‘such a pretty pretty boy’ Conclusion

for Mom

And for that entire summer Pretty Boy’s empty cage remained where it had always been, aside one of the two near floor to ceiling, lead glass windows at the rear of our narrow railroad apartment.

The low sills provided an easy view of the wall of four story tenements and scruffy yards, and easier access to the wrought iron fire escapes dangling off the rear of every building. This view, even on the sunniest of days in monotone brown tar shingles, the imposing black painted, zigzagging iron bars and early shadows left little to be hopeful about; like the Escher engraving of the steps to nowhere.

Divorce changes lives in a hurry. But this neighborhood we moved to, tucked away in a forgotten corner of Brooklyn was lifetimes removed from the wide open and manicured green lawns and the single family life we once lived.

The dimming memories felt like someone else’s lucky dreams.

Yet looking back now, sitting on that window sill visiting with Pretty Boy is where I spent much of my time when I was home. Studying the blue intricate beauty of his feathers was such a refreshing anomaly to eyes aching for color, his endless banter one of the few cheerful constants in my already unsteady life. So it really shouldn’t have surprised me that seeing those blue feathers lying so still and quiet, nestled amongst the thin strips of Daily News lining the tray of his cage was enough to bring this 15 year old man boy to tears.

But it did. I struggled to keep my crying quiet, trying to decipher the unwelcome silence from his cage, wrestling with another inexplicable, here one day not here the next, loss. Yet another loss I was unprepared to absorb.

Mom and I sat at the kitchen table and reminisced about Pretty Boy, reminding each other of memories we had forgotten while she breathed in long slow drags of BelAir smokes and longer purposeful chugs of her favorite Schaefer beer. Cradling Pretty Boy in her hands, her chest rising in deep exhales and her lips trembling a little she recalled that fateful day Pretty Boy came home.

Back in the day, in the Long Island town of Hempstead where we lived then, all the shopping centers had a Woolworth store, nicknamed the five and dime. It was a huge place that had miles of aisles filled with toys, cards, tape, ribbons and all the handy little daily items, and right in the middle of the store was their popular pet department.

Mom and I always made a bee line there to see the rabbits, hamsters and turtles and take in the songs and squawks of the yellow canaries and various colored parakeets for sale. All these cute, first kid pets had a high turnover rate, but mom had her eye on one blue parakeet that lingered for months. And despite his cheerleading, the salesman could never convince anyone to take this one bird home.

Pretty Boy was not a very pretty bird, despite his eventual name.

Smaller than the other birds his age, he was missing feathers and wore a pronounced scar on the white crown of his forehead. So mom, ever the devoted animal lover and champion of underdogs decided that day this unloved orphan was coming home with us. The salesman was so ecstatic, he discounted everything we needed to bring him home.

The sales receipt read Parakeet…..99 cents.

It was only 10am as I watched the ashtray overflow with spent buts and another can of Schaefer bit the dust too. It became clear as I got older that Mom had quite the potty mouth. Pretty Boy only repeated what he heard, a loyal confidant when no one else was there to listen.

I heard a few, very choice words about my grandmother that morning.

Time has a way of dulling the sharp edges of our pain, and karma…well, it has it’s own mysterious timetable administering our just rewards. My grandmother was a hateful woman whose own psychosis and prejudice eventually alienated most of her sons too, there were very few tears shed from the few people that attended her funeral when she died.

It was hard not to notice that familiar warm spark return to her sienna brown eyes the more mom and I talked, that free spirited Irish spunk that was so much of her charm, and despite all she would eventually overcome in a life that never resembled her early romantic dreams, she always retained an empathy for all things living. Mom was a survivor, she persevered, she always did the right thing as best she could.

I’m grateful for inheriting the very best of who she was.

I watched her meticulously wrap Pretty Boy’s blue body in Saran Wrap, tearing thin strips of Daily News to line the cardboard match box he would be buried in. We would have a proper funeral for our little friend. And as she finished taping the edges with her usual care, she looked up mischievously making sure she caught my eye and whispered,

‘God damn shit…God damn shit… God damn shit.’

We both howled with laughter at the image of Pretty Boy thankfully chasing the wicked witch out of our lives that day, shaking our heads in awe that a little .99 bird had so much say in so many lives.


As much as this piece was intended to be written about Pretty Boy, the deeper I delved into the writing I realized the story was as much about my mom. So it only seemed fitting on this of all days, unplanned as it was to devote this conclusion to her. Somethings work out the way they should, somewhere mom is reading this story about our Pretty Boy, and

somewhere she’s flashing that impish grin….

click to enlarge

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms today!

