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Will Trade Cockatoo For Kids

     Several years ago, I had the pleasure of conducting a five-hour interview with Chilean novelist Isabel Allende in her home. (During a break, she insisted on making me lunch, then proceeded to interview me.) At one point, I noted that several pieces in The Stories of Eva Luna read almost like newspaper stories. (Allende had a brief, early career as a journalist.)
     “Oh, half the stories are from the paper!” she admitted. “I cut clippings all the time.”
     Later, asked about the importance of incorporating contemporary issues into her writing, she noted: “I write about little people in the scale of their lives, and somehow their little lives become epic. They resound with the sounds of the world and the time and the place where they live.”
     I thought of her today when I read about a woman in New Orleans who traded two young children -- in her care but not her own -- for a pet cockatoo. Plus $175 in cash for alleged attorney fees to certify the “adoption.”
     Donna Greenwell, 53, “a long-haul trucker with an arrest record,” answered an ad for a pet cockatoo being offered for $1,500. In the course of a phone conversation, Paul (46) and Brandy Lynn (27) Romero, the bird’s owners, mentioned their frustration at being unable to conceive. Thus the scheme was hatched. Greenwell offered to hand over the brother (5) and sister (4) in her care for $2000. The Romeros being short of cash, the three worked out “an even trade.”
     There’s something to be said for the fact that the bird was a cockatoo. They’re very social and cuddly pets, they enjoy being handled, come in a variety of colors and crests, need lots of room, are fond of screaming (in the morning, at sunset, at the moon), have a tremendous desire for attention, can talk a blue streak, and are very good at sizing up their owners and manipulating the hell out of them. Not unlike children. (Plus you get a lifetime commitment, as they can live to 60 or 70.)
     According to the Associated Press, things began to unravel after some spoilsport tipped off the local sheriff’s office.
     Apparently, Greenwell had been caring for the young pair for about a year, at their mother’s request. Mom, meanwhile, was somewhere in Texas, and Dad (whereabouts undisclosed) told authorities that he was interested in custody. For an added twist, the siblings told at least one police officer that they’d been sexually and physically abused, though not by members of the Bird for Babes Trio. The Romeros, opined one detective on the case, “had good intentions.”
     Little lives resounding with the sounds of the world....