," the parrot said. Indisputable. I stood in front of it in awe of its color and size and heard it clearly over the din from the front of the shop. I responded, "Hello." That was it. That was all it took. I was entranced. I reached my hand out toward the parrot.


"Hello boss." Charlie grabbed my shoulder from behind me and firmly pulled me back from the cage. "300 pounds per square inch. Only takes 15 pounds per square inch to take your finger off."


Boss? How do you respond when an elderly black guy calls you Boss? This is the socialist hellhole of Seattle, not South Carolina. "You looking for a parrot? You come to the right place." 300 pounds per square inch? Great sales pitch I thought. I tried to figure out how to respond. I was in a parrot store looking at parrots. Of course I was looking for a parrot. "Hello."


Part Three


"What ya know boss?" Charlie said as he stepped to the parrot's cage. "Tara here has never said two words to anyone before. She likes you."


I stepped closer to Charlie to hear him over the din of whistles and squawks and shrieks that reverberated around the concrete walls of the shop.


"Well, it's one word actually. She just keeps repeating it. She probably hears it from every customer who walks in the door. Parrots don't actually know what they're saying, do they?"


"Tell the truth boss, most customers scared of her beak," Charlie said. I haven't heard her say 'Hello' more than twice in the time she's been in the shop. Usually she just grunts or hangs upside-down and honks."


The deep blue of Tara's feathers shimmered in its cobalt brilliance in the afternoon light streaming through the shop's floor to ceiling windows from the sun beginning its descent into Elliott Bay. One enormous paw grasped her perch. Head tilted sideways, she held a wing up in front of her like a Roman shield, with her burning black eye peering over the top of her wing. She grasped one of her trailing flight feathers with her other paw. "Hello," she said.


"What did you say her name was?"


"Princess Tara. And she really is a princess. Her parents are a Duke and a Duchess."


"So is she a parrot? Or a macaw?"


Charlie replied, "All macaws are parrots, son. But not all parrots are macaws. Macaws are the largest of the parrots. There's something like 360 species of parrots on six of the world's seven continents."


At least it was 'son' now. Guess that was better than being called boss.


"Of those 360 species the largest fifteen or so are macaws. And the princess here is a Hyacinth macaw. Ano - dor - hynch - us hyacinth - in - us. That's the Latin for it. Just love saying that. Ano - dor - hynch - us hyacinth - in - us. Hyacinths are the very largest of the macaws. Tell the truth boss, don't think there's a larger parrot anywhere in Seattle."


Back to 'boss.'


Okay. "I'm really just looking," I replied. "Someone told me I needed to come see this bird." I noticed there was no price sticker on Tara's cage, unlike all the other cages I could see.


"You married boss?" Charlie asked.


"Married?" I replied to his query with a question mark, trying to give myself time to figure out if this was a conversation I wanted to continue.


Charlie could see he was losing me. "Women love parrots, is all. And women really like guys with parrots. I should know. I've got more women hanging over me than parrots have feathers," he grinned, revealing a pressing need for dental work.


Yeah sure, ya betcha, I thought to myself. This conversation was getting noticeably unsettling. I moved to the side to get a better look at the parrot. Or a better look at the door, whichever came first. Tara's head turned in response to my moves to keep her coal black eye fixed straight on me. I started feeling a little bit uncomfortable, and turned to see just how far I was from the shop's entrance.


Charlie opened the door to Tara's cage and stuck his arm into the cage. Brave, I thought. "Step up," he ordered the parrot. She stayed motionless on her perch. "She's particular about who she likes," Charlie noted. After hesitating momentarily, the parrot stepped onto Charlie's arm and then quickly ran up on his shoulder.


Without a pause, Tara morphed into a study of grace in motion. Before I could react, let alone step out of her way, she jumped off Charlie's shoulder and with a couple of graceful flaps of her two foot long wings, settled onto my shoulder like she belonged there. I felt strangely unconcerned about that giant beak next to my nose. "Hello."


"That's different boss," Charlie said. "She likes you."


Now what? I thought. "What do I do now," I asked Charlie as Tara placed her beak against my cheek. "You are mine," Tara whispered into my ear, or so I thought I heard her say to me. "Did you hear that?" I asked Charlie. "Hear what?" he replied. He seemed genuinely surprised at the parrot's reaction to me, seemingly as mystified by her behavior toward me as I was.


"Get me out of here!"




Chapter Two

Part One


"I'm almost afraid to ask," I said to Charlie. "How much is the parrot?" I started to pull my wallet out of my pocket.


The wallet hit the floor when Charlie told me the price. "I've never paid that much for a car," I said as I bent over to retrieve my wallet.


"And that's just the parrot, boss. Cage and stands are extra. But I'll throw in a free bag of parrot food to get you started."


"No cage," Tara whispered into my ear. "No cage!"


"Did you hear that?" I asked Charlie. "Hear what?"