31 thoughts on “‘such a pretty pretty boy’ Conclusion

  1. A tear forms up on eyelids as I read this. This is a tribute as much to Pretty Boy and also your mum, her kindness, her devotion. These photos of her are amazing Jack. She is absolutely stunning. I smiled that she had a potty mouth…she was like all of us can be. Indeed she is smiling that impish grin and you were blessed for having her as your mum. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, written in such detail. Thank you for sharing and baring your soul. Hugs to you your mum and Pretty Boy on this day. x

    • ty Jen…yes, she was someone special to a lot of people in our old neighborhood. her devotion to animals led her to become the go-to veterinarian of our poor neighborhood, our little apartment always had lots of pets on the mend, strays waiting for a home and our own dogs and kitties. she even delivered a baby in our apartment, when the ambulance was late to arrive!

      i really appreciate the time it took took to read these, i hadn’t intended for this story to stretch this far but i’ve found like poetry, the words have a way of making their own decisions. lol ty again for your wonderful comments Jen, and Happy Mother’s day to you!

  2. Lovely story! You are a good boy! πŸ™‚ Your mother is gorgeous, thank you for sharing about her and the pics. Blessings to you!

    • ‘Your mother is gorgeous,’ and isn’t she though? these were pics a professional photographer took of her a year or two out of high school. they are in perfect condition for pics over 60 years old, i’m lucky to have them. for a while, mom would have had to take issue with me being a good boy..lol, but i think she’d probably agree with you now, ty MarDrag for your wonderful comments, i really appreciate you being here. have a great rest of the weekend!

  3. peppahhh says:

    What a wonderful treat to wake up to this fine Mother’s Day morning! I so enjoyed the previous installments, and this was the icing on the cake. Your mom sounds like such a special lady, no wonder you are who you are, W. Thank you.

    • hi peppahh, it’s so good to see you here, ty. this was quite a journey, the challenge of writing and keeping folks invested for 3 weeks, a very enjoyable trip in the emotional swayback machine, revisiting memories i hadn’t thought about in a long time. i’m glad you enjoyed it as well, and ty for taking the journey with me!

  4. Muddletation says:

    I so so enjoyed reading this story in 3 parts… And to have the conclusion on Mother’s Day brought tears to my eyes as well. The photos as Jen said are stunning and I do love her mischievous grin. Lovely tribute

    • heh, yes…mom was definitely a character with a devilish sense of humor. it seems the older i get the more i miss her not being in my life, in Scout and my daughter’s life. but this is definitely one way to keep her spirit alive, she would have enjoyed all the wonderful comments this series has garnered. so ty for yours M, you are a tender heart.

  5. Tiny says:

    Such a beautiful tribute to your mom and pretty boy. I could see you guys sitting there …

  6. Miranda Stone says:

    What a moving tribute to such a beautiful and kind woman! You favor her, you know. I was studying the pictures of her and can certainly see the resemblance between you two. I’m sure the loss of Pretty Boy was heartbreaking for you both, but your mom rescued him from what must have been a horrible existence, and you all gave him a good home full of love. Once again, your writing here is brilliant. I can sense the claustrophobia you must have felt at times in that apartment. But your mother’s humor and goodness shine through in your story, and it’s easy to see that she passed those wonderful qualities down to you.

    • Miranda…please know how much i appreciate your friendship, your writer’s curiosity and courage. ty.
      you never shy away from a poem or story, even when the subject isn’t always easy or comfortable to read. your comprehension and insight are invaluable to me …i just thought it was important to tell you before i leave. Love and Hugs to you Miranda, i’m so very grateful we found each other in this great big WP universe!

      • Miranda Stone says:

        I think some of the most powerful stories we have to tell are those that aren’t comfortable. I admire your courage to share your story; I know it takes guts to reveal parts of your history to others. I always look forward to reading your writing, and I’m so happy you find my comments helpful. Though we’ve only known each other a short time, I value your friendship and encouragement tremendously. Love and hugs to you, and I hope you have a wonderful week!

      • one thing i can guarantee in my writing Miranda, i will never shy away from the truth.
        it’s the one promise i made myself when i began writing after years of living through
        one fear or another. and ty again for this wonderful sendoff. i’ll be away a few weeks
        and i’ll seeya when i get back! Love and Hugs to you too Miranda!

  7. Laura Bloomsbury says:

    and pretty woman! another of your marvellous narratives that conjure the colours and the scenes so freshly

    • geez, how did you find this story today, i moved it off the top ’cause I thought folks
      were a little tired of the series. i just moved them all back in sequence because of your
      wonderful comment Laura, so ty for that, i really appreciate it!

