The Praying Parrot

From Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping:

A tiny old lady named Ettie, whose flesh was the color of toadstools and whose memory was so eroded as to make her incapable of [pinochle] bidding, ans who sat smiling by herself in the porch, took me by the hand once and told me that in San Francisco, before the fire, she had lived near a cathedral, and in the house opposite lived a Catholic lady who kept a huge parrot on her balcony. When the bells rang the lady would come out with a shawl over her head and she would pray, and the parrot would pray with her, the woman’s voice and the parrot’s voice, on and on, between clamor and clangor. After a while the woman fell ill, or at least stopped coming out on her balcony, but the parrot was still there, and it whistled and prayed and flirted its tail whenever the bells rang. The fire took the church and its bells and no doubt the parrot, too, and quite possible the Catholic lady. Ettie waved it all away with her hand and pretended to sleep.

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