"Tara said. . ." and then I hesitated, craning my neck to look at the parrot sitting on my shoulder with that huge black beak next to my face. "Do parrots actually understand what they say?” I continued. "Or do they just repeat what they hear?"


"Depends on the parrot, son. Some the the African Greys there," Charlie said, pointing across the room to the smaller parrots, "they're smarter than most. Can count. Can add. Know colors and shapes. Tara here, I've heard Tara say her name once or twice. Mostly just says 'Hello'."


"I can talk plenty," Tara said to me, plain as the sunny afternoon outside. "Just give me a chance." I seemed to detect a note of exasperation on the parrot's part.


"Okay. Somebody's playing a trick on me. You didn't just hear her say, 'She talks plenty'?"


Charlie seemed a tad confused. "It's probably the other birds, what with the noise and everything. You just think you heard her speak to you. These concrete walls play tricks on your ears." He paused. "Course some people have a gift for communicating with animals. People have told me I have a gift for understanding birds. Maybe you have that gift too?" More of a query than a statement.


I detected a slight wink from Charlie. But at the moment I was trying to comprehend if this magnificent creature perched on my shoulder could really be talking to me. "Get me out of here. Please!"


Turns out I had enough cushion on three of my credit cards to cover the purchase. "So you sure, boss? No cage?" I nodded. "You want a pet carrier. I'm not responsible for anything might happen to your parrot once you step out the door. I think I got a carrier in the storeroom big enough for her. Let you borrow it if you promise to return it."


"No box," Tara said.


"No. . . wait. What?" I was getting flustered and more uncertain whether I was the butt of a grand joke or a giant scam.


"No box," Tara repeated.


I was about to ask Tara how I was going to get her home without a cage or a carrier, but thankfully caught myself. "Sure, I'll take the carrier," I told Charlie.


"No you won't," Tara insisted.


"Yes I will. Wait. What?" You didn't just hear Tara say 'No, I won't'," I asked Charlie. Charlie retreated into his storeroom to find a pet carrier.


"Don't give me any grief," I told Tara. Charlie returned with the carrier.


"So how do we get her in there?" I said.


"I could always throw a towel over her, but let's try the direct approach. Put your arm out and place your hand in front of the carrier." I did so. "Now tell her, 'Step Up'." I did as told. "Step up," I said. Tara sat on my shoulder, unmoving and seemingly not planning to move. I craned my neck again to look into her eyes above that huge black beak next to my cheek and I thought I could sense a primordial intelligence emanating from her glowing black eyes.


"You know what?" I piped up. "Let's forget this. This is crazy. I don't know what I'm doing here. This is getting too weird."


Before Charlie could react Tara suddenly ran down my arm and into the carrier. "Okay then. No cage." With Tara parked in the pet carrier I picked out a suitable stand and chugged it and the bag of parrot food up to my truck parked at the top of the market. I returned for Tara and I exited the shop with a parrot in a box. As I climbed back up the hill climb with my new charge I pondered how much poorer I was on what suddenly seemed to me to be a snap decision. But I had an eerily reassuring sense I was much richer for the bargain.


I had parked my truck directly in front of the Pike Place Market Starbucks. After buckling Tara into the passenger seat the thought of an iced espresso appealed to me. The repeated trips up and down the hill climb with my heavy loads were making me sweat. This sunny Seattle spring afternoon was warming. The delectable aroma of fresh brewed espresso wafted out the shop's open door.


As I started to close the passenger door, Tara spoke up and said, "Do I smell coffee?"


Part Two


I live in the old St. Charles Hotel off downtown Ballard, a delightfully eclectic village of two and three story turn of the last century red brick piles of Victorian commercial utility, and wood frame working class cottages. Seattle's charge toward world class modernity and sterility thankfully has passed Ballard by, for the most part. Ballard once was a free city of Scandinavian mill workers and Yankee mariners, and the battle against incorporation by its ravenous and larger neighbor in the early years of the last century played out fierce and bloody. Unfortunately the tradition of rigging elections is old and storied.


Standing at the upper end of Ballard Avenue close by the marine supply warehouses, the hotel gave a distinctly dowdy appearance, like a spinster standing in the back of old Victorian family tintypes. The only relief to the unassuming facade of the two story red brick building was the floor to ceiling bay windows on the upper floor.


The first floor of the building had long ago been gutted and converted to self storage. The old rooms on the upper floor were converted to studio apartments. Mine is the studio in the northwest corner. Few years ago I enjoyed some small success with the lottery. So I no longer teach. Now I roast coffee out of one of the storage units below my studio. And I write. Mostly just snarky comments on political blogs. But I try.


From my bay window on the Ballard Avenue side I could look all the way down the tree lined street to the old Ballard City Hall bell tower, taking in the hustle and bustle of bars, restaurants, boutiques, and coffee shops. The trees lining the avenue burst with new buds, giving a green hue of expectancy to the village just coming out of the doldrums of a long dark soggy winter.


