Mystery Short Story: Who Squawked?

May 4, 2024 | 2024 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze, Pets, Terrific Tales

by Maddi Davidson

This story has never before been published.

“This is Chet Armor. I need to dispose of a parrot.”

“Thanks for your call, Chet,” Jake replied. “I’m sorry, but we don’t––”

“You have to take him. I’ve called every bird and animal adoption place within an hour of Sacramento. No one will take a parrot. Snakes, pot-bellied pigs, and rats are welcome, but not parrots.”

Jake covered the cell phone and called out to his offspring battling with plastic lightsabers. “Keep it down, kiddos. I’m on the phone!”

“Parrots require special handling, Chet,” he said after the hubbub subsided. “Have you tried avian refuges?”

“Called those first. Nobody has room. I’ve run through the alphabet and Yolanda’s is last on the list. I have to get rid of this damn parrot.”

Tight on space and money, Jake didn’t want another bird and he didn’t want to deal with Chet. However, if his wife Yolanda were still alive, she’d tell him to ignore his own feelings and think of the poor parrot living with a jerk.

Jake struggled to keep his voice calm. “Well, Chet, can you tell me about your companion?”

“I don’t have a girlfriend.”

“I meant the parrot. Since they are intelligent and long-lived, parrots are more akin to life companions than pets. Can you tell me about your parrot: what type, male or female, name, age, previous owners, why you need to find it a new home?”

“Male by the name of Hosta. It’s not mine; he belonged to my Aunt Polly. She’s dead. No idea how old the bird is, but my aunt bought him from a previous owner a dozen years ago.

“What kind of parrot is Hosta?”

“A bastard.”

“I meant––”

“Yeah, I know. He’s big and gray. Don’t know why my aunt didn’t pick a pretty parrot who confined its remarks to ‘wanna cracker.’ This one swears.”

Jake guessed Chet had an African gray, which could live fifty years or more. Too bad Aunt Polly hadn’t been more diligent in planning for the bird’s care. He sighed. Parrots should never be bequeathed to a friend or relative not willing to make a life-time commitment to the bird.

“I have a suggestion, if you can wait a moment.” Jake covered the phone again. Eight-year-old Justin and his six-year-old sister, Layla, had hoisted their lightsabers anew and resumed the fight. Layla’s saber had banged against a cage, causing the occupant, a parakeet, to scream in protest.

“You two,” Jake said. “Out. Ms. Nancy needs your help.” She didn’t, of course, but his bird care volunteers were good with the children, perhaps due to their experience in dealing with squawking and ruffled feathers.

Jake returned to his call in time to hear Hosta sound off in the background. “Nitwit! Moron!”
“Shut up, you old buzzard,” Chet responded.

“Thanks for your patience, Chet. I’m in the process of building more space for the large birds. The area is not complete, but I can squeeze Hosta in with the existing residents until the addition is ready. I agree to take your bird, but with two provisos.”

“I’m on my way.”

“First, hear my conditions. Because Yolanda’s Second Chances is in the business of finding homes for birds, I request one week to evaluate Hosta’s suitability for adoption. If during the evaluation period he exhibits untreatable psychological, behavioral, or physical issues, any of which might hinder the acceptance of a new companion, I have the right to return him to you. If I choose to keep him, I assume responsibility for his long-term care, whether or not I am able to place him.”

“Fine by me. So, when can I––”

“And the second condition,” Jake said, rushing to finish, “requires you to take Hosta to an avian vet for a wellness check. I recommend Dr. Mona Chin at Furred and Feathered Friends Veterinary Hospital in Elk Grove. If she gives Hosta two thumbs up––or one beak up––you can bring him here. I will be happy to contact Dr. Chin and let her know you’ll be calling. She is on our advisory board and I am sure she will see you at the earliest possible opportunity.”

Chet agreed and Jake called Mona.

“He sounds like yet another inappropriate bird owner,” Mona said in response to Jake’s rehash of his conversation. Jake could almost see her trademark eye roll, her dark brown eyes and long lashes quite capable of conveying disapproval, skepticism, and impatience, all at the same time. Mona had been a vet for over thirty years, and was fond of saying, “I may not have seen it all, but I’m darn close.” Despite moaning about her full schedule, Mona agreed to squeeze Hosta in.

