I had a parrot named Attila the Hun. Quickly taught it to say “Attack” on command whenever my sister came over and started talking about her job at the marketing agency she “suffered” (her word) for.
I noticed she stopped coming over as often for a while and I tried to convince her I’d just been watching Band of Brothers and this had prompted the aggressive streak in Attila but I could tell that didn’t fly and she didn’t start coming back with regularity until I got another pet.
John Cena came to me from the Wild West (the name I gave the park area behind my neighborhood). One day I woke up, went to the kitchen, saw a bunny parked outside my sliding glass porch door, staring through the glass. Not really at anything. Just staring. I figured he’d scamper when I opened the door but he hopped right in and it made sense to call him (her? I don’t know how to sex a bunny without having two bunnies and the potential for mating and even then I might mix up the who’s who in a bunny throwdown) John Cena.
Attila said “Attack” without any signal from me.
I dug some lettuce from the fridge and chopped a couple baby carrots into even babier pieces and fed them to John. He seemed to like them alright.
When I opened the door later, thinking John would want out, he plopped his bunny butt near the garbage can next to the pantry door. I laid down a paper towel just in case he got the hint and dropped turds somewhere it would be easy to clean up.
The next morning I find John squatted on the couch with the tv on. I hear Attila say “Attack.”
I find the paper towel dotted with turds and throw it in the can, replace it with a fresh one.
“Don’t attack John Cena,” I say.
Attila responds “Attack John Cena.”
John’s favorite show is, go figure, Gossip Girl. Actually, I don’t know why that’s go figure but my sister says it makes sense. She loves John. Hates his name though. Secretly I find her calling John Freckles, but this I do not relate to Attila since my sister has many freckles and somehow I think Attila might be smart enough to connect saying “Attack Freckles” with totally Shawshank Redemption-ing his cage in order to actually attack my sister’s face, which is not a battle I want on my hands.
John seems content with his paper towel toilet, the couch with direct viewing access, etc. Better than roughing it, I guess.
The next time my sister is over she watches Gossip Girl with John (Freckles) and mumbles things like “I love Blair,” “Oh, isn’t it just miserable to see them fight?” and this, which makes John cast nibbly looks at my sister as if to say, please shut up: “I just know it has to be Chuck who’s the gossip girl.”
“How are you and Jeff?” I ask her.
Which I take to mean something other than fine.
One day I wake to abject squawking, which, as I make my way downstairs, turns into my audibly distressed parrot saying “Attack John Cena.” I hear the tv switching between channels showing WWE and Gossip Girl with absurd regularity, followed by more calls to “Attack John Cena.”
When I get to the living room I see Attila perched on the arm of the couch and and John squatted on a cushion. I don’t even begin to ask myself how Attila got out of his cage but I’m pleased to see neither is bleeding.
They both turn to look at me.
Next time my sister is over I ask her how she and Jeff are doing.
I wonder if I ask this too often.
I wonder if she wants kids.
I wonder what her kids will be like.
She looks at John. She looks at Attila. I think I understand.
Michael Prihoda is a poet, editor, and teacher living in central Indiana. He is the editor of After the Pause, an experimental literary magazine and small press. In addition, he is the author of five poetry collections, the most recent of which is The First Breath You Take After You Give Up (Weasel Press, 2016).