I placed the parrot stand, a stainless steel loop supporting a heavy manzanita perch, right in the bay window to allow the parrot an unobstructed view of the street outside. Charlie assured me the manzanita would hold up to the parrot's beak. The stainless steel loop had small rings attached to hang parrot toys. I made a mental note to get on my computer and order some parrot toys.


Tara had been eerily quiet since departing the market. As we drove north up Western Avenue toward Ballard I sipped my iced Americano and surreptitiously peeked to see how Tara was reacting to the ride. She fluffed her feathers out every time I peeked at her. She fixed one of her big black eyes on me as I drank the coffee. I seriously began to think I had been the victim of an elaborate scam.


So now was the time. The parrot stand stood in the window. I placed some of the parrot food in a dish at the end of the manzanita perch. I lifted the pet carrier up to the perch and opened the door.


Nothing.


I looked inside. Tara looked back defiantly.


"Step up," I said, remembering the command that Charlie had used. I waited.


Nothing.


"Step up," I repeated. "My arm's getting tired holding you up here."


"Put the box down," Tara suddenly said. I almost dropped the carrier. I placed the carrier on the floor as commanded. Moments later Tara waddled out, her huge feet giving her the gait of a duck. I remembered Charlie saying something about Tara honking.


I tentatively put my hand down to her and repeated the command, "Step up." Tara turned her head to peer up at me, hesitated, and then hopped on my hand and onto my arm. Her blue feathers fluffed out, glittering cobalt in the late afternoon sun streaming through the bay window.


Stepping back to the play stand I again demanded that she "Step Up."


"What do you want me to do with that?" Tara retorted, so clearly and certainly I almost flung her off my arm. Sensing my alarm, Tara grasped my arm so tightly her nails almost punctured my skin.


"Ouch. Dammit!" Tara ran up onto my shoulder and brushed her beak against my neck. "I love the way you smell," she said. "So much nicer than the bird shit I've been living with."


"What did you say?" I said, knowing perfectly well just what she had said.


"I need a cup of coffee. Bad. Can we?" she pleaded. The afternoon was verging into evening, but still pleasant outside.


"But I'd have to put you back in the carrier."


"No. Please no. I've been stuck in that cage and. . ." Tara fixed one coal black eye on me and gave me a forlorn look, if a parrot can be said to give forlorn looks. "Charlie let me out once after I got dumped in his place. And regretted it. I may have done something out of spite. Think he was scared of me. Think he suspected that I. . ." Tara trailed off. She asserted, "And rightfully so. He never let me out again. Until you showed up."


This conversation was so surreal it hadn't quite registered with me yet. Either I was nuts, or this bird was different. Most likely I was nuts. I know I've developed a bad habit of talking to myself on occasion. Now I was talking to a parrot. At least with the talking to myself part, I manage to keep from answering myself.


"But what's to keep you from flying away?" I asked.


"Why, coffee, silly man." I thought I saw the parrot wink at me. "I promise I won't. Fly away. And if I do I won't go far. Promise. I'll come back. Anyway, birds fly. That's what we do. So what's the big deal?"


The big deal was my suddenly empty bank account.


"So you just sit on my shoulder while I walk down the street?" I asked.


"Promise."


Guess I was going to become one of those crazy parrot people I saw around town. With an emphasis on the crazy. And anyone who caught me conversing with the parrot would be certain of it.


Part Three


It took Tara and me a good half hour to walk the three or so blocks to Caffe Umbria, right by the old Ballard City Hall bell tower. The afterwork crowd started filling the sidewalks looking for food and drink and entertainment. Or just looking. Plus, I was a bit hesitant about making a spectacle of myself. But that couldn't be helped. Not with a breathtakingly beautiful blue bird on my shoulder.


"Is it real?"


"Is it a parrot?"


"Can I pet it?"


"Will it bite?"


"Does it talk?"


"Polly want a cracker?"


Women seemed particularly attracted to the parrot. Maybe Charlie had been right about that after all. Guys that stopped me generally had parrots of their own. Having a parrot drew parrot people out of the woodwork. Or brickwork in the case of downtown Ballard. Total strangers who wouldn't dream of looking a passing stranger in the eye suddenly demanded your time and attention just because of a parrot on your shoulder.


Thankfully I spotted empty chairs outside the coffee shop. I threw my jacket over one before heading inside to order coffee. My favorite barista worked behind the coffee bar.


"Hi Jean," I said. Linda Jean looked up and smiled with one of those pasty local television news anchor person smiles while pulling an espresso for another customer. Her smile warmed considerably when she recognized me. Her name tag read 'Linda', but she was Jean to her friends. Reasonably tall, her long brunette hair tied back in a ponytail, she looked athletic without looking like an athlete. She was at that age that was hard to guess. Not young. But not older. Her skin, what little was visible from under her clothing, denoted a damp and pallid Seattle winter long without sun. Brown brooding eyes matched her hair and gave her a faintly Slavic mystic. Black boots. Printed flowery leggings under a very short tan canvas skirt. Plain white cashmere sweater. A strange ensemble but Jean had the body to make the ensemble work. She was one of the two reasons I frequented this coffee shop. That and she pulled a very fine shot of espresso.


