Wednesday, April 09, 2008

8. The Day After the Gold Coast

The Gold Coast was for the Somerset Celebration of Literature. It was one of the best festivals I’ve ever been to. The hotel had a parrot in a cage just outside reception. Charlie came along, and so did my wonderful parents – they took care of him while I was at speaking and signing events. And a lovely student volunteer made sure I got to the events on time.

The day after we got home from the Gold Coast, Charlie woke in the morning and said: “Bird.”
“Bird?” I said, uneasily, looking around his room.
There was a picture book with a duck on the front cover on the floor.
“Ah!” I said. “Yes! Charlie, this is a kind of bird! It’s a duck! You know ducks! What noise does a duck make?”
Charlie set the book aside and repeated, firmly: “Bird.”
“Bird!” I agreed, and he seemed pleased.
We went downstairs, and he called, “Bird! Bird!” all the way. He looked around the living room expectantly – a small frown flickered across his face. I put him down, and he began to run. He ran down the hallway and into the kitchen; he ran back into the living room; he spun around; looked at me; ran to the front door. All the time he ran he was calling, “Bird! Bird!” and each “Bird!” was more frantic than the last, until he was actually sobbing, “Bird!” and then he was only sobbing.
Suddenly, I realised what it was.
Each morning at the Gold Coast, we had begun the day by visiting the parrot at reception.
He was thinking of the parrot. If he could just find the parrot, he thought, he'd find the Gold Coast again – that bird would unravel that whole strange, idyllic world of lizards, beaches, pancakes; of heavy doors propped open that lead you into rooms where grandparents play and play; of dolphins, boats, pelicans, and water that surprises you by leaping from the ground beneath your feet.


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