We did long distance from the day we returned from our honeymoon. With Paul’s fly-in-fly-out gig in the Pilbara, and my shifts at the hospital, we reckoned we’d have our deposit within a year. Short term pain. Running up hours on video calls. Glorious weeks, between the absences, of voracious passion.

But that was before the virus. People started turning into birds. Some just a little, then back through the suffering into close to what they’d been – though never unchanged. Others, like Paul, the changes were unstoppable, coursing through them. Breathless metamorphosis. He should have stayed in the top end. No cases there.

We said goodbyes while he still had words. Words like I’d never heard them. Sweet and tortured, in a voice no longer human.

Rainbow Lorikeets lived among the palm fronds in the street planting in our suburb. We knew from his colouring, that he would become one.

I hung out a bird feeder. Fashioned a birdbath from a chipped enamel dish.

Then I waited. One morning a single bird flew into the yard. It perched in the white cedar looking at me.

As I was about to call his name a second bird arrived, then a third. Another went straight to the feeder. Hung upside down seeking the honey-sweetened grains.

Soon I had a small flock, returning each day, keeping me, in their noisy, comical way, a little less sorrowful. Scrapping and squabbling at times. At others, in pairs, grooming each other’s bright feathers as the sun went down.

– Richard Holt

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