DO NOT FEED THE KEAS ‘Huh!’ said Kelvin Kea, squinting up at the sign by the hotel entrance. He treated the man bashing it in the ground to his best parrot-y stare. ‘We’re New Zealand’s only mountain parrot, if you please!’ He swept a green wing at the surrounding mountains, revealing flashes of orange and yellow on its underside. ‘In fact, the world’s only alpine parrot.’ Ari clawed at the lawn. ‘Even more reason for people to feed us,’ he said, while the man lumbered off. ‘Next thing you know, we’ll be extinct,’ said Kelvin. ‘Like that poor moa bird.’ ‘How do you know this stuff?’ asked Ari. ‘Computer research,’ said Kelvin, scratching his olive tummy feathers. Tia flew in, empty-clawed, and squawked, ‘No grub! Signs all over! With a huge one outside the cafe.’ Ari groaned. ‘But Junior’s birthday is tomorrow and we’ve invited everyone to a teatime party!’ ‘And we so wanted it to be special after the shed door incident,’ said Tia. ‘Junior’s wings still haven’t mended properly,’ said Ari. Kelvin shook his green head, with a swish of his blue tail feathers. ‘It won’t be much of a surprise party; this new manager’s far too “green”.’ Tia huffed. ‘Exactly! There’s only scraps on the compost heap now the leftovers are going to “needy causes”.’ ‘Well, you can’t get needier than us. Especially with all these signs,’ said Kelvin. ‘And you can’t get greener than us!’ said Tia, with a twirl of her colourful body. Kelvin chuckled. ‘Plus, we recycle grub.’ ‘Here comes the old battle axe!’ squawked Ari. They dived under a bush while Mrs Pringle strode over, immaculate in a navy suit, her brown hair scraped in a bun. She barked at her assistant, ‘Are all the signs in place now, Danny?’ ‘That’s the last one, Mrs Pringle.’ ‘Excellent! The sooner those pesky parrots leave my guests and their vehicles alone the better,’ said Mrs Pringle. ‘Pesky parrots!’ spluttered Kelvin, squinting through the leaves. ‘We’ve been in these mountains millenniums longer than her hotel.’ The manager continued, ‘Mr Cranberry, from head office, will be attending tomorrow afternoon’s meeting. He’ll soon be putting nominations forward for the top hotel award. And it’s his birthday. So, add a cake to the normal refreshment order.’ Danny nodded as they headed into the hotel. ‘Did you hear that?’ asked Tia. ‘Junior would love a birthday cake,’ said Ari. Kelvin hopped up and down. ‘Well, let’s make it a double celebration!’
***Kelvin, Tia and Ari landed on the ground floor office’s window ledge as Danny sprinted into the the room and plopped down at the computer with his back to them. They tapped and tapped on the glass with their beaks. Danny glanced round, grinning. ‘Shoo! Don’t let Mrs P see you.’ ‘He’s nearly finished!’ said Kelvin. Ari groaned. ‘We can’t miss out on that cake.’ ‘Try harder!’ said Tia, scratching the glass with her claws. Kelvin launched himself and thumped, left-wing side, into the pane. ‘Ouch!’ Danny whizzed over on the chair. ‘What’s all the fuss?’ he asked, opening the window a crack. Ruffling his feathers, Kelvin wiggled his head through the gap. ‘We’re in!’ ‘Be quick! And keep it simple,’ said Tia, flying off with Ari. Danny fished some peanuts from his trouser pocket. ‘You always want something!’ Kelvin munched them off his hand, nudging the window open further. But with squawking exploding in the foyer, Danny ran out of the office. Kelvin squeezed inside and fluttered to the desk. He studied the order then click-clacked at the keyboard with his beak and claws. ‘Sultanas: tick. Nuts: tick. Seeds: tick.’ Ari swooped by the doorway. ‘Hurry up!’ Kelvin typed a new description. ‘…vital to stick to the Pringle family recipe… orange… yellow…’ ‘Get on with it, Kelvin,’ squawked Tia. ‘Mrs P’s got a broom.’ Swish! ‘Extras?’ Kelvin chuckled. ‘Well, no harm adding a few!’ ‘What’s taking so long?’ squawked Tia, swooping by the door. Kelvin toggled to the weather forecast. ‘Set fair! Let’s have an extra special celebration!’ He switched back to the order and click-clacked some more with his beak. ‘Mini cardboard containers…’ ‘You’re not getting in the office, you crafty keas!’ yelled Mrs Pringle, swishing the broom in the doorway. ‘Ari’s being swooshed outside!’ squawked Tia. ‘I can’t distract them much longer.’ ‘Done!’ said Kelvin, tapping ‘send’. He hopped to the window, knocking over a pot of pens, and wriggled out as Danny returned with Mrs Pringle. ‘I swear, if those birds weren’t protected…’ She shrugged off her jacket and tutted, a tell-tale white dribble on the left sleeve. ‘This’ll have to be dry cleaned.’ As she patted her disrupted hair, a yellowy-orange feather floated down on the desk. ‘Is that order done?’ ‘Yes, Mrs Pringle. I was about to send it.’ Danny stared at the words written across the screen: Order sent successfully. ‘Er… I must have already done it,’ he said, tidying the pens. ***‘Ari’s keeping Junior occupied,’ said Tia, landing on the office ledge the following afternoon. ‘But where’s the order?’ ‘Shush! Mrs P’s talking to the bakery now,’ said Kelvin, ear cocked to the open window as she barked at the telephone, ‘This is the hotel manager. I’m expecting some catering for our meeting. Aha… on their way… more notice for a fancy order? … I should hope you have stuck to my instructions! Just hurry up with it.’ She cut off the call. ‘Honestly, I take pains to support local businesses but a slight alteration to an order and they go to pieces.’ Tia fixed Kelvin with her parrot-y stare. ‘Fancy order? All you had to do was make one tweak to the birthday cake.’ ‘Well, I may have added a few extras,’ said Kelvin. The baker’s purple van trundled up the driveway. Tia huffed. ‘Lucky for you, they’re here! But they better have your order or we’ll be on “surprise scraps” for Junior’s party.’ Kelvin gulped, hoping he hadn’t over done it and ruined the celebration. ‘It does look yummy, Kelvin,’ said Tia, while they perched on the meeting room ledge. He sniffed at the open window. ‘And it smells like they’ve done the tweak.’ Mr Cranberry beamed. ‘A very productive meeting, Mrs Pringle! But you shouldn’t have gone to such trouble for my birthday.’ He surveyed the table laden, not only with the usual tea and biscuits, but with a cake, cupcakes and mini cardboard containers each filled with pale green goo and a small wooden spoon. ‘Er… it was no trouble,’ said Mrs Pringle, gathering round with the rest of the attendees. ‘What wonderful decoration on the birthday cake!’ said Mr Cranberry. ‘Green icing with orange, yellow and blue flashes. And matching cupcakes! Most unusual and creative. And creativity is what we like to see in our staff.’ ‘I’ve implemented lots of new schemes. Like recycling food to the needy and encouraging nature in its natural environment,’ said Mrs Pringle, shooting Kelvin and Tia a venomous glare. ‘Perhaps you might consider nominating us for the top hotel award?’ ‘Don’t you worry, you’re well on track for that!’ said Mr Cranberry. ‘How about some cake?’ asked Mrs Pringle, offering him a slice. Tia held her breath. Kelvin’s mouth watered. ‘Fruit cake, my favourite! And chock full of nuts and seeds.’ Mr Cranberry took a huge bite… and spluttered crumbs all over the floor. ‘Yuk! I’ve never tasted anything so salty in all my life!’ Kelvin hopped up and down, squawking, ‘They’ve tweaked! They’ve tweaked!’ ‘It’ll be so scrummy for us,’ gasped Tia. As Mrs Pringle nibbled a piece, her face contorted. She rushed to the door and bellowed like an erupting volcano, ‘Danny!’ ‘I hope he doesn’t get into too much trouble,’ said Tia, while the rest of the attendees sidled away. ‘Well, he is helping a needy cause,’ said Kelvin. Mr Cranberry tried a cupcake. ‘More salt!’ Danny raced in. ‘B-but this isn’t my order,’ he said, gawping at the table. ‘I shall be giving that bakery a piece of my mind!’ said Mrs Pringle. Mr Cranberry pulled a spoon out of a container and gingerly licked the goo. ‘Sickly, salty buttercream! Why on earth would you even order that?’ ‘Because it’s super salty scrummy!’ said Tia. Kelvin chuckled. ‘It has its uses,’ he said, grateful the baker had followed his instructions and made it particularly thick. ‘None of it’s fit for human consumption, and you know I can’t abide waste,’ said Mr Cranberry. Mrs Pringle muttered, ‘They are compostable containers and spoons…’ ‘Just get rid of it,’ said Mr Cranberry, storming off. ‘Oh dear!’ said Tia. ‘I guess we’re not going to be hotel of the year.’ ***At teatime, keas flew in from all over the hotel grounds and mountains. ‘