Please see the Author’s Note at the end.
“And just what do you suggest?”
There was no immediate answer from Brian, so Annie did her best to return her attention to Reverend Hoswich’s sermon. This was easier said than done, however, as the object of Brian’s ire, Uncle Patrick’s parrot, held forth once again.
“What a pile of bullshit! Take a hike, you commie pansy! Who wants a cracker?” Burnside, the old and cranky parrot, followed these remarks with a whistled rendition of Yankee Doodle.
Reverend Hoswich paused, cleared his throat, and resumed.
“Patrick was an independent spirit, but he leaves us memories that will daily remind us of the importance of family and friends in his life,” said the reverend, solemnly.
“Genetic throwbacks!” yelled Burnside. “Inbred dumbshits!”
Annie covered her face with her hands as Brian turned purple.
“Why is that rotten squab even here?” Brian hissed in her ear.
“Uncle Patrick put it in his will. You know that,” she answered. “The parrot has to be at the funeral and at the graveside. After that, it goes to the city zoo.” She glared at the bird in its cage next to the casket. “And good luck to them.”
Around them, the other guests and relatives shifted uncomfortably in their seats. Brian and Annie’s mother, Barbara, clearly feeling she had some responsibility in the matter since Patrick was her brother, rose, approached Burnside, and leaned in to whisper something soothing to the bird.
“Where’s my damned glasses? Who the hell’s calling now? Holy hell! Look at that rack!” Burnside launched into a warbling rendition of “The Bastard King of England.”
Barbara flinched and returned, silently, to her seat.
Reverend Hoswich, apparently seeing the futility of continuing his sermon, signaled to the organist and the choir burst forth with “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” in a valiant attempt to drown out the worst of Burnside’s singing.
Burnside seemed to sense a challenge and as the choir swelled to full voice, he fluffed out his feathers in a ruff about his head, stretched his neck out as far as he could reach and sang all the louder. Annie was both horrified and amazed. The song was really so much dirtier than she’d ever realized.
Suddenly, the complete absurdity of the situation caught up to Annie and she could feel highly inappropriate laughter bubbling far back in her throat. The choir sang with all its might as Burnside gleefully poured his heart and soul into the king’s bawdy tale. When the irascible old bird threw himself into the final refrain, flapping his wings and drawing out the final line, Annie lost it completely.
She laughed long and loud and totally without restraint. She knew, even as she wiped at her streaming eyes, that she was making a horrible spectacle of herself and there was a high probability that she was offending everyone in the room, but she simply could not help herself.
At last, her mirth quieted to wheezy giggles and she realized the room had, at last, fallen silent. Every direction she looked, she was met with bug-eyed, astonished stares. Even Burnside stood quiet, his head tipped and one eye fixed on her in a calculating stare. Annie gulped, her amusement definitely squashed.
“Complete dumbass,” the bird said, at last. “Absolutely useless. Come and give us a kiss.”
Annie’s mouth dropped open, as if to reply, but before she could make a sound, someone in the back of the room let out a loud, astonished snort of laughter. A few more titters rippled around the corners of the room. Annie, her mouth still open, though now in astonishment, made eye contact with her mother. Barbara looked as if she was about to explode and, a split second later, she did. As Annie had done just moments before, the entire room broke out into loud, long, completely helpless laughter. The guffaws, snorts, giggles, and chortles buffeted about the room.
Burnside, that profane parrot, stood mute for a time before speaking again, at last.
Author’s Note: This story is inspired by an anecdote that my husband recently heard and brought to my attention. President Andrew Jackson’s funeral took place in his home and, the number of guests and the general upheaval produced by the doings didn’t sit well with Jackson’s pet parrot. The parrot, according to anecdotal accounts of the day, let forth such a stream of profanity, she finally had to be removed from the home for the duration of the service as she was upsetting all the mourners. “The Bastard King of England” is, in fact, an extremely off-color song. I’d link it here but, frankly, I’d be too embarrassed. If you’re really curious (and you’re confident your mother won’t catch you), feel free to Google it. I assure you, the lyrics are definitely NOT safe for work or for children. Yeesh.