The best mornings used to be the ones when the lorikeets would visit. They’d paint my balcony rail with their plumage, giving the mural of landscape behind them a purpose. With the lorikeets visiting, blue water and swaying foliage would become something steadier: a background they could dive-bomb and ascend. Trees would become the pedestals for their prizewinning beauty.
If there were two of them, the lorikeets would preen. If there were three, they would beg. Somehow, four was a crowd; a triumvirate of them would negotiate in screeches which one should leave. One would be charged as escort to fly the short straw a distance away, circling back only after leaving him at a safe radius. Like panhandlers or prostitutes working their corner, they knew that the market was flush enough to support only three. Any more would need to scrimp for their currency in more desolate forests.
And, as in any forest, their currency was honey.
They would accept a lower payment of course: seeds were acceptable, and the dust from their frenzy with dry oatmeal would sometimes mute their colors. Only then, after they were disguised as less flamboyant birds, would an occasional crow or currawong dare to share in the meal. Only when sated would the lorikeets move aside. The forbidding red stripes on their chests, dimmer for awhile, would finally allow in the birds three times their size. Even then, they would screech together, three throats harmonizing shrill warnings.
Lorikeets were here earlier.
Lorikeets get served first.
Lorikeets know how to survive.
They lived in a world where color and noise were the commodities that gave them power. Their world fed them confidence to stake claims and chase away competition. They lived in a world where lesser birds were welcome, as soon as the loudest lorikeets had whatever they wanted. One would even strut inside where I was working, demanding his rights and never appreciating the dangers. The lorikeets lived in a world too familiar.
Then, the day came that my visitors were no longer welcome. They were bringing disease to the balconies; they were leaving behind filth. The true owners of the balconies set out decrees, painted in monochrome from machines that even the clever lorikeets could never hope to understand. There would be penalties—fines in a currency more precious than honey—if anyone were to allow in a single bird, a single lorikeet, a single feather. They were to be starved out for the damage they were doing.
It took the lorikeets some time to understand they were banished. Their screeches brought sore throats with no honey to soothe them; their superior colors no longer earned them respect. Like every crow and ever currawong, the lorikeets were banished from a place that would no longer support them. My mornings emptied of them, leaving only the tired grey water and dried palms to surround the charcoal brick landscape.
Now, the lorikeets live in a world still to come.