Sept. 3rd Place Hello Ruby

Hello, Ruby!

Maddie went back to Sydney the day after Jim’s funeral.

Before leaving, she gave me some invaluable advice. ‘Get a budgie, Mum. He’d be

company for you, and budgie’s easy to board with a neighbour if you want to take a trip or

something.’ Knowing my nearly friendless condition, she was absolutely right. I’d lost most

of my friends over two years of caring for Jim.

I got a blue budgie, whom I named Bluey, and provisioned him with a very spacious cage. I

hadn’t been a pet owner since Maddie was in high school. Pet ownership enthusiasm kicked

in immediately as I selected Bluey’s interior décor. My shopping basket soon filled with a

combination of colour co-ordinated luxuries and essentials. It was almost like choosing bits

and pieces for a doll’s house: a mirror, spinning toy, swing, perch, cuttlefish bone and

refreshments station.

Bluey settled in between my easy chair and the stereo. As I knitted teddy bears for the

hospital auxiliary, I started teaching Bluey to talk. After months, he succeeded in squawking,

‘Hello, Ruby!’ It appeared that Bluey wasn’t very academically minded, so we promptly

ceased his lessons.

It was a great pleasure to have someone greet me each time I came home. ‘Hello, Ruby!’

At my age, I was still doing three night shifts a week in Female Medical at St Jude’s

Hospital. Returning home, dead on my feet with fatigue, Bluey’s chipper greeting never

failed to put a smile on my face. ‘Hello, Ruby!’

Leaving the house to go on duty, however, was a bit of an emotional wrench. Bluey could

spot my nurse’s uniform a mile off. He’d turn his back on me in despair and empty his


No amount of kind words would soothe his state of mind. Nothing short of my return the next

morning. ‘Hello, Ruby!’

Over time, Bluey could be trusted to fly around the house. He especially enjoyed regarding

himself in the floor mirror in my bedroom. I smiled to myself as he flew back and forth,

admiring his small powder blue body. I wondered idly if Bluey would like a life partner. Or

would another budgie make him jealous?

Two months ago, I was distracted by a load of laundry churning away and completely

forgot that Bluey was flying around the house. On my way out to the Hill’s Hoist, a bit of

damp laundry fell on the floor and I tripped on it at the back door.

In excruciating pain, I thought to myself that it wouldn’t take a nurse to diagnose a

fractured neck of femur. I couldn’t move and certainly couldn’t reach the phone. Almost as

bad, I saw Bluey fly out the open door.

I wasted several minutes in self-pity. My only real friend had decided to move on to greener

pastures. Bluey only pretended to return all that affection that I’d showered on him.

Never mind the damned bird, you idiot, I said to myself, you’re liable to die like a beached

whale on your kitchen lino! A mixture of pain and hysteria induced me to laugh. At least the

coroner would find nothing but clean clothes in the house!

What felt like hours later, Brenda from next door came bowling over. Gasping with pain, I

asked her to ring the Ambos, requesting that they take me to St Jude’s where I’m on staff.

Having completed that essential task, Brenda put down the phone, sat on the floor, and held

my hand. ‘Bluey flew into my kitchen squawking your name, so I knew you were in

trouble. He’s a hero, no mistake. He deserves a medal!’

With that she packed some nighties, undies, toiletries, and knitting for me and waited out

front for the Ambos.

With great relief, the Ambos quickly asked about possible allergies before filling a syringe

with 6.5 mls of pethidine and whacking the lot into my arm. Once I’d settled a bit, they asked

for my personal details and particulars of the accident. As the Ambos loaded me in a

stretcher, I asked Brenda if Bluey was safe. ‘Yes, I shut him in my house. Later I’ll take his

cage over and mind him while you’re in hospital.’ I thanked her. ‘I’ll ring Maddie and let her

know.’ I nodded with gratitude. The pethidine was providing blessed relief. ‘And I’ll come

and see you just as soon as they allow visitors.’

‘Thanks so much, Brenda. You’re a real friend.’ Brenda smiled in reply.

As the Ambos thumped their doors shut, something occurred to me. Maddie was mistaken.

It’s not that I’m nearly friendless. It’s more a question of quality rather than quantity. Brenda

and Bluey worked together to save me from hours of pain or even slow death. What more

could I ask of a friend?

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