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MOTHER BUDGIE by David Cook

You push open the cracked old oak door and marvel as you step into the room. A whirlwind of budgies, of burnished gold, sunset red, ocean green and all hues in between, swoop down around your ears, chirping merrily, joy infused in each and every note. Others sing from up in the rafters while still more chirrup in colourful cages that line the walls from ceiling to floor. Being here lifts your heart.

A woman approaches, clad in a shawl as bright as the birds that skitter around her. This is Mother Budgie. She is famous. Tourists come from all over the globe to visit her. She gestures you closer and says ‘Welcome,’ the warmth in her voice reflected in her eyes. The budgies echo her greeting. ‘Welcomewelcome,’ they trill in chorus. She beams at them and several settle onto her shoulders and chirp ‘Mommamommamomma.’ Mother Budgie hand-rears every beautiful bird in her establishment and has patiently taught them all to sing these words. Their refrain is picked up by all the other budgies and the echoes of ‘Mommamommamomma’ are almost deafening. Amid all this, Mother Budgie simply smiles, a beacon of peace and contentment.

As the clamour settles momentarily, she invites you to choose the birds that appeal to you most. You carefully select four, no, five; two the bright yellow of an undisturbed shore, two the startling blue of a clear sky and one the scarlet of freshly-picked cherries. Mother Budgie nods, then guides you through another door set in the back wall.

This room is full of people laughing, chatting and eating. Merriment bounces off the stone walls. You sit at a table and wait for maybe twenty-five minutes as the noise of gaiety reverberates around you. Finally, Mother Budgie reappears, smiling as always, and places in front of you a delectable golden brown pie accompanied by soft mashed potatoes. ‘Enjoy,’ she says as she leaves. Five small beaks emerge from the pie’s inviting crust. Each is slightly open, trapped in silent song.

Grabbing your knife, you stab the pastry surface. Rich, thick gravy oozes from the fissure and pools into the bed of mash. Another diner is admitted into the room. As the door opens and shuts you hear the cries of ‘Mommamommamomma‘ from beyond and imagine more birds settling upon Mother Budgie’s shoulders.

You impale a chunk of meat with your fork and take a bite. It is soft, tender and exquisitely delicious, just as you’d heard it would be. Your taste buds croon with happiness. You dab your lips with a napkin and take another mouthful, already planning when you’ll return

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