I don't care what the police said. It was that stupid bird's fault.
"So ... the bird started the fire?" the detective's eyebrow twitched.
"Yes sir. He was jealous, always has been. Ever since she first brought him home twenty years ago." I was rambling. I tend to do that when I am nervous. Being arrested for arson can do that to a person.
"The bird ... is jealous." It was a statement, not a question. The eyebrow twitched again.
"Yes! We never had kids and she treated him like he was one. But I think he saw her more as a mate than a mother figure. That's why he hated me." I knew how crazy it sounded, but I was completely serious. And facing a lengthy prison sentence.
"The bird ... wanted to be your wife's mate." Again, not a question. Simply repeating what I said. Eyebrow twitching. Writing on the legal pad with his pencil. He glanced back over his shoulder at the mirror that covered the wall behind him.
"He was always very defensive of her. Anytime someone came through the gate he would set up a shrieking and hollering until we locked him in his cage and threw the blanket over it. Even then, he would be under there muttering and murmuring. He was just such a hateful, spoiled brat. Mary loved him though, loved him like a human child. She would even apologise for putting the blanket over his cage when he came out and give him a treat. Fussing over him like ..." The detective held up a hand. With great effort, I pressed my lips together to keep from going on.
"Are you sure you don't want to wait for a lawyer?" The detective was looking deeply into my eyes, I suppose trying to guess what was going on in there. Not that I was a danger to anyone with my hands cuffed behind me. "We can get a court-appointed one for you if you can't afford one."
I shook my head vigorously. I had nothing to hide. "No, just listen to me. The bird hated Saturday mornings the worst. That was the day she went to yoga classes."
"The bird?" Finally, a question instead of just repeating me.
"No, Mary. My wife. She goes to yoga on Saturday morning, and so I get to laze around the house for a while. Mary is a morning person, doesn't recognize the value of sleeping late and hanging out in your pajamas till noon. Since she is gone all morning, I drink my coffee and read my paper. Of course, he hates being alone in the house with me. So he usually gets locked in his cage with the blanket over it while she is gone. Otherwise he will try to foul my coffee or shred my newspaper."
"The bird will ..." the detective looked at me quizzically. The eyebrow again. "... foul your coffee." Repeating me again. They must teach that in interrogation classes or something.
"Or he will shred my paper. I will be sitting there reading it and he will swoop in and grab it with his claws and tear it right out of my hands. Or he will sneak up to my coffee cup and ..."
"OK, enough. The bird hates you. So you burn down your house? What? To show him who's boss?" The corner of his mouth was twitching now in concert with his eyebrow.
"I am telling you, I didn't burn it down. The bird was particularly annoyed at me that day. He has been plotting to get me for a while. He has even been stashing cigarettes and lighters around the house. Believe me, he is a particularly evil bird."
"Does he smoke?" The detective's facial twitches were starting to get on my nerves.
"No! I do. I used to. I quit. Well, mostly. I mean, only when I am feeling really stressed out. Like right now. Do you have a smoke? Is smoking allowed in here?" I was beginning to feel panic rising up in my gut. This was not going well. The detective didn't even seem to hear my question.
"And you were angry with your wife for the attention she gave the bird?"
"No! I love Mary with all my heart. Her spoiling the bird is actually endearing to me. She's one of those kind-hearted people who cries if they hit an animal on the road. She punched me once when a little bird flew in front of the car. I love how she loves animals. I just hate the bird."
"So you burned down your house."
"I DID NOT!" I screamed, startling myself just a bit.
Not Dick Tracy. He didn't even flinch, just kept staring at me with that twitching eyebrow and mouth. "You know, you are lucky nobody was hurt. Arson is bad enough. We could be looking at attempted murder. And animal cruelty. How much did you hate that parrot anyway?"
I sighed in exasperation. Maybe I should wait around for a lawyer after all. This wasn't going well.
"It's not so much that I hate him as he annoys me. You should see the mess he makes eating. For a bird who can shell a brazil nut in three seconds flat you would think he could eat a bit more neatly. But no! There is a fifteen foot circle of uneaten food and hulls around his dish. Not counting the stuff he carries off to eat somewhere else. And the smell, can I tell you about the smell ..."
The detective slapped a manilla folder down on the table and opened it up. Started leafing through it slowly as if I was not even there. My curiosity got the best of me.
The detective looked up like he just remembered me.
"What? This?" Flipping a few more pages.
"Yes. What is that?" Not sure why I cared. But the detective looked pretty interested.
"Oh, a report." Flipped pages. Wrote notes. Twitched eyebrow.
I wasn't going take the bait. I wouldn't ask.
"Oh. Sorry. It really is engrossing. The Fire Marshall's report on the cause of your house fire. So you smoke huh?" I tried to read the report, but it was too far away and I couldn't lean closer for my hands being cuffed to the chair.
"Were you trying to make it look like an accident?" He was holding up a page, looking at me over the top of it.
"No! I wasn't ... I mean I didn't ..."
"So you didn't care who knew then. You just wanted to get the bird."
"Can I see that?"
"Naw ... lots of technical terms. You wouldn't get it."
"Don't I have a right to see ..."
The detective snapped, "You want to talk about rights, call a lawyer. I just want to know why you burned your own house down! Now are you going to tell me? Or do you need some more time in the clink with Bubba to remember?" He was standing up now, leaning over the table, his hands on the report. I began to think I did need a lawyer.
"I think I need a lawyer." my voice is quiet and tremulous. The detective kept staring at me for a few minutes, and then sat down and straightened the papers in the folder. He looked over his shoulder at the mirror and gestures at me with his head. A few seconds later a couple of cops come in and stand me up.
"Tell Bubba the story about your damn bird. I am sure he'll be as amused as I am." The detective was grim now. I didn't think the twitching facial features were from suppressed laughter anymore. This guy was seriously pissed.
I didn't say anything. I guess I am started to value my right to remain silent a little more. As we left, I heard voices coming from the room behind the mirror. I don't think I was supposed to hear them. Someone in there was pissed too.
"We HAVE to pin it on him. We can't put a bird on trial. No matter how strong the evidence against him."
That stupid bird.
-- Tyler Willson