After disconnecting, Jake grabbed his toolbox and headed outside. He needed to install stainless steel mesh across one end of the unfinished aviary to make a temporary enclosure. He could then shuffle birds around to make space for

Mona called Jake the following day. She caught him in his office attending to paperwork while stroking the head feathers of Jojo, a fifteen-year-old cockatoo. Deirdre and Macbeth, two older cockatoos, were hopping around on the floor.

“I finished up with the African gray, Hostile, a minute ago,” Mona said.

“Hosta,” Jake corrected her.

“‘Hostile’ might be a better name. He’s not at all keen on the dude who brought him in. ‘No, Chet, no, no, no!’ seems to be his favorite phrase along with ‘Jackass.’ His vocabulary is saltier than sailors’ and includes a few words I won’t repeat. From the tone of Hosta’s voice, I’m betting he learned several of those words from Chet.”

“I guess I won’t be able to place him with a young family.”

“Not unless they run a brothel. I must say, the parrot has Chet’s number. Whenever Chet approaches the cage, Hosta lunges at him. Chet can’t seem to help jumping back, which amuses Hosta to no end, judging by the volume of his screeches.”

“What’s your assessment of the bird’s condition?”

“He’s not exhibiting any signs of old age. I’m guessing he’s between fifteen and forty years old, so he has plenty of years left if he finds a loving environment. However, I have a couple concerns.”

Jake sat up straighter. “Such as…?”

“He’s been picking at his feathers and has a few bald patches. Also, he’s had bouts of diarrhea recently.”

Jake felt Jojo bumping his hand, signaling Jake’s failure to continue caressing. “Depressed at the loss of his companion?” he asked, resuming his petting.

“No doubt. And being under the care of Chet would cause anxiety in any creature. I wouldn’t trust that dude to look after a worm. Jake, you’re doing the right thing by rescuing Hosta.”

After thanking Mona for her prompt attention, Jake returned Jojo and the others to the cockatoo aviary. He was back in his office when Chet barged in and dropped a covered cage and a bag full of parrot paraphernalia on the floor.

“You are Jake, I assume. Here’s the bird. I need a donation receipt to get a tax write-off. At least I’ll get something for putting up with him.”

Jake studied the handsome young man—shaved head, high cheekbones, piercing blue eyes, and a sculpted torso visible through his form fitting t-shirt—and wondered what Chet had against parrots.

Chet, sensing he was under scrutiny, glared back, defiantly.

“I need you to complete and sign these forms,” Jake said, pushing two pieces of paper across his desk. “The first asks for details, which might aid us in caring for Hosta: likes and dislikes, favorite phrases, and peculiarities. The second acknowledges we have two weeks to evaluate the bird.

“You said one week on the phone!”

“Yes, but since the bird is showing signs of stress, I require more time to assess his condition. The second form states that if we agree to keep Hosta, you relinquish all ownership or interest in the bird.”

Chet dashed through both forms. While making copies, Jake noted Chet’s scribbling provided almost no information about Hosta’s personality.

Their business complete, Jake lifted the carrier onto his desk. He removed the cover to find Hosta hunched in a corner, his beak stuck under a wing. “Welcome, Hosta,” Jake said. “Chet is leaving now. Want to say goodbye?”

“Awk. Chet, chet, chet. Moron. Jackass. Awk.”

Chet flushed. “And goodbye to you, too, birdbrain,” he retorted. On his way out he slammed the door.
Hosta’s purple-gray coloring was beautiful, except for the bald spot where he’d been pulling feathers.

The bright-red patch on his tail was striking. “You’re a good-looking bird, Hosta,” Jake said. “And smart. It’ll be okay. You never have to see Chet again.”

“No, Chet, no, no, no!” the parrot screeched.

Jake took Hosta’s cage down the hall to the semi-isolation area, which was designed for birds recovering from physical or mental trauma who were not ready for interaction with others. Jake’s most experienced volunteers cared for these creatures. He let Justin and Layla spend time here sometimes after school because their playfulness seemed to give the birds a lift.

The next morning, Jake received a call from Sara Castro, the executor of Aunt Polly’s will. According to Sara, Chet had been authorized to search for a home for Hosta, but not to dispose of the bird without clearing the final arrangements with her. She expressed doubt about “the legitimacy of Yolanda’s operations” and announced she would visit the facility that afternoon.

“Well isn’t she the pushy one?” Jake said to himself afterward. If Miss High-and-Mighty Castro didn’t approve of Yolanda’s, Jake would be more than happy to return the parrot and forego the pleasure of dealing with Sara and Chet-ster.

