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June 2022 - Year 24 - Issue 3

ISSN 1755-9715

Three Stories

Andrew Wright is an author, illustrator, teacher trainer and story teller. He has published with Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press and Pearson. As a teacher trainer and story teller he has worked in 55 countries. E-mail:,


Barking Parrot

I lived in South Africa for many years.  I had a good job there with, USIS, the United States Information Service.   Then, I came to Italy, to Rome.

In South Africa I had a parrot.  You can say that it was my best friend.  I don't have a family, only my parrot.  I talked to him every day and he talked to me.  He could say a lot of words and phrases.   Very often they were really sensible.   He waited for me to come home and always said, "Hello.  How are you?"  when I came through the door. And he never said, “Good evening!” in the morning.

Then, I got a new job in Rome.  I arrived in Rome with the parrot but the customs officer took the parrot.  He said, "This parrot has to stay in quarantine for three months."

I was very unhappy. I had arrived in a new country and started a new home, without my parrot.  At last, the three months were over and I went to collect my parrot.  The man was nervous so I thought my parrot was sick or even dead.  I got really upset. 

I said to the man, ‘You are not making eye contact with me, man!  You are hiding something from me about my parrot.  What is it?’

‘Madame, your parrot is healthy.’

‘Then, why don’t you look me in the eye? What is wrong with my parrot?’

‘Madame, your parrot...’


‘Your parrot...Well, you see, we don’t have a separate section for parrots, nor even ... any cages. So, Madame, your parrot has been living in a kennel... with... dogs.’


‘And, Madame, it... no longer talks... but barks like a dog.’


‘Madame, it barks... whines, whimpers and growls like a dog.  It is a very considerable linguist, if I may say so.’  He looked sideways at me, expressing very reasonable fear that I might do him an injury.

Anyway, I took the parrot home and sure enough, it was an audial dog albeit a visual parrot.

The stress in my new job was as much as I could take and this was too much.  In these circumstances there is one thing a New Yorker can do, find a shrink.

I looked up in the yellow pages for a pet psychiatrist and found one. This was Rome.  New York is full of them.

So, we went along. We didn’t each have to lie on our own sofa. 

Basically, the dude said, ‘Go home.  Be relaxed with him. Give him time to get used to you, again. Give him freedom.  Talk to him. He needs to be given respect, personal choice, and so on.  He’s a clever guy.’

I took him home, he was whining like a dog in the car. I tried to take it easy with him...talked to him... gave him the freedom of the whole apartment.

One day, I went out and forgetfully, left the window open. When I came back, he’d gone.

After a few days I began advertising in several newspapers in Rome. ‘If anyone sees or hears a barking parrot, please let me know.’  There were occasional reports of a barking parrot hanging out, with a pack of stray dogs, in Parco di Villa Glori, I went a couple of times but heard and saw nothing.

Then, I got an idea, I rang up the dog quarantine kennels for Rome and asked for the man that I had dealt with originally. 

“Oh, yes, Signora! I am glad you have phoned. Yes, he’s back here.  He seems to have made close friends with an unclaimed mongrel bitch.  We wondered if you would like to come and collect him...and perhaps you would consider taking the bitch which he seems so attached to.”

Well, I will summarise the situation, I have got the parrot back and his new partner.  We live together.  But now I find myself classified as the junior wife in the relationship. He has carried on barking and whimpering and all that pooch lingo. He only speaks to me in English when he wants something, like, ‘I’m hungry.’

‘So am I!’  I tell him.

Now, I go to the shrink, by myself.


Billy Effron and the deserted café

Remington Model 1890 Single Action Revolver. ... Handguns Single | Lot  #32394 | Heritage Auctions

Remington 1895

There was Billy Effron.  Do you remember him? A little, white-haired old man. I can’t remember what he taught.  All I remember was his story telling.  The school had given him that small classroom up the back stairs.  We supposed that was because they thought of him as not being a quality academic.  Well, he’d spent most of his life travelling, hadn’t he?  So, no time to climb the ladder of academia. 

What did he do during all this travelling?  I don’t think he ever told us about that.  Perhaps he was teaching English.  He wasn’t an engineer or anything like that so it must have been teaching.  He didn’t strike me as a wealthy, landed gent travelling for interest.

The places he talked about were mainly in South America.  Was it Panama?  We were taken into another world, certainly.  Far, far away from that small, dusty classroom with the small windows looking past the great portico of the school.

And with him we heard the high pitch of cicadas’ legs, saw sweating brown skin under broad-brimmed hats.

Do you remember him telling us about that long trip he did on a motorbike with very wide handlebars, day after day, seeing no one, only shimmering distances of rocky slopes and almost never another vehicle?  We wondered how this small man could hold his arms as wide apart as the breadth of the handlebars of the motor bike he was riding and, on unmade roads, having to swerve to avoid fallen rocks.  in his quiet voice, he could make each rock falling down the mountainside as potentially lethal as the shootings in the film, ‘High Noon’ but I can’t remember any real shoot-outs as there would be in a Western film.

But he had a pistol. I remember, it was a Remington 1890 with .44 bullets.       Do you remember he’d been driving for days and then he came into a village of small houses, all made of mud and painted white.  None of them were more than single storeyed.  And how he wanted a drink, a refreshing drink and a cool place to sit.  There was nobody about and then he saw what seemed to be the only café in the place.  He went inside and sat down at one of the tables, well, there were only three tables, just enough to make him feel he was in a café and not a private house.