"Oh. My. God!" Jean's face showed her surprise when she realized what was on my shoulder. "You have a hyacinth macaw!" She laughed. "Of course you know that already. You need to tell me all about it. I'm due for a break. What'll it be?"


"Double tall iced Americano." My drink of choice. I drank iced Americanos summer, winter, spring, and fall. "And for your friend?" she jokingly inquired.


"Coffee," Tara interjected.


"What?" I said, craning my neck to look at Tara. I clearly heard what Tara said.


"And for your friend?" Jean repeated, thinking my question had been directed at her.


"Sorry Jean. I thought I heard Tara say something. You didn't hear her speak just now?"


"Coffee," Tara repeated. More customers got in line behind me.


"You didn't just hear that?" I asked Jean, tentatively. Jean looked at me quizzically.


"You know what, Jean. Give me a double tall latte instead. Hot."


"You'll have to sit outside with the bird. Health regulations and all. Okay, hon? I'll bring the coffee out to you." Jean in all the years I've know her had never before called me hon. I was starting to feel good about my decision to get the parrot.


I sat down outside with Tara. She gave my ear a hard pinch. "Ouch!" Several customers and passersby looked at me.


"What are you drinking? The coffee's mine." Before I could respond, trying to rub the pain out of my ear, Jean came out with my coffee and sat down at our table.


"Where did you ever get a hyacinth macaw?" she asked.


"Charlie's Bird Store, down at the market." Seattleites immediately know what you're talking about when you say, 'the market'.


"Wow. Double wow! My dream bird."


"Oh yeah? How did you know it's a hyacinth? Just this morning I would not have been able to tell you a hyacinth from a velociraptor. I didn't know anything about parrots before I walked into the store."


"I've shopped Charlie's. I have an African Grey parrot named Corky."


"You do? I didn't know that?"


"No reason to. I didn't know you were a parrot person."


"Before today, I didn't know either," I grinned. "I just picked her up this afternoon."


"No shit!" I liked a woman with a loose vocabulary. "The wing's clipped? You have a harness?"


"By clipped you mean shortened? No. She seems to be fully flighted."


"She? And she doesn't fly off? I'd be scared to death to take Corky out."


"Well, she hasn't yet. She promised she wouldn't."


"She what?" Jean asked quizzically. "I like you. You're funny. Does she talk? You haven't told me her name."


"Jean, meet Princess Tara."


"Hello," Tara said. Jean almost knocked over my coffee cup.


"She talks!" Jean exclaimed.


"You heard that?" I queried, hesitantly.


"Yes I did."


"She talks when she wants to. Sometimes I think I imagine her talking, but it's probably just in my head."


"What's with the princess bit?"


"Charlie says she's a real princess. Her parents are a Duke and a Duchess. Don't know if he means name or rank or what."


"Cool. You'll have to tell me more, but I need to get back to work. Sure you don't want some water or juice for Tara. I mean Princess Tara. Excuse me, your highness."


"The coffee will be fine," Tara stated.


"She's joking," I said.


"About what?" Jean asked.


"About drinking coffee," I replied.


"You're funny. I like guys with a sense of humor," she said, with a sly grin on her face. "Birds are so intelligent sometimes I imagine entire conversations with my grey." She got up. "Doubt Charlie told you, but coffee is bad for parrots. Caffeine is a neurotoxin."


"Mind your own business," Tara interjected as Jean hustled back into the shop. I couldn't tell if Jean heard that too. I wanted to be a guy that Jean thought was attractive funny. Not crazy funny.


So people could hear Tara talk. At least some of the time. I hadn't gone totally nuts yet. This was the first time Jean ever took a break with me. I didn't want it to be the last.


"Give me the coffee," Tara said, interrupting my daydream. Before I could respond she ran down my shoulder and plunked her beak in the cup. I had never seen a parrot drinking up close. Her black leathery tongue worked like a miniature paddle wheel, sloshing the coffee into her mandible. Then she raised her head and gurgled the coffee down her gullet. She easily drank two-thirds of the cup before I thought to push it away from her. "I want some of that too," I said.


"Did I ever miss that!" Tara said. And so it began.




Chapter Three

Part One


As the sun fell behind the old brickwork lining the west side of Ballard Avenue the fetid odor of salt water wafted over the street and assaulted my nostrils. The smell of salt water brought with it a distinct chill. I grabbed my jacket and started to clear the table. I appeared to be the coffee shop's last customer of the day. The 'Closed' sign hung on the door.


