Once a parrot became a bird of renown by mimicking others. The parrot held that this achievement wasn’t really a case of out-and-out mimicry. Rather, it should be viewed more as a case of coincidence. And even if it turned out in the end to be mimicry, that wouldn’t be the parrot’s fault. You simply had to copy others to one degree or another, it maintained, if you were going to make a name for yourself in public life. The parrot had tried saying something original once, but soon gave up the attempt because nobody could understand a word of it. When the parrot started repeating what others said right back to them, however, it found the response was enthusiastic. Nor did it seem to matter what the subject was, so long as the parrot took care to repeat word for word what others were saying. With pop-culture celebrities, it could be the latest quiz-show patter or sit-com punch line. With daytime chat-show hosts, it could be a breezy chronicle of family dysfunction leading to life-changing self-discovery. With tech-types, it could simply be a string of abbreviations. With those who fancied themselves leading independent thinkers, it could be any multisyllabic word ending in “-ism,” “-icity,” “-itude,” “-inal,” or “-iotic.” With political advisors, it could be practically anything. Once the parrot had the vocabulary down, its confidence mushroomed. There seemed no end to its virtuosity, and its reputation as a kind of latter-day “Renaissance Figure” spread quickly. It moved with equal assurance among the hoity-toity and the hoi polloi. The parrot soon was a regular on the lecture circuit as well, commanding five-figure fees per appearance. There were non-stop book signings and steady calls to serve as an expert consultant to commissions and news specials, emcee award ceremonies, and deliver eulogies for the deceased at high-profile funerals. Regardless of the topic or situation, the parrot was among the first to be sought out for comment and quoted at length. The only time the parrot experienced any difficulty was when pop-culture celebrities, chat-show hosts, tech-types, self-described independent thinkers, political advisors, and so forth all started sounding increasingly alike. This development might have caused the parrot some worry about maintaining its unique status, but it soon worked out a way to do so. It simply declared itself the public voice of them all.
Copyright © 2020 by Geoffrey Grosshans