The Nicklebys: A Story for Catholic Children
by: Sue Felton


Edward takes the lorikeet into the safety of Luke's house and then walks up and down the street asking if anyone has lost a bird. No-one has. Edward wonders what to do. Luke's parents do not want a pet bird and if he lets the bird loose, it might get hurt by a dog. He would like to take it home and make it his pet. But what will Mum say? They already have lots of pets. He thinks he'd better phone and ask her before bringing the bird home.

Mum isn't sure having a lorikeet for a pet is a good idea. "Looking after a lorikeet will be lots of hard work," she says. "He will need feeding and exercising. He is too large to sit in a cage all day. You will have to watch him while he flies around the room. And you will need to clean his cage too. It will involve a lot of responsibility."

"But it would be so much fun to have a bird," says Edward. "He could fly around the family room and we could hold him and he could be a real friend. And besides," he adds, "if I don't bring him home, he might get hurt by a dog."

Mum sighs. She knows she should say, "No more pets, Edward!" But she doesn't. Instead she drives to the pet shop and buys a cage big enough for the lorikeet.

Edward names his bird Jeremy and is delighted to have a new friend. But having a lorikeet is not as easy as Edward imagines.

At first Edward is a little scared of Jeremy. The bird has a very sharp beak. When he lands on his hand, Jeremy pecks him. Sometimes Jeremy tricks Edward. He nuzzles in close to Edward and suddenly nips his neck. Ow! It hurts and Edward doesn't like it. The girls don't like it either. Annie screams as soon as Jeremy flies near her. Mum says Edward has to train his bird not to peck.

It is Kate who has the good idea. She fills a spray-bottle with water and every time Jeremy looks like he is about to peck, she squirts him. Jeremy does not like this at all. Soon he gives up nipping and instead he finds another trick. He lands on Edward's head and tugs on his hair.

Jeremy has a lot of exercise flying around the room. Edward calls the bird's name and Jeremy lands on his hand and then Edward pops him back in his cage. But one day, Jeremy decides he doesn't want to return to his cage any more. He refuses to come when Edward calls. Edward calls and calls but the bird will not listen. Edward chases him around the family room for hours. Finally he catches him.

Jeremy hates being by himself. When he wakes each morning, he whistles sharply over and over again as if to say, "It's time to get up and play with me." Jeremy wakes everyone up. Mum sighs and says, "That bird has woken us up far too early again."

One day Edward is invited to spend the weekend with his friend. "What about Jeremy?" asks Mum. "Who will look after your bird while you are away?" Luckily, Kate agrees to feed and exercise and catch the bird.

When Edward returns home he wonders if Kate will continue to look after the lorikeet. "You look after Jeremy much better than me," he wheedles. "I'm sure Jeremy prefers you to me."

To Edward's surprise, Kate agrees. Edward thinks Jeremy is a lot of work and he is tired of feeding him and chasing him and listening to his demanding whistles. But Kate likes Jeremy. She knows it will take up a lot of her time looking after the bird but she is willing to do it. Jeremy is her friend.

Kate likes Jeremy sitting on her head. She doesn't even mind when he pulls on her hair. She just reaches out her hand and strokes his head. And Kate has discovered how to catch Jeremy. She offers him a piece of apple and while he is busy pecking, Kate takes hold of him and carries him to his cage. Sometimes Jeremy refuses to come for his treat. But eventually he can't resist the slice of crunchy fruit. All Kate has to do is be patient and wait.

Life is peaceful for some time. Kate looks after Jeremy. She gets up early to talk to him. She feeds him. She exercises him. She puts him back in his cage. Celeste, Lizzie and Annie learn to stay away from the family room when Jeremy is free. And Joe and Edward ignore the bird. Edward feels a bit guilty. At one time he'd thought Jeremy would be his best friend. It hasn't worked out that way.

Then one day disaster strikes. Jeremy is loose in the family room. He has settled on the curtain rail over the sliding door that leads to the garden. Suddenly the door slides open. Edward is coming into the house. He doesn't know Jeremy is loose. As soon as Jeremy sees the open door, he flies out into the backyard.

Kate is distraught. "You've let Jeremy escape," she cries. "How will I get him back?" She runs outside and discovers Jeremy high up in a tree. He is whistling away enjoying his freedom. Kate spends a long, long time standing under the tree trying to coax the lorikeet down. She whistles. She holds out a tasty piece of apple. She calls his name over and over again. But Jeremy isn't listening. He refuses to come back.

As the sky darkens towards evening, Kate rushes inside to grab her jacket. When she comes back, Jeremy is sitting in the same spot. Soon it is too dark to see up into the tree. Mum comes out with a torch. Still Kate tries to persuade her naughty bird to return. At last Mum says, "He's not going to come down, Kate. We'll have to give up. It's time to come inside."

Kate cries. She doesn't want to leave Jeremy but she knows how stubborn he is. She knows he will never be her pet bird again.

Later that evening everyone is talking about Jeremy.

"I'm glad Jeremy is gone," says Annie.

Lizzie agrees. "I didn't like him flying onto my head," she says.

"Or pulling my hair," adds Celeste.

"But he was a rather unusual pet," says Joe.

"Yes," says Edward, though he too is secretly glad Jeremy has flown away. He feels bad because he made Kate look after his pet. Mum was right: having a pet is a big responsibility. You can't just give up when you get fed-up with all the work.

Kate is still very upset. "Jeremy was a very naughty bird," she says. "He made a lot of mess and a lot of noise and I had to do all the work. But he was a lot of fun. He'd sit on my shoulder and chirp in my ear. He'd let me stroke his feathers if I'd let him pull on my hair. He was always pleased to see me. He was my friend."

For a few days Kate watches out for Jeremy but she never sees him again.

"Perhaps he flew into another family's garden," suggests Mum. "Maybe some other children found him. He might have a new home now. He might be waking someone else up as soon as it gets light in the morning. He's probably causing mischief in another house."

"I hope they love him even though he is a very bad bird," says Kate. And suddenly she feels much better. Maybe Jeremy is the sort of bird who stays only a short while and then moves on again. A bit like Mary Poppins. Except Mary Poppins was good and Jeremy is definitely a naughty bird. But even though Jeremy flew off after only a short stay, he will always be remembered, especially by Kate. Real friends are never forgotten.

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