Music and muffled conversation spilled out of the assorted bars, eateries, and dance halls lining the street as the chill drove people indoors. The plaza around the bell tower emptied out except for one old bag lady. Elderly in appearance but probably not in age. Short. Squat. Stringy whitish hair stuck out of a green Seahawks wool cap pulled down over her ears. Soiled black dress about three sizes too big. Topped off by a frayed grey striped Pendleton blanket wrapped around her that dragged on the sidewalk. A pilfered shopping cart next to her looked like a veritable leaning tower of plastic bags. Her entire life metaphorically reduced to a stack of garbage bags.


I tried not to give too much thought to homeless people. Sure, I regularly made donations to the Ballard Food Bank. I participated in holiday food drives. I occasionally dropped old clothes off at Goodwill. That's about as far as it went. Many homeless people are mental cases and I preferred to give them a wide berth when I encountered street people on their territory. Thanks to debit cards I never carried cash with me and I dreaded the inevitable request for spare change.


Something about this bag lady unnerved me. She sat under the old Ballard City Hall bell tower and seemed to stare directly across the street at Tara. I was certain of it. I tried to ignore her, but everytime I glanced over she became animated in response, in the way head cases tend to be animated with their involuntary and unselfconscious street performance theater.


My packing up seemed to be her cue to act. She suddenly scurried across the street with more energy and purpose than I thought possible for a hobbled old bag lady.


"It's a devil!" she screeched, just like I imagined a parrot might, pointing a gloved hand at Tara. "Don't you see?" she beseeched me. I froze in stunned silence. Startled, Tara in turn awoke out of a slumber on my shoulder and fluttered down to the sidewalk.


"It's a devil come to roost!" she yelled again, this time running at Tara. Tara excitedly ran circles on the sidewalk while flapping her wings.


"What the fuck are you doing?" I yelled back at her after collecting myself. Thinking she intended to harm Tara I grabbed her by her shoulder as she ran by me and flung her back away into the street. She fell on her butt, but with surprising agility and speed sprung back up and commenced after Tara once again.


Tara stopped running in circles and faced the bag lady. With a couple of sharp flaps of her wings against the pavement Tara hopped up on the back of the chair I had been sitting on. She collected herself and suddenly screeched with a volume of sound I did not think could be humanly possible. But Tara was not human. I clasped my hands over my ears to muffle the sound and my eyelids involuntarily shut so hard my eyes stung.


I next thing I noticed, Jean stood next to me grasping my arm and pulled my hands away from my ears.


"Are you okay?" she asked, her face furrowed with worry.


"What just happened?" I asked.


"Your bird screeched so loud I almost dropped the tray of dishes I was washing. Is she okay?"


We both turned to look, me fearing the worst. Tara sat quietly on the back of the chair ruffling her wings while she preened her feathers.


"Where did she go?" I asked, whirling around. The shopping cart was still parked next to the bell tower.


"Are you okay?" Jean asked me nervously. "Tara's right here."


"No, not Tara. The old lady. The bag lady. She tried to attack Tara."


"What? What bag lady?"


"There was a bag lady right here," I insisted. “She tried to attack Tara. She was screaming some shit about Tara being a devil. The last thing I remember was Tara screeching."


We both turned to look at Tara. And then looked at each other.


"Okay," Jean said. "Now what?"


"You didn't see her? She was right here. I swear."


Jean gave me that crazy funny look I feared.


"Tara must have scared her off. She can't be far. You sure you okay?" Jean asked, grasping my arm again. That was twice in one day. "Can I get anything for you and Tara before I lock up?"


Too confused to recognize an invitation when one stared me in the face, I just said, "I think I should get Tara home."


"Okay," Jean said. I seemed too late to notice the note of wistfulness on her face. "You take care of the princess. I'd hate anything to happen to her."


Jean walked back into the coffee shop. I put my arm out and asked Tara to 'Step up.' Without hesitation, she hopped on my arm and ran up on my shoulder.


"What just happened?" I asked rhetorically, to no one in particular, certainly not Tara.


"I made her go away," Tara responded.


Part Two


I pretty much muttered to myself all the way back to my studio, trying to comprehend my question and Tara's answer. Mostly I was trying to pretend I had not in fact heard Tara say, "I made her go away." Unfortunately I distinctly heard Tara say "I made her go away."


Once inside I commanded Tara to 'Step up' and placed her on the play stand, thinking she must be getting hungry. I know I was getting hungry. As if reading my mind, Tara responded, "What you got to eat?"


I froze, incredulous. I stood next to a parrot that first claimed to disappear people, and now wanted to see a dinner menu.


Tara turned her head, fixed one coal black, or one fiery pit of Hell black eye on me and asked again, "What you got to eat?"


I shook myself out of my lethargy and pointed to the dish of parrot food on her perch.


"Are you kidding me? I want real food," Tara exclaimed.


Without thinking I took my chance and asked Tara, "What happened tonight?"


"I made her go away."


"You said that already," I said, admitting to myself that she really did say that. "How can you make her go away? You're a bird." Seemed self-evident. Birds don't generally disappear people. Shit on them, sure. But disappear people? Not so much in my experience.