It was cooler in the cafe….no sun…no direct sun blazing on him.  But nobody came to take his order and there were no other customers.  The walls outside were white but the walls inside were just the mud.  He stood up, looked in what he took to be the kitchen. No sign of anyone. 

He kept looking out of the door and could see no people in the street.  He thought he should attract people’s attention so he took his pistol out of his bag and decided he might use it to make a sound to attract people’s attention or he thought it might be a good idea to let people know he wasn’t a passer-by who could be easily robbed because he began to think some people might be creeping up on him to take his bike.

Anyway, he decided to let off a single shot and he picked the revolver up.  I remember him saying how heavy it was and how he had to hold it with both hands and he fired it through the roof, above him.  There was no ceiling just the thatch of thick leaves of the roof. I remember he told us he had hardly ever let the gun off before and only kept it to scare robbers and he didn’t realise how powerful the gun was and it blew a huge hole in the roof.  Then, he panicked because he thought the village people might think that his shot was a provocation, a challenge for any of them to come out of hiding and fight with him: a dozen of them, all with weapons and shoot him cold.  So, he panicked, picked up his things and ran out to his motorbike and tore out of the village at top speed.

The bell went. End of the lesson. We had to go: dazed and silent. Billy Effron sat at his desk, on the plinth, seemingly lost, perhaps trying to hold those handlebars which were too wide, for his short arms.  Why wasn’t he moving quickly to get out of the café of his past and the classroom of his present? 

Did you have him as a teacher?  Do you remember any tales?  He quietly, so quietly,  spun a web of story strands around us and there we were, trussed up, saturated in places which we had never been in.


Blood brothers


Now, I am 84.

I walk hunched.

The backs of my hands are wrinkled and freckled.

But I am lucky: at least, I can still walk,

and I can put my hands to useful work.


Out of my old head I look at this photo

and see myself as a young man,

who could run a full marathon, over those Judean hills. 

And I see Atalla, another young and fit man,

 uncomfortable with much of the narrative into which he was born.

I remember, our compatibility and I suffer, our separation.

We mixed our blood,

in his home.

We swore to be blood brothers,

In Bethany.

Our wives were witness.


He had stopped us on his motorbike in the desert between Aman and Jerusalem:    a Jordanian policeman with a white belt worn diagonally over his chest and a white crash helmet. 

In the silence of the desert he read us his poems in English written in his charge book.  He declaimed them and marched to and fro and his voice rang out across the gritty desert with scattered jagged rocks.  ‘This poem is for my wife.’


I am flying across the desert,

To you.

No beating of camels’ hooves

Only the beating of my heart.


An oasis ahead of me.

With you,

I am part of all living things.’


We got on very well.  He gave us his address in Bethany just to the East of Jerusalem and told us to stay with him and his wife.

We arrived a few hours later, leaving our car in the village we walked down the unmade lane to his house.  It was a single room with a roof and inner ceiling the shape of a dome.  It sat on squat walls about one metre high and in a square plan; the corners were rounded.  The ceiling was painted white.  The floor was tiled in terracotta.

His wife lent my wife one of her dresses: long, black and with embroidered gold patterns. They chatted like old friends and so did Atalla and I.

Our minds seemed to run along the same tracks.  He scorned the literal acceptance of biblical stories and was more concerned with observing contemporary life.  In a place where Christ brought Lazarus back from the dead, he mocked miracles.

He read another of his poems to me.  He told me that neither the police, nor the church, nor King Hussein would like these poems of his.

‘Crossing the desert,

I stop my bike,

Pull it up on its stand,

Take off my helmet.



My brain is as full

Of synapses

As there are

Stars in the universe.

Impossible to stuff

Infinite complexity

Into a motley of

Hazel nut shells.


After a while he said, ‘We should become blood brothers.  I don’t know where you will go nor do I know what will happen to me but I think we are brothers already.  We were before we met.’ 

He opened his penknife.  The blade was shining.  It looked sharp.  He slit his palm, a tiny mark but the blood eased out.  He gave me the knife.  I did the same.  We clasped hands.  The blood mixed.  He pulled me towards him and we embraced cheek to cheek.

I was deeply moved.  Our wives smiled at us.


Sixty years later,

I scan my memories.

 No sign of him except

in these miraged moments.

Where is he?

Where is his wife? 

No longer there,

on the Northern slopes of Bethany,

in that single roomed house,

with the domed roof,

now in the West Bank,

no longer Jordan.


Lesson ideas

  1. How is the cultural information in the story different from the culture in your own country?
  2. What questions would you like to ask the author about the story?
  3. What feedback on the story might you pass on to the writer?
  4. Draw/ act out/ mime one scene from the story.
  5. Develop a theme in the story … e.g., Write some more adventures Billy Effron might have had on his motorbike. 
  6. Retell the story from a different point of view, e.g., the mother of one of the people in the story.
  7. Interview an object in the story as if it has a personality and can speak, e.g., the Remington.
  8. Try re-writing one of the stories to see if you can write another story which is as interesting or more interesting than one of the stories given here.
  9. Which story do you prefer?  Can you say why you prefer that one?


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