Hi! My name is Sam Beishir. I'm a grey-cheeked parakeet...though most people, seeing me for the first time, call me a parrot.
Technically, I'm pretty sure parakeets are in the parrot family...aren't they?
This is my story, though you'll see my mom's name on the cover. I suppose I could have written it all myself—think I couldn't learn to use a keyboard? Hah! Guess again! Still, why should I do that when I have someone to do it for me? So she gets author credit. I don't mind. It's still my story.
I was born—hatched—in South America in 1989. I don't know exactly when—it's not as if there was a calendar in the nest—or where. I'm pretty sure it was somewhere in Ecuador. That's where most of us are from. Then one day, they came—humans, and not good ones. Yes, I know there's a difference. Of all the creatures God put on this planet, humans are the species that has the most difficulty getting along.
Those humans took many of us that day. I was just a baby and I was scared. I wanted Mommy and Daddy. Did the humans take them, too? I don't know. I never saw them again.
Because I was just a baby, my memory of that time is kinda sketchy. I remember being taken, I remember a long trip—by plane, I think—and ending up in a place where there were lots of other birds. I heard things...the older birds talked a lot, while we babies huddled together and cried for our parents. One of the big birds said we were in something called Quarantine.
"We'll be here for a while, then they'll ship us out to different places," he declared.
"What other places?" another adult bird asked.
"Places where humans can buy us."
"Buy us?" Another bird screeched loudly. "For food? They're going to eat us?"
"No, stupid!" the older bird said, impatient. "They want us for pets."
"What's a pet?" a conure asked.
"They take us into their homes, put us in cages, and pretend they can talk to us, that we're part of their families."
"Being a pet sounds horrible. I don't want to be a pet."
I didn't want to be a pet, either. I wanted Mommy and Daddy. I started to cry.
"Some of us will get lucky," the older bird went on. "We'll find humans who really do love us and will give us good lives—as good as one can have, living in a cage."
I was already in a cage. I didn't want another. I wanted to go home...but young as I was, I knew the reality. Home no longer existed.
There was talk of what might happen to those of us who didn't find the good humans. "We'd end up moving from home to home, never really loved, sometimes neglected, sometimes worse."
"Humans who mistreat us."
That discussion gave the youngest birds nightmares. Some birds couldn't take the stress, and would die before they could leave quarantine. Every day, birds would be taken away, and those of us who remained would pray those birds would find good humans. We all said our goodbyes with a promise to meet up again one day, but we all knew we wouldn't see each other again until we crossed the Rainbow Bridge that took us back to our Creator when our lives here came to an end.
I wished I could cross the bridge now. I was homesick and scared and I knew the other side to be far better than this side....
One day, I was sent away with several other birds. I never saw any of them again, except for another grey-cheek like myself. We were sent to a pet shop in St. Louis, where we were housed together.
"I'm scared," the other bird said, huddling at the back of our cage.
"So am I," I admitted. "But maybe we'll get lucky and find good humans."
"Big maybe," she said, tucking her head under her wing.
"Have faith," I told her.
"I can't," she cried. "I was taken from my nest! Mama died on the plane coming here—she was fighting to free us. I begged her not to leave me. None of the humans did anything to help her. I hate them—all of them!"
I did what I could to console her, but her fear consumed her. I was afraid, too, but trying hard not to let her see it. Then the spirit bird came....
It was late one night—the pet shop was closed. All of the creatures were asleep in their cages, including my roomie and me. The light woke me—the brightest light I've ever seen, even brighter than the sun over Ecuador. "Hey—we're trying to sleep here," I grumbled, raising a wing to cover my eyes. "Turn it off!"
"Wake up—I have something to tell you!"
"Can't it wait—until morning, maybe?"
"No, it can't." A bird emerged from the light—not a grey-cheek, but a cousin subspecies, a canary-wing. He settled down next to me. That's when I realized everyone else was still asleep. The canary-wing saw my confusion. "Only you can see me, Sam."
"Sam? Why do you call me that?" I asked.
"Because that's going to be your name," he told me. "My name is Sam, you see—and your new home will be with my humans. They're going to name you after me."
"Because my human mother still misses me. I was taken from her. She still misses me, after all this time," he explained. "When she sees you, she's going to think I've come back to her, and she'll name you Sam."
"What is she like? Is she a good human?" I wanted to know.
"Yes," he said. "She's not perfect by any means. She became my adopted mom when she was still young herself, and had a lot to learn about caring for a bird. She still does, really. But she'll love you so much, you really won't mind."
"How will I know her?" I asked, worried I might suck up to the wrong human.
"I'll be here when the time comes," he promised. "I'll point her out to you."
"You said you were taken from her. How? What happened?" I asked.
He looked up at the light. "When we return to Paradise," he began, "there's no pain, no suffering of any kind. We don't have any memory of unpleasantness. A good thing, actually."
