Once upon a time a flock of parrots lived in the mountain. From early in the morning they ate corn on the cob grown on a farm and later oranges. They made a huge row with their cries and one of them always remained on watch in the tallest trees to see if anyone was coming.
The parrots do as much damage as the locusts, because they open the corn on the cob and peck at it, and afterwards the stem rots in the rain. At the same time the parrots are delicious in stews and the farmhands try and shoot them.
One day a man shot a parrot on sentry. The bird fell and fought a good battle before allowing itself to be taken. The farmhand carried it to the house, for the boss’s children, who nursed it back to health because it had only sustained a broken wing.
The parrot got much better and became completely tame. They called him Pedrito. He learned to dance and liked positioning himself on people’s shoulders and tickling their ears with his beak.
He lived free and passed almost the whole day among the garden’s oranges and eucalyptus trees. He also liked to have fun at the expense of the hens. At four or five o’clock of an afternoon, the hour when tea was taken in the house, the parrot also entered the dining room, climbed the tablecloth with his beak and feet, and ate bread dipped in milk. He was crazy about tea with milk.
Pedrito spent so much time with the children, and they said so many things to him, that the parrot learned to speak. He would say: “Good morning, little parrot…!” “Delicious potatoes…!” “Pedrito’s potatoes…!” He said many other things that cannot be repeated, parrots being like children in that they quickly learn bad words.
Whenever it rained, Pedrito curled up and said a number of things to himself, in a low voice. When the weather became composed all over again, he flew off, crying like one crazed.
He was, as it has been seen, a happy enough parrot, who besides having his freedom – something that all parrots desire – had his five o’clock tea, like rich people.
Tea at five in the afternoon.
Anyway, in the midst of this happiness, it happened that one rainy afternoon the sun broke through after five days of storms. Pedrito flew off, crying out:
“What a lovely day, little parrot…! Delicious potatoes…! Pedrito, the feet…!” He flew far, until he saw below him, very far below, the Paraná River, which looked like a far-off, wide white band. And he continued, continued flying, until at last he sat in a tree to rest.
Suddenly, he saw shining on the ground, through the branches, two green lights, like two enormous lights of a small animal.
“What is it?” the parrot asked himself. “Delicious potatoes…! What could that be…? Good morning, Pedrito…!”
The parrot always spoke like this, like all parrots, mixing the words without rhyme or reason and at times it was difficult to understand him. Because he was very curious, he jumped down from branch to branch until he drew close. Then, he saw that those two green lights were the eyes of a tiger that was bent over, gazing fixedly at him.
But Pedrito was so pleased with the lovely day that he felt no fear.
“Good day, tiger!” he said to him. “Pedrito, the feet…!”
And the tiger, with that terribly deep voice that he had, replied:
“Good day, tiger!” replied the parrot. “Delicious potatoes…! Delicious potatoes…! Delicious potatoes…!”
And he said the same thing so many times, “delicious potatoes!” Because it was already four o’clock in the afternoon and he was looking forward to taking tea with milk. The parrot had forgotten that the mountain animals don’t take tea with milk and so he invited the tiger.
“Delicious tea with milk!” he said to him. “Good day, Pedrito…! Would you like to take tea and milk with me, friend tiger?”
But the tiger became furious because he believed that the parrot was laughing at him, and, besides, as he was hungry too he wanted to eat the talkative parrot. So he answered:
“Go-od! Come a lit-tle closer because I’m deaf!”
The tiger was not deaf; he wanted Pedrito to draw nearer so he could take him in his claw. But the parrot could think of nothing but the pleasure they would feel in the house when he came to take tea with milk with that magnificent friend. And he flew toward another branch nearer the ground.
“Delicious, potatoes, in the house!” he went on crying out as much as he could.
“Closer! I ca-n’t hear you,” said the tiger, in his deep voice.
The parrot came nearer still and said:
“Delicious, tea with milk!”
“Clo-ser ye-t!” repeated the tiger.
The poor parrot drew even nearer and right then the tiger made a tremendous leap, as high as a house, and reached Pedrito with the point of its claws. He did not manage to kill him but he tore off all the feathers on his back and the tail in its entirety. There remained not a single feather on the tail.
“Go!” roared the tiger. “Go and take tea with milk….”
The parrot, crying out with fear and pain, flew off, but he could not fly well in the absence of the tail, which is like a rudder for the parrots. He drifted in the air from side to side and all the parrots that encountered him on his path kept out of his way, frightened by the sight of that strange animal.
Finally he arrived at the house and the first thing he did was look at himself in the kitchen mirror. Poor Pedrito! He was the strangest and ugliest parrot that could be found, completely shorn, without a tail, and trembling with the cold. How was he going to appear in the dining room looking like this? He then flew to the hollow he had made in a eucalyptus trunk. It resembled a cave and he hid himself in the bottom, shivering with the cold and a sense of shame.
