Deadline? Wing it.

"OK to leave Midge with you, Dad, while Mom and I shop for our vacation wardrobe?" asked my 19 1/2-year-old daughter, dumping caged, blue-plumed budgie, recently purchased, on my desk.

"I'm trying to launch an article here so my editor will have something in her hands tomorrow besides a promise. A distraction is the last thing I need at the moment," I protested.

"How can you object to such charming company," said my smiling spouse. "She already can perform several little tricks and has quite a vocal range."

"What about her typing skills!" I shouted after the departing girls, grudgingly placing my chirping charge atop a bookcase behind me.

While waiting for my creative juices to thaw, Midge chattered amiably with her mirrored likeness. Then there was a clatter, a flutter of wings, and some chirp of distress. I turned to see the mirror had been displaced. When I opened the cage gate to set things right, Midge hopped onto my hand, scooted down my arm, paused momentarily on my shoulder to check the wind velocity, then jetted off into the friendly skies of my living room. A half hour of subtle persuasion failed to coax Midge back to her hangar. Oh, well, I had an editor waiting in the wings, if she'll pardon the expression, and no time to check unauthorized flights.

I set Midge's cage on the coffee table in the living room, in hopes she would take the hint, then returned to the den to the one thing that intimidates a writer -- a virgin sheet of typing paper. There I posed like one of those petrified monoliths on easter Island, waiting to be animated by a story line, while Midge was wildly crisscrossing her enlarged airspace, making touch-and-go landings on candles, bowling trophies, planters, lamps, and other landing sites along her flight path, chirruping rapturously over her unrestricted freedom. Clearly Midge and I had exchanged circumstances.

The phone rang. "Dad! Karen. Just checking to see how you and Midge are getting along."

"She's free as a bird," I answered truthfully.

"Mom wants to know how your article's coming, because we'll be homeward bound soon."

"You may report that -- your brother just rang the back door bell. Got to hang up."

"Glenn, you've got to get Midge back into her cage before your sister returns."

"Piece of cake, Dad," the 12-year-old assured med as I headed for the den to cope with my other problem.I had managed to type my name and address on the little page when my long-faced son informed me Midge must have flown the premises. "Why do you say that?" I asked.

"She's nowhere in the house, Dad, and I just noticed I had left the back door open when I came in."

"If we can't find that bird, you and I had better book passage on the next space shuttle.Why don't you place the cage on the picnic table in the backyard and call her name while I check with some local pet shops for a replacement."

"Good thinking, Dad," my son said, grabbing a handful of birdseed for added inducement.

Fifteen minutes later I called him into the house. "Dad," he protested, "have you any idea how many crows are named Midge?they ate all the seed."

"Never mind. Get into the car," I ordered. "I've just located Midge II at a nearby pet shop. Let's hope we can return in time."

"Will that be all, sir?" said the pet shop clerk, handing me a Midge look-alike.

"Dad! Here come Mom and Karen! We've had it," cried my son.

"Well, what are you boys doing here," my wife called, spotting us in the store.

"Throught you had an editorial deadline."

"We were . . . that is, I was . . . just asking this cleark about the ancestry of the parakeet," I stumbled."Did you know -- "

"As long as you're here, Dad," my daughter interrupted, "would you buy a cage cover for me?"

As we started to leave the clerk said, "Sir, don't you want this bird?"

"Sorry," my wife replied, "we have one at home just like it."

Fifteen minutes later, back at home: "We've been sitting out here in the driveway for 10 minutes, dad. Shouldn't we go in and face the music?" suggested my uneasy accomplice.

"All right, but prepare yourself for a tearful chorus of 'Bye, 'Bye, Budgie, '" I said, trudging up the front steps.

"Would you like to explain this?" my wife said, thrusting my title page into my hands.

"This ought to be good," added my daughter, cradling a gilded cage sans bird.

In trembling hands I tried to decipher a word that had been crudely typed: "M . . . i . . . j -- mij?" I said aloud. There was a responsive chirp from my den.

"Hey, that's Midge!" exclaimed my son.

"We found her perched on the space bar of your typewriter pecking at the keys ," my wife explained. "How long did it take you to teach her that trick?"

"Looks like she's typed out the subject of your next article, Dad," said Midge's delighted owner.

"OK, if you folks will clear my work area, I'll finish what Midge has started ," I said, as the heroine suddenly landed on my shoulder offering plot suggestions.

When I had finished I remarked to my wife, "Know what my editor's going to say when she reads this piece? 'Is this another one of your flights of fancy?'" Repli ed my wife, "Just refer her to your ghostwriter in the sky."

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