"I'll tell you if you give me some real food."


I stared at the parrot. Okay. I was losing it. I made a mental note to call my doctor soon as possible.


"I promise," Tara said. "I'll tell you if you give me some real food."


What couldn't be happening was really happening. A parrot, a big blue beautiful parrot, was talking to me. More like at me at this particular moment. And not in the 'Polly Want a Cracker' sense. I tried to compose myself.


"I want some food," Tara repeated, with a note of exasperation in her voice.


"Well, I've got some caprese salad in the fridge I was planning on eating for dinner."


"What's a caprese salad?" Tara asked with considerable interest.


"Cheese, peppers, tomatoes. . ."


"Yes. Yes. And yes! Please," she begged.


I dumped out the parrot food and spooned some salad into the dish. Flakes of cheese and slivers of red veges started flying off Tara's beak as she munched down on her dinner. She scarfed cheese balls down whole. "Anything to drink?" she asked.


"Would you like some wine with your salad, your highness?" I responded, not wholly in jest.


"Would I!"


Without thinking of the absurdity of the situation, I poured some cabernet into a wide brim glass and held it up to her. Her tongue started paddling like crazy as she tried to drain the glass. After Tara took several drinks, I raised the glass to my mouth and guzzled what remained.


"Okay," I demanded. "What happened to that bag lady? Is she dead?"


Tara appeared to collect her thoughts. "I made her go away."


"You said that already. Is she dead?" I repeated. Seemingly Jean and I would have noticed a body sprawled out on the pavement.


"I bent time and space and made her go away."


"You what?" Now time and space entered the equation. This could not be happening. Not to me anyway. I had two doctoral degrees. In history and archaeology. I believed in research and science. Not in parrots that talked about bending time and space.


"I'm sure she's fine," Tara added. I bent her time and space to the beach on what you call Alki Point. She'll wander around for a while until the cops pick her up. They'll take her someplace where she can get the help she needs. Can I have some more of that wine?"


"How can you possibly know that? How can you possibly do that? How does a parrot bend time and space?" I had to ask.


"Are you sure you want to know?" Tara replied. I hesitated, but "Yes."


"Okay. Don't say I didn't warn you. But only because I like you. A lot!" Tara continued, "Some people can see me for what I truly am. Some people who don't live in your reality, like the old lady, can see me for what I am. I think that Charlie could see me for what I am. He had a sense. Or he suspected. That's why he was afraid of me."


Part Three


The sun had gone down and the cherry wood in my studio glowed softly from the vintage art deco wall sconces, sole surviving fixtures from the room's old hotel days. I looked at Tara. Tara looked at me.


Suddenly the room went dark. Not dark as in absence of light. Dark as in absence of existence!


I lost all reference to reality. I was floating in a void. I felt weightless. Astronauts at least can see the world below their feet, albeit two hundred miles below their feet. I could see nothing. I sensed nothing. I heard nothing. Not even my own heart beating. It was as if a black hole suddenly opened in my apartment from which no light or existence could escape.


After a few moments, or it could have been a few eons, with no anchor to measure time or space; after a few moments a bluish orb formed and commenced glowing in the center of the room, if there could be assumed to be a center of anything in this blackness.


The bluish orb commenced vibrating, then spinning, then growing, eventually encompassing the entire space of my existence. A damp pungent heat enveloped me and assaulted my senses, as if I had just stepped into a Savannah summer afternoon. I struggled to breath from the oppressive weight of this phenomenon, which came on me from every direction.


Black nothingness coalesced into a brilliant blue somethingness. My brain struggled to comprehend the new construction of space and time before me. The glowing orb became searing blue light and heat which turned into an apparition and then a solid construct. She stood before me.


"Tara?" I nervously offered. My entire life's philosophy of existence and reality flew out the windows.


She stood easily six feet tall. With change to spare. Totally. Butt. Naked! Her only adornment was one huge battle axe hanging from a loop around her waist. Her long hair cascading over her shoulders was so black it shed light. Her crystalline blue skin glowed, not from the light in the room, but from the heat emanating from her body. Her body rippled with muscles. Most frightening and entrancing of all, however, was her one gleaming yellow eye.


She sported one pendulous breast. Jagged scars cut across her face and chest where her left eye and left breast should have been. She appeared frighteningly beautiful. And beautifully frightening.


"Don't be afraid," Tara finally said. Her voice had changed. Instead of a parrot's voice I now heard the sultriest voice ever spoken since Lauren Bacall's Slim asked Humphrey Bogart's Steve, "You know how to whistle, don't you Steve?" I didn't even pretend to understand how she could speak a language I could understand.


"You see me as I really am."


In my shock I could barely muster a reply. "What are you?" I finally managed to ask.


"Everything will be explained in due time," she offered. "We have all of eternity, if we choose it." I sensed that with her time and space really could be molded to suit her needs.


"But now I want you," she said.


"For what?" was the best response I could offer.