But meanwhile, in the dining room, everyone found his absence perplexing:
“Where could Pedrito be?” they said. And they called out: “Pedrito! Delicious, potatoes, Pedrito! Tea with milk, Pedrito!”
But Pedrito did not move from his cave, nor responded to anything; he remained still and silent. They looked for him everywhere, but the parrot failed to appear. Everyone believed he had died and the children began crying.
They were reminded of the parrot every afternoon at teatime and remembered too how much he liked to eat bread dipped in milk. Poor Pedrito! They would never see him again because he had died.
But Pedrito had not died, but continued on in his cave without allowing himself to be seen by anyone because he was so ashamed to be seen shorn like a rat. By night he went down from the tree to eat, climbing back up at once. In the mornings he descended again, very swiftly, and went and looked at himself in the kitchen mirror. He was always very sad because the feathers took so long to grow back.
Until one day, one afternoon to be precise, the family were sitting at the table at teatime when they saw Pedrito enter very quietly, holding himself as if nothing had happened. They almost died, died with pleasure when they saw him looking so well and with such lovely feathers.
‘Pedrito, little parrot!” they said to him. “What happened to you, Pedrito! What shiny feathers the little parrot has!”
But they did not know that they were new feathers and Pedrito, very serious, did not say a word. He did nothing but eat bread dipped in milky tea. But as far as talking goes, not a word.
So, the master of the house was very surprised when the parrot flew down to his shoulder, chatting like a crazy thing. In the space of two minutes he told him what had happened: the flight to Paraguay, his encounter with the tiger, and the rest. And he sang at the end of each segment:
“Not a feather left on Pedrito’s tail! Not a feather! Not a feather!”
And he suggested to the master that they both hunt the tiger.
The master of the house, who at precisely this moment was on his way to buy a tiger skin for the heater, was very happy with the thought of being able to obtain it for free. After going back into the house for his shotgun, he started for Paraguay with Pedrito. They agreed that when Pedrito saw the tiger, he would distract him with chat so that the man would be able to slowly draw near him with the shotgun.
And so it happened. The parrot, perched on a branch of the tree, chatted and chatted, and at the same time looked all around for the tiger. And finally he became aware of the sound of branches being split and saw all of a sudden beneath the tree two green lights fixed on him: the tiger’s eyes.
Then the parrot began crying out:
“Lovely day…! Delicious potatoes…! Delicious tea with milk…! Do you want tea with milk…?”
The tiger became very angry when he recognised the shorn parrot that he thought he had killed but that again had lovely feathers. He swore that this time he would not escape and from his eyes there flashed two beams of rage when he replied with his deep voice:
“Co-me nearer! I’m de-af!”
The parrot flew to a closer branch, chatting all the while:
“Delicious, tea with milk…! He’s at the foot of this tree…!”
Hearing these last words, the tiger roared and rose with a leap.
“Who are you speaking to?” he bellowed. “Who have you told that I’m at the foot of this tree?”
“No one, no one!” cried the parrot. “Good day, Pedrito…! The foot, little parrot…!”
And he went on chatting and jumping from branch to branch, and drawing nearer. But he had said: he’s at the foot of this tree to advise the man, who came forward stooped over and with the shotgun at his shoulder.
Finally, the parrot could not draw any nearer, because if he did he would fall in the tiger’s mouth, and then he cried:
“Delicious, potatoes…! Attention!”
“Closer st-ill!” roared the tiger, bending over and preparing to leap.
“Delicious, tea with milk…! Careful, he’s about to jump!”
And the tiger jumped, in effect. He made an enormous leap, which the parrot managed to avoid when he launched himself like an arrow in the air at the same time. Also in this moment the man, who had the barrel of the shotgun resting on a trunk so as to steady his aim, pressed the trigger and nine buckshot the size of chickpeas penetrated the tiger’s heart like a shaft of light. The creature bellowed with such force that the entire mountain trembled. He then fell dead.
But the parrot, how he cried out with happiness! He was beside himself with contentment because he had avenged himself – and what vengeance! – on the nasty animal that had plucked his feathers!
The man was very happy too because killing a tiger is no easy thing and, besides, he had his skin for the dining room heater.
When they arrived at the house everyone understood why Pedrito had hidden so long in the hollow of the tree and congratulated him for his exploit.
From then on they lived very happily. But the parrot never forgot what the tiger had done to him and every afternoon when he entered the dining room to take tea he went over to the tiger skin, spread out in front of the heater, and invited him to take tea with milk.
“Delicious, potatoes…!” he said to him. “Would you like tea with milk…? Potatoes for the tiger!”
Everyone died laughing. Pedrito too.