Stanley (excerpt)

We bought the bird with his big dusty plumage, looking much older than the one-year estimate the pet store owner gave. “A brilliant animal!” he said, which won my wife over. It was a massive white cockatoo, big as a lap dog, and it liked to fly around the house, swiping by your head and landing unexpectedly on the back of your chair or on your shoulder with that heavy death grip of its talons. It sat up in the trapezoid windows, clawing the molding and shitting, until I insisted it get its wings clipped. The bird watched me resentfully as I joked to my wife we could do it ourselves with a falconer’s hood and a pair of shears. It was Marta who took him—his name was “Stanley”—to the vet.

Afterwards, Stanley sat picking at his impotent wings, or crawled pathetically down the side of his cage like a hobbled gymnast, making me feel guilty. My wife cried a little; she was an emotional woman, prone to sympathies with animals. I often thought it suggested a sadistic streak in her, the way she could get so riled up by suffering. She seemed most powerful when in its grip, and she was crying a lot these days. I didn’t care much for the bird, and when I went to pet it absent-mindedly, it nearly took off my finger.

The story was performed by the actor Al Woodhull for the Liars' League event in London, October 2008.

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listen to the audio of the performance.