"Come here," she said, stepping up to me. It occurred to me she could have demanded that I 'Step up'.


She placed her hands on my shoulders and pulled me to her. Her crystalline blue glowing skin seemed strangely cool and soft to my touch, like Tara's feathers, even though I could feel the heat radiating from her body.


She stuck her one breast in my chest. "Don't be afraid," she whispered in my ear.


Her black tongue flicked out of her mouth and swept across my chin. And then my lips. I reflexively put my arms around her, mostly to keep from falling over. I commenced shaking. She pushed her tongue into my mouth, like Napoleon's Grande Armée marching into Russia, broad, strong, and determined. She met no resistance from me. One of her hands went up inside the back of my shirt. The other hand slid into my pants. At that point my consciousness dissolved into a state of unconscious being. I passed out.


When I finally came to I found myself sprawled out on my apartment floor. The time was well into the day. I found myself totally naked. Not even any clothes strewn across the floor.


I rolled over in an attempt to gain my bearings. Tara, the parrot, sat quietly and calmly on her perch in the window, one foot up in a napping position, gently preening her feathers with her big beak. She ruffled her feathers when she saw me stirring.


"What the fuck!" I said, not a question, but a statement.




Chapter Four

Part One


I wandered into the bedroom in something of a daze to find some clothes and get dressed. Slipped on my shoes and grabbed my jacket and keys. I walked up to Tara and said, "Come on. Step up. We're going to go see somebody." I didn't dare leave her alone. I might find I didn't have a home to come back to.


I got in my truck and Tara hopped onto the passenger seat head rest. She didn't make a sound for the half hour or so it took me to drive down to the Pike Place Market. Not a peep out of her. Not a peep out of me.


It took about four loops driving around the market before a parking place opened up. I parked the truck and gathered Tara up. This time no chocolate pretzel. No coffee. No cookies. I ran past the brass pig and down the hill climb to Charlie's Bird Store.


Tara finally perked up when we got to the door. "No. I'm not going back in there," she emphatically said. "You're not taking me back? What are you doing?" she pleaded.


"I need to talk to Charlie."


"I'm not going in there."


I opened the door. Tara suddenly flapped her wings and before I could think to grab her feet she was fifty feet in the air and flying out of sight back over the top of the market.


I ran out into the street in front of the shop screaming, "Tara!" An oncoming car slammed on its brakes. The driver laid on his horn and yelled before swerving his car around me, "Get out of the road you stupid fuck!"


Charlie appeared at the door. "Tara?" he asked, looking around when he didn't see her with me. He already knew the answer. "You can't bring her back here, boss," he added. "I have a 'No Refund' policy."


"She flew off my shoulder and up over the building when I tried to go into your shop. I've got to go look for her."


"She'll be okay, son. Take my word for it. So why did you bring her back here?"


"Well, I didn't want to leave her at home unattended," I said. "Something strange happened to me last night. And I think you might have an idea what it is," I added.


Charlie froze.


"The weirdest thing happened with Tara last night," I continued. I know you're going to think I'm nuts, but. . ." I paused, trying to think of the right words. "I might as well just say it straight out. Tara raped me last night." There, I said it. I paused. "Maybe rape is the wrong word, but she took certain liberties with me, and I'm not talking about the god-damned parrot."


Charlie looked at me for the longest time without any noticeable reaction. Okay, he hasn't fled into his shop and locked the door. That was a good sign. Finally he asked, "Tara show herself to you as she really is?"


"Yes, she did." I replied. Charlie leaned back behind his door and flipped over his 'Come In' sign to the 'Closed' side.


"Buy me a beer," he said, "and I'll tell you a story."


"Okay," I agreed.


We walked up to the next level of the hill climb and dropped into a Mexican dive called El Puerco Lloron. Apparently Charlie was no stranger here. Charlie called out to a husky tattooed Latino guy with a goatee and spiked black hair behind the counter, "Buenas tardes Raúl. Necesitamos cervezas. Dos para mí y dos para mi amigo."


"¿Su amigo está pagando por la cerveza Señor Charlie?"


"Igual que siempre hermano."


The guy named Raúl deposited four ice cold glass bottles of Negra Modelo on the counter. Charlie grabbed two. I grabbed the other two. We sat by the windows, looking down over Elliott Bay where we could see the ferry boats coming in and out of Coleman Dock.


"This is going to be a two beer story," Charlie offered. He spread his lanky body over the metal folding chair and propped his back against one of the concrete pillars in the room. We drank in silence for a few moments.


Charlie finally broke the silence. "So you know there's more to Tara than meets the eye?" he asked.


I wanted to say, 'No Shit Sherlock!' I said, "she made somebody disappear last night." Charlie didn't show the slightest surprise. "We were in downtown Ballard and some old bag lady tried to attack her. Kept calling her a devil. Then suddenly she just vanished. Into thin air. And that wasn't even the strangest part."


"There's more?" Charlie asked.