Jake was installing a water feature for the new aviary when he was told of Ms. Castro’s arrival. By habit, Jake ran a hand through the sand-colored curls covering his head and brushed the dirt off his jeans before entering the office. He was taken aback by the raven-hair beauty awaiting his presence. This was Sara Castro?

Jake wiped his hands on his jeans and shook his visitor’s proffered hand. “I’m Jake,” he said.

“Sara. Thank you for making time for me, Jake. I know I came across a bit harsh on our call, but Chet has proven to be, shall we say, less than diligent in complying with his aunt’s requests. I researched your organization after we spoke and it appears this time Chet chose well.” Her smile lit up Jake’s heart.

“I’d still like a tour, if you have time,” Sara added. “I’d love to meet the creatures behind the heavenly chorus I’m hearing.”

“Always happy to show people around. Do you know much about birds?”

What Jake expected to be a fifteen-minute tour became a pleasant and informative two-hour chat. Sara posed far-reaching questions about the difference between types of parrots, how they learned to speak, and the illicit trade in tropical birds.

Polly had been a key client in Sara’s financial advisory business. “Polly told me she was tired of men telling her what to do with her millions. She wanted a woman at the helm. Despite the large gap in age, she and I became friends. She promoted my business and referred friends as clients. I owe much of my success to her faith in me.”

Sara explained that Chet was Polly’s only living relative. “She worried Chet would be tempted to wring Hosta’s neck, so she made his inheritance contingent upon agreeing to either care for or find a good home for the bird. Of course, she knew he wouldn’t take Hosta in. Given Chet’s reputation for laziness, I’m amazed how quickly he found a home for Hosta.”

When Sara inquired about the parrot’s prospects for adoption, Jake admitted they were not good at the moment. “As you saw, he’s depressed about Polly.”

“Such a shame he had to witness her murder.”

“Her murder!”

“Didn’t Chet tell you? Polly was killed during a break-in: stabbed multiple times. The thief took jewelry and money. Hosta’s ceaseless squawking and shrieking induced a neighbor to investigate, but it was too late for Polly.”

“Poor Hosta. He’s facing a long road to recovery. I wonder if he’ll ever be adoptable.”

“Does this mean you’ll be returning him?”

“Oh, no. Returning Hosta to Chet would be like dropping a sick lamb into the pit of a hungry lion.”

Sara’s gratitude was effusive and she promised to visit Hosta from time to time.


Saturday morning, and Jake, hunched over his old oak desk, was reviewing his finances. Costs had risen nearly ten percent in the past month. He needed to focus more on raising funds to keep Yolanda’s afloat.

Oblivious to the financial situation facing his home, an Amazon parrot named Mojo belted out Jimmy Buffet’s “Margaritaville.” As Tico, Mojo’s buddy, perched on Jake’s shoulder nuzzling his ear, a loud scream pierced the air. Jake jumped and poor, startled Tico bit his ear.

Leaving the parrots penned in his office, Jake rushed toward the semi-isolation aviary where he found Layla sitting on the floor and Justin standing over her, holding a light saber pointed at her chest. Both were staring at Hosta hopping around in his cage screeching “No, Chet, no, no, no!” over and over.

“Put down your weapon!” Jake yelled.

Justin dropped the lightsaber, but Hosta’s cries and wing flapping continued unabated. Birds in the aviary, agitated by the commotion, were also shrieking and calling. Volunteers working in other areas came to investigate the uproar, but Jake waved them back.

“You hurt, big girl?” he said as he put Layla on her feet.

Layla rubbed her rear end. “Justin didn’t win. I tripped.”

“You two, I’m banning light sabers in the aviaries, effective immediately,” Jake said.

“Aw, Dad,” Justin said.

Approaching Hosta’s cage, Jake spoke soothingly, endeavoring to calm the distraught creature. “It’s okay, Hosta, it’s okay.”

Layla piped up. “I’m fine Hosta. See, I didn’t even cry.”

Hosta’s cries of “No, Chet, no, no, no,” and flapping of wings continued unabated even after Jake put the cover over the cage and they all left the enclosure.

“Daddy, why was Hosta so upset?” Justin asked.

“I guess he doesn’t like to see stormtroopers fighting,” Jake responded.

“Not stormtroopers,” Justin corrected him. “Jedi and Sith.”

Jake dispatched the children to “assist” Ms. Nancy and wandered back to his office, preoccupied with his thoughts.

Having calmed the rattled Mojo and Tico and returned them to their cages, Jake was still pondering Hosta’s outburst when his phone buzzed.

“Jake! This is Sara. It’s been over a week and I’ve been wondering how Hosta is doing.”

A tendril of happiness penetrated Jake’s grim mood. “Great minds think alike, Sara. I’ve been meaning to call you. Hosta is better. From time to time he still plucks his feathers, but his appetite is good and he’s echoing the other birds. However, something has come up and I need your help.”

A few minutes after seven that evening, Jake opened the front door to Chet and led him into his office.
“Thanks for coming after hours,” Jake said. “As I mentioned on the phone, I’ve had issues with Hosta. I don’t think he’s adoptable.”

Chet looked at the covered cage resting on Jake’s desk. “I’m not taking him back. He’s your problem.”

“We’re still in the evaluation period, and I’m within my rights to return him. However, I do understand your position. Quite a bit of money might be coming your way once the parrot is placed.”

“I bet a little birdie told you. Sara, right?”

“Yes. She said Polly was quite a wealthy woman. She wouldn’t tell me the terms of the will, but since you’re her only kin, I expect you’ll inherit a bundle. I thought maybe you and I could make a financial arrangement, beneficial to us both.”

“Go on,” Chet growled.

“I’m having financial difficulties taking care of so many birds. I’m forced to build the new aviary with my own hands. If I’m to keep Hosta here for several decades, Yolanda’s will need a sizeable donation. What say you help us out, in honor of your aunt?”

“You’re delusional. I’ve no intention of giving a single penny to your or that damn bird. And no way am I taking him back.”

“Forget the honoring your aunt idea. How about a donation to ensure you can––how shall I say it?––choose your place of residence instead of having it chosen for you?”

“Dunno what you’re talking about.”

“I showed Hosta a knife earlier today. He became hysterical, screeching ‘No, Chet, no, no, no.’ I’ve never seen a bird so distraught.‘No, Chet, no, no, no’ isn’t about how much he dislikes you, is it, Chet? It’s about your aunt’s murder.”

knife“Aren’t you the smart one. Guess I’ll have to wring Hosta’s neck after all.” Chet rose to his feet. A long slender blade appeared in his hand. Jake sprung out of his seat, snatched the cage off the desk, and dropped it on the credenza out of Chet’s reach.

“No tricks,” Chet said, “and I’ll make this quick.”

Jake pulled the cover off the cage.

“No, Chet, no, no, no!” the frenetic bird shrieked.

Chet lunged across the desk. Jake dodging behind his high-backed office chair, which absorbed the knife strike. Before Chet could try again, the office door flew open. A large uniformed policeman, gun in hand, filled the frame. Another officer stood behind.

“Police! Put down the weapon now!”

Chet complied and Jake, shaken from the events, collapsed into his office chair.

“It’s over, Hosta. It’s over,” he said, but the bird shrieks continued until Chet had been secured in handcuffs.

“You okay?” Sara, unable to squeeze into the crowded room, stood at the door with a worried expression.

“You!” Chet yelled at her. “You set me up! My lawyer will get me out of this and you’ll never manage another penny of Polly’s money. My money.”

“Your lawyer, huh?” she responded. “Not sure how you’ll pay for one, Chet. Didn’t you know Polly is leaving you a mere $5,000? The remainder is earmarked for Hosta’s caregiver and various charities. Had you chosen to keep Hosta, you’d be rich. Instead, you’re what you’ve always been. A loser.”

“Chet’s a loser, Chet’s a loser,” the parrot squawked.

Chet went berserk, only the alertness of the policemen preventing him from reaching Hosta. “I knew I should have murdered you, too. Bastard,” Chet screamed at the parrot.

Hosta clicked his beak and raised his wings. “Moron. Nitwit. Jackass.”

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, and Spotify.

Maddi Davidson is the pen name for Mary Ann Davidson, who lives in Idaho, and Diane Davidson, residing in Virginia. Their novels and short stories range from the murder of a deranged scientist resurrecting the dodo to a spurned wife hacking the pacemaker of an ex-husband who richly deserved it.

Disclosure: This post contains links to an affiliate program, for which we receive a few cents if you make purchases. KRL also receives free copies of most of the books that it reviews, that are provided in exchange for an honest review of the book.

1 Comment

  1. Wonderful story. Very enjoyable.


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