Dillon whistled loudly from his spacious cage hanging in the open kitchen window of William’s second-floor apartment. A woman carrying rosary beads passing below on the street spotted the parrot, heard its catchy song and offered a smiling, sincere compliment.
Pretty bird, she said.
Dumbass, Dillon said.
The woman hurried along, agitated and unsure of what exactly had just happened.
Put on a mask, he said.
Living with William rubbed off. The parrot could have used a couple of years’ worth of therapy himself. Dillon resumed whistling bits and pieces of “Party Like Hank,” one of William’s favorite Jamie Rounds country songs.
Like Hank in the song, William “might bend but he don’t break.”
Same went for his bird.
Dillon wants a pizza, Dillon said.
William regularly fed his parrot leftover crust and cheese, sharing the large plain pie he picked up twice a week at the family pizzeria across the street. Each day from his window perch, Dillon listened closely to the words of often drunken parlor patrons. Now, with all the commotion and television crews jamming the street to see the Blessed Mother circus, Dillon worried about his treat. William better get home soon or Dillon would leave him a load in the bird cage he’d never forget.
Dillon squawked out the window.
Goddammit get me a pizza, he said.
Dillon glared at the few remaining people on the street who looked up agitated by such sacrilege so close to the newly christened sacred ground.
I said goddammit get me a pizza, Dillon said.
Sal “Muscles” Marinara looked up and laughed.
Gina locked the pizzeria door from the outside and yawned.
I’m beat, she said.
Sal gave her his biggest what-stays-in-Vegas grin.
You realize what’s happening?
Gina wiped her hands on the front of the stained apron she forgot to remove.
Yeah, I made more pizzas tonight than any night in my life.
No, I mean with the Blessed Virgin.
I never saw anything like it, Gina said.
Sal thoughtfully fingered the gold St. Rocco medal he wore on a thin chain tangled among the other sparkling bling dangling from his neck.
All over the country, every time an image of Mary appears on a window, a garage door or a wall, the faithful flock to see her. Nobody ever spotted her in a pizzeria, though. We hit lucky, Gina. We can franchise this baby nation-wide.
Like Wynne the Pizza King?
Ten times better than that chooch.
What do you think’s causing the image?
You really don’t know?
No, Sal, I really don’t know.
The city just put up the new street light here on the corner. The light comes on at dusk, guess who shows up? The light goes off at dawn, guess who leaves? When you close the door and block the light beam, Mary calls it a night.
Jesus, said Gina.
Holy Mary, Dillon said.
Mother of God, Dillon said.
Sal called up to the bird.
Polly want a pizza?
Pray for us sinners, the bird said.
Sal laughed his biggest jailbird belly laugh.
Now and at the hour of our death, amen, the bird said.
Sal turned to Gina.
Let’s call it a day, partner, he said.
Dillon spit, screeching his loudest insult at Sal.
Go suck a deep-friend mozzarella stick, the bird said.