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I used to have a pet parakeet named Gordie. Gordie would imitate the sounds of two things perfectly. One was the phone. I'd answer my ringing phone only to realize the line was dead, and it was Gordie up to his tricks. 'Damn!' I'd say after I picked up the third false call in ten minutes. But it was so much like the real phone, I didn't know if I had a call or not.

The other imitation Gordie had down was the toilet flushing. I'd hear the plumbing go off and say, 'Whoa, who's in my place?' But it would just be Gordie horsing around. Sometimes he'd do it when I had a guest over who thought we were alone. She'd go, 'Hey! Who else is here?' And I'd have to explain about Gordie. She'd think that was cute. Then when she and I got real quiet together, Gordie got cruel. He'd start an orgy of toilet flushing and phone ringing until it sounded like we were in a cheap hotel. 'What the--?' she'd say, and I'd explain Gordie did the phone, too. Usually she'd say, 'That's a talented bird,' or sometimes, 'What a nuisance!'

After a few months, Gordie got bored living with me, let himself out of his cage, and took off in my car. I called the cops about my missing car, and in a few days it turned up in Tennessee. Gordie evidently drove it until it ran out of gas, then abandoned it and flew the rest of the way to his destination. Weeks went by, and I didn't hear a word from Gordie. I'd just about forgotten him when one evening, the phone rang. I picked it up and held it to my ear.

'Gordie?' I said. 'Is that you?'

Then I heard the toilet flush.

'Gordie!' I cried. 'What's up, man?'

But he hung up. I guessed he just wanted me to know he was okay.

About a week after the call, I got a picture in the mail of Gordie on a beach. His claws were buried in the sand, he had a great big colorful drink full of fruit in front of him, and each little wing was wrapped around the shoulders of a sexy flamingo. 'Come to Florida,' he'd scratched on the picture in a sprawling script.

But I was sun allergic and couldn't stand the idea of dealing with a drunken bird. I never saw him again.

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