"After we got home," I continued, "she scared the shit out of me. She transformed herself from a parrot. . . a parrot that just by the way can make people disappear, she transformed herself into some sort of freak that can bend time and space."


I half expected some kind of reaction from Charlie. Nothing. "Not a freak," Charlie interjected. "Not hardly."


"Maybe that's the wrong word. Extremely beautiful in a very frightening way. Did I mention she was totally naked?"


Charlie looked up at me with a bemused look. Finishing one beer he started the other.


"She had this skin that glowed blue like cobalt," I added. "And then she made love to me. Or at least I think she did. That's when I passed out."


"We may need more beer, son," Charlie said.


Part Two


"Looks like Tara showed you more of herself than she ever showed me," Charlie offered. "When Tara first came into the store her owner dropped her off and ran. I mean ran away as fast as she could go. Was supposed to just board the bird for the weekend, but the lady never came back. Never called. Nothing. I mean who in their right mind abandons a bird worth as much as Tara? So I'm setting up Tara's cage," Charlie continued, "and this guy comes into the shop and starts teasing the bird. Pokes at her. Tries to pet her. Touch her. So she bites him. He's so mad he hits Tara with his fist."


I looked up at Charlie. He continued, "I come running out of the back and I'm ready to tackle this guy and beat the crap out of him. Before I get half way there Tara lets out this tremendous shriek that stops me dead in my tracks. And shuts up every other bird in the place. And the guy plum just disappears."


Charlie chugged the remainder of his beer. I motioned to the clerk to bring another round. Charlie continued, "So I get on the phone with the aviary over in Spokane that Tara came from. Just to see if I might get an indication that something is different with her. It's run by this Indian guy. Not Lone Ranger and Tonto kind of Indian, but Indian Indian. From India," he added in clarification. I got the picture.


Charlie said, " I started telling him a small part of what happened and he started blabbing to me about mantras and Buddhas and reincarnation and all kinds of witches and gods and goddesses and shit. I decided I better drive over to Spokane on my closed day and meet this guy. Long day but it was worth it. I got him good and drunk and got one hell of a story out of him."


The clerk brought four more beers out to our table.


Charlie nodded and continued, "See, there's this ancient race of warrior witches that can take animal form in some of the most wayward and godforsaken parts of the world, far away from normal people. Tibet. The Ural Mountains of Russia. The Andes. The Northwest Coast. Tara is one of those warriors. An Amazon. A Jason and the Argonauts kind of Amazon. Not the bird kind."


I started thinking four beers might not be enough.


Charlie continued with his story. "This witchcraft was all fine and good when the world was large and distances were great. Humans and witches kept to their own worlds. But as the world got smaller and distances got shorter, well then, the world of witches and gods started spilling over into the world of men."


Charlie started on another beer. "Then the most powerful of these witches, these gods, decided they would enslave mankind to do their bidding. They started hiding among us in positions of authority and power. Those they couldn't subvert they killed. And took their place. See, these witches are shapeshifters. They can take animal or human form and hide among us. The only checks on their powers, the only protection people had, were the ancient shamans who knew how to counter their magic. Now, even the shamans aren't strong enough to stand up to these witches."


Thirteen years of graduate school down the drain, I thought to myself.


"So this Indian guy lets out that these warriors only reveal themselves when there's a threat to their existence. Which means a threat to our existence. And apparently there's a threat. A bad threat. A god of war, a warlock, a really bad hombre, killed his shaman on the Canuck coast and escaped his homeland and is extending his empire over the world of men. This god of war is called Winalagalis."


Okay, I thought. What the hell have I got myself into? "You know anything about him?" I asked Charlie.


"Only that he comes from a race of warriors in Canuck Land, called the Kwakwaka'wakw."


"So what do we do?" I asked very rhetorically.


"That's where Tara comes in," Charlie said. "Apparently there's a whole passel of Taras. Twenty-one different kinds of Taras. But the Blue Tara, what Tara is, is top dog. . ."


"Or top parrot," I interjected.


Charlie continued, "Tara is one of the fiercest and most powerful warriors of them all. Did she have a battle axe?"


"Yes she did," I responded. "And just one eye and one breast."


Charlie reached across the table and grabbed my hand. "Tara is one of the most powerful and one of the most secret of the warrior witches. She only shows herself to special people." The hair on the back of my neck bristled. Hell, all the hair I had left on my body bristled. "That's why not everybody can see her the way she really is. But the people she shows herself to, those people have a special role in whatever game she's playing. Your seeing Tara as she really is is both a blessing and a curse. For your sake," Charlie whispered, "I hope to hell she's flown off and you never see her again!"


I didn't know what to say. "And you know what else?" Charlie added. Oh My God, there's more, I thought to myself. "There's more than one of her. Blue Tara that is. Something about the birds that bred her. . ."


"Duke and Duchess, you mean?"



Continue reading this ebook at Smashwords.
Download this book for your ebook reader.
(Pages 1-35 show above.)