I wondered if something really bad had happened to Sam, but I didn't ask. I was relieved to know I was going to a good home. Then I looked over at my cagemate. "What about her?" I asked. "Is she getting a good home, too?"
"I don't know," Sam answered. "I was only sent to guide you."
"Will you still be with me after I go home?" I asked.
"I'll always be with you."
I watched everyone who came into the pet shop the next morning, waiting, hoping. From what Sam had told me, I was going to a pretty good home. Patience, I kept telling myself. He'll come when she gets here. He'll point her out to me.
"What's with you?" my cagemate asked.
"You perk up every time somebody comes through that door," she said. "You act like you want somebody to take you."
"I do," I said.
I told her about Sam's visit. "Did he know what's going to happen to me?" she asked, hopeful.
"I'm sorry, no," I said.
She hung her head.
"I know you're going to get a good home, too," I said, trying to make her feel better.
"You can't know that for sure," she said.
"Hey, maybe my adopted mom will take you, too," I suggested
That was the first time she seemed at all hopeful. "Do you think so?" she asked.
"It's possible. She has a soft spot for birds, and it's just the two of us, so...."
"I hope you're right. I'd really be scared here without you," she confessed.
"There she is," Sam whispered.
I looked toward the door. There were two women coming into the store.
"Which one?" I asked.
"The smaller one." He paused. "She's not as small as she used to be. Must be all that eating out."
"What should I do?" I asked.
"Nothing, yet," he said. "She'll come to you."
I looked at him, hoping he knew what he was talking about. "You haven't seen her in eleven years. How can you be so sure?"
He was mildly indignant. "First of all, I've seen her every day. She hasn't seen me. Big difference," he said. "And second, she's here to buy a bird for her dad—a big red conure."
"Was sold two days ago. I know," Sam said. "But she won't leave right away. She loves animals. So does her mom there. They'll look around. When they come back here, make nice."
"Act friendly. Go to her. Treat her like an old friend," he advised. "She'll think you're me."
I was surprised by that. "Whaaaaaatt?"
"She knows there's a life after the one you have now. She'll see you and think you're me, back from this side."
"She won't love me for me?" That worried me.
"Of course she will. But you have to get her to take you home with her. Don't let pride get in the way of that, dummy."
He was right. I watched and waited. As she came closer, I stepped up boldly while my roomie cowered at the rear. "Hi, there," the human said, smiling. She bent down to get a closer look at me. "Aren't you cute?"
"Of course I am. Take me home with you!"
She turned to the woman with her. "Mom, look—he looks like Sam!"
The other woman came closer, too. "He does," she agreed.
"Since I can't get Dad's bird, maybe I'll buy him," she said.
"Maybe?" I asked.
"Patience," Sam whispered.
"You'll need a cage," her mother was saying.
"I can get that here—or across the street at Woolworths," she said. She stopped for a minute. "Remember?"
Her mom nodded. She looked a little worried. When they both walked away, it was my turn to be worried. "It's okay," Sam assured me. "She just has to buy a cage. She'll be back."
They did come back a short time later (though at the time, it felt like an eternity to me).
"You're leaving now, aren't you?" my roomie asked.
"Looks like it." I kept watching the door at the front of the store.
"I'm not going with you?"
In spite of my excitement, I suddenly felt bad for her. She was already scared. Now she was going to be alone here. "I don't know," I said. I didn't think so.
I looked up at the birds in the cage above us. "I'm leaving soon," I told them. "My friend here is a bit shy and afraid. Could you maybe take her under your wing?"
"Oh, sure!" they answered in unison. "Stick with us, honey!"
"Thank you," she responded timidly.
The door opened. They had come back for me. The girl working in the store came back and opened the cage. My roomie immediately moved to the back. I stepped forward, anxious to go.
"Which one?" the girl asked.
"That one." My new mom pointed to me.
I didn't wait to be taken out. I flew...out of the cage and through the store to the checkout counter. Mom laughed. "He's anxious to go home," she told her mom.
She was so right!
"I'm going to call him Sam," my new mom told her mom.
Her mom didn't say anything. I wondered why.
"He's back," Mom went on. "I knew it when I saw him. The way he looked at me, flying up to the cash register—he's anxious to go home."
I realized I wasn't in that box alone. "Sam?" I asked.
"Who else would be in here with you?"
"Right. So now we're both Sam?"
"Looks like it."
"That's going to be confusing."
"For who?" he asked. "She can't see me, and since we're only going to be talking to each other...."
"Nobody else can see you?"
"Only other non-humans," he said.
"Why is that?" I asked.
"They used to be able to see what we can see—a long, long time ago," he said. "Unfortunately for them, they got 'sophistication.' They think they're enlightened. They've actually just closed their hearts and minds to all but what they can prove."
"That makes sense," I said, with more than a little sarcasm.
"I've missed her as much as she's missed me," Sam said then. "Take good care of her, Number Two."
"Number Two?" I laughed at that. "Does that make you Number One?"
"Well, I was here first."