By Stephanie Prichard -
My husband barely dared to breathe. He sat immobile at the picnic table on our Aussie host’s deck, surrounded by thirteen wild Sulphur-crested Cockatoos perched at one-foot intervals along the railing. The size of barnyard chickens, snowy white except for their black beaks and their yellow feathers crowning their heads, they didn’t move either. Aloof, regal, their agenda clear, they stared at him and waited.
Finally, my husband oh-so-slowly extended his right arm across the tabletop and deposited one sunflower seed after another toward him. The Hansel-and-Gretel trail ended with his hand as the gingerbread house. He opened it wide to reveal a tantalizing, come-hither pile of seeds.
Within seconds, a volunteer hopped from the railing to the table. Step by step, the cockatoo followed the trail, gobbling up the seeds until he was within a neck’s stretch of the gingerbread-house cache. He halted. Looked up at my husband. Looked down at the cache. Ever so slowly, he stretched his neck toward the pile of seeds. My husband’s lips quirked into a smile of victory. Then, with lightning speed, the cockatoo nipped my husband’s index finger and scurried backwards.
My husband’s smile disappeared, but he didn’t move. He pressed his hand all the firmer onto the tabletop and tightened his mouth into a straight line.
The cockatoo crept cautiously forward. He stretched his neck again and latched onto the same finger. This time he bit so hard an electric current of pain shot through my husband’s body. Suddenly it wasn’t so cute that he was surrounded by thirteen combat-ready, sharp-beaked aggressors who coveted his sunflower seeds. He dumped the pile onto the table and left. Chagrined, he stood beside me at the sliding glass door and watched the other twelve cockatoos swoop to the table to join in the feast.
That wasn’t the end of it. A few days later, at a small zoo of native Australian animals, we stopped at a cage labeled Cockatoos. My husband clutched the wire fence and peered inside. Immediately, a Sulfur-crested Cockatoo flew straight over to him. “Well,” my husband said, “at least there’s one friendly cockatoo in Australia.” He grinned as the bird replied with what sounded like a mighty affable “Aaaark.”
And with that, the cockatoo promptly reached over and bit the same sore finger the other bird had chomped. “Aaaark,” he squawked, and with a distinct Aussie accent said, “Good boy, good boy.”
Aren’t we just like those cockatoos? Territorial: “Hands off, God. This is my space. My life. Just dump what’s good on the tabletop and leave me alone.”
. . . Until something bad happens. And then guess Who gets questioned for His lack of goodness?