The history behind “Time and the Parakeet”

Girl and parakeet at piano

THE STORY IN BRIEF
A disappointed woman is offered the chance to change her past.

HOW IT WAS WRITTEN
“Time and the Parakeet” was written especially for The History of Soul 2065, to fill in some blanks and, quite honestly, to lengthen the manuscript. It came from my own musings (and regrets) on various points in my life where a different decision might have made a radical change in how my life was lived.

NOTES ON THE PEOPLE
Eileen
is fictional, but at least one of the events in her life is not. When I was in high school and had to choose a language, I took Spanish, because I thought that would be much more practical in a neighborhood and city where so many spoke Spanish as their first language. I got good grades over the next couple of years, but knew that my conversational skills were lacking, so when an optional class in conversational Spanish was offered, I signed up for it. As in the story, when I walked in on the first day, I found I was the only non-Hispanic student in the class. And when the teacher asked us to give a reason why we were taking the class (in Spanish) and called on me first, I knew I’d be laughed at for my bad accent and grammar, and just sat mutely, unable to utter a word. “This is a participatory class,” the teacher announced. “If you don’t intend to participate, you shouldn’t be in this class.” So when the class was over, I went immediately to the programming room, and signed up for driver’s ed instead.

I’ve lost most of what little Spanish I retained after that, and it’s one of the things I regret. So I offered Eileen the chance to fix it.

The bird turned its head and ran its beak through its tail feathers, admired the effect, and then cocked its head at her. “You’ve got me. Okay, here’s the deal: I’m here as a representative of Time.”

Time and the Parakeet

Camila is fictional, although I had one particular friend in mind when I wrote her.

ParaClete the parakeet is real — sort of. When I was around 12 or so, I had a tame parakeet of whom I was very fond. When I was home, I’d leave it out of the cage; it would perch on my bedroom curtains or on my shoulder, and would pick puzzle pieces out of a box and put them in my hand. Its name was Faigele (Yiddish for “little bird”). So when I needed a rather unusual stand-in for Time, I picked my parakeet.

NOTES ON THE HISTORY
At the time I was writing this story, there were news reports of undocumented immigrants being pulled out of their workplace by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (known as ICE). As of this writing, it is still happening.

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