      • Laura Bloomsbury says:

        I did some back reading to catch up – who could tire of this series? You do nostalgia without the schmaltz!

      • wow, you are makin’ my day today Laura, ty. i try, i’m very mindful of the schmaltz
        and over sentimental factor. the truth of my family hardly needs any embellishment haha

  8. Mary says:

    Wonderful story and very telling of your feelings for your Mother – special women, Mom’s are. Loved seeing the beautiful photographs, they bring a realism to Part III. Yes, I’ll bet the Pretty Boy was squawking and chirping away up there in bird “heaven” as your Mother gave him a last nod!

  9. Lulu's back says:

    Loved the entire story. It started quirky and became more human in the end with deep emotions in between the lines.

    • ty Lulu, i appreciate the feedback. when i write stories, i usually have a very
      clear view to the end but when this story began unfolding , like poetry, the words
      took me to places i hadn’t anticipated, memories surfaced i hadn’t thought about
      for decades. so i just let the story write itself in the end.

  10. SirenaTales says:

    MW, What stays with me is the picture of confining and claustrophobic grey, sometimes bleeding out to black, and in the midst this brilliant blue and gold center…the intricate, stunning blues of Pretty Boy breathing life into the golden hearts of your impish, sailor-mouthed mom and the young artist you, and vice versa. The blues and golds burnish, swirl and rise, lifting you up in all of your sensitive and talented glory. And land you in a lush green field on a beautiful farm that is now your own lucky dream come true, with Scout and Cbear by your side. Thank you for having such a big heart. Love and bon voyage

    • heh, isn’t that something though, that a poor kid from Brooklyn would end up being gifted a farm in Indiana? i keep pinching myself that this is in fact where i am now, when i write these stories it’s such a stark reminder how mysterious this life is. and once again, you get the big picture while appreciating the tiniest details.

      i seemed to have lost a few folks along the way, maybe this was too much info in too compressed a space, maybe i didn’t write it well, maybe folks didn’t want to read about Pretty Boy dying but his life and what he meant to us was the entire point of the story. and all of this from a .99 bird, a testament that even the smallest things in our life have great meaning.

      i’ve always believed i’ve had an angel on my shoulder looking out for me, or else i’m just incredibly lucky but being on that farm, with my family and now being able to bring it back to life …yeah, that’s a dream come true, no doubt about it. you are very special to me Chloe, you know that. we’ll talk soon via email when i get settled.

      and as always, ty. Love and Hugs to you….keep shining your light!

  11. Ya made me have to come look for the post… the email notification link said page not found so i thought initially you had taken it down. So now that I tracked the conclusion down….

    What a wonderful tribute. The smallest things sometimes makes the biggest impact and i love that you made this about so much more than Pretty Boy’s demise. Your mother was beautiful too by the way. How lucky you are to have those photos.

    • ‘How lucky you are to have those photos.’ yeah, i really am, they are the only one’s i have of her, i also inherited her late life shyness of disliking pics taken. but these were always my favorite anyway, and ty, she was quite beautiful, i agree.

      from a writer’s perspective, it was an interesting series to undertake, trying to keep my readers engaged and invested over a 3 week span. i wasn’t sure about the conclusion though, so many details and loose ends to tie up, a huge expanse of time to compress….honestly, the more i wrote, the more i thought needed to be written. Scout keeps telling me there is book in my history, maybe she’s right. maybe a book of traditional short stories, which has always been my favorite form of prose.

      oh, and i sequenced the series in proper order on Monday, so that’s probably why you got that notice. ty for searching it out and for your wonderful reaction. you are treasured here Melanie.

  12. stacilys says:

    Beautiful. And I love the photos. This was a really great story, from start to finish.

    • ty stacylys, i’m grateful to have such devoted friends like you. sorry for the delay in responding,but i have to admit it’s been refreshing to be away from the screen. this trip is just what the doctor ordered. do you mean the pics of my drawings on the sidebar?

      • stacilys says:

        Heyyyyyy, you’re back. Glad to see you had some time to refresh and recharge. I will be traveling to my home country (Canada) in just over 2 weeks. It will be so great to see my family and for my kids to play with their cousins. Not to mention, speak a lot more English than they’re accustomed to.
        I’m was talking about the pictures of your mom. Those a great photos.

      • ty stacilys, yes they really are wonderful shots of her. they are the only ones I have so
        i’m glad to remember her that way. well, not back yet, not for a few weeks. I just stopped
        into the local library to do a little catch up on comments. enjoy your trip, it sound wonderful!

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