Honolulu Lite

Charles Memminger

Call of the wild’s got
nothing on Sweetie

There are either hundreds of escaped pet lovebirds flying around the island or the few wretched castaways on the loose who simply like to hang out by my house.

To recap: A few years ago, my daughter and I heard a chirping outside that sounded more like a parakeet than any of the wild birds that live in the neighborhood. We went out on the deck and there was a lovebird, surrounded by a pack of angry little finchlike birds. I was like a scene out of "West Side Story" if members of the Jets gang were dressed in bird costumes. The lovebird flew down to my shoulder, choosing to return to imprisonment by humans than rumbling with the Jets.

We named the bird Sweetie, rashly as it turns out. We learned that the creature had many strong personality traits, sweetness not being one of them. She rode our poor dog Boomer around like a rodeo pony until he understood that his position had gone from fourth in a household of four to fifth in the New Household Order. Sweetie assumed the role of my Sammy "The Bull" Gravano, sitting on my shoulder and appearing very capable of breaking the legs of anyone she deemed to be a threat.

It turned out that Sweetie could talk. She says "kiss, kiss," usually at inappropriate times, like when she's about to savagely attack the dog's snout. She also says "baby" in the cutest dialect, seemingly a plot to coax an unwary face next to hers so she can have unimpeded "first strike" advantage.

SOMETIME AFTER Sweetie arrived, she started singing to another wayward lovebird outside. We opened the door and that bird flew in. We put that bird in the cage with Sweetie, unaware that Sweetie was chuckling under her breath. The assault was swift and terrible, and we barely managed to get the victim out of the cage with all of its feathers. We took that bird to the animal hospital for safekeeping.

When Sweetie conned yet a second lovebird from outside into the house, we knew better than to feed it to the Green Shredder, who sat on her perch batting her little eyelashes like a psychotic streetwalker with a stiletto in her purse.

We gave that bird away to a friend and have heard that just being near Sweetie caused the poor animal to suffer from nervous twitching from which it still hasn't recovered.

We were stunned when, just a few weeks ago, Sweetie enticed ANOTHER lovebird into the house. I mean, how many lovebirds are out there? Thousands? The guy at the pet shop said no, just a few. They escape from cages because the owners don't securely lock the doors. They usually don't last too long in the wild, he said. They are killed by wild birds (those darn Jets!) or starve.

This new bird seemed young, healthy and strong, so we decided to see if she could hold her own with Sweetie. After a few rounds that could have been sanctioned by the World Bird Wrestling Federation, Sweetie seems to have found her match. When not trying to rip out each other's throats, they sit nicely together, snuggling. Sweetie and the new bird (we named her Baby, perhaps rashly) look like they're in love, cuddled together on the perch. Yet, as they scan the trees outside, I can't help but feel they are searching for new meat. Once I thought I detected a soft chuckle.

Charles Memminger, winner of National Society of Newspaper Columnists awards, appears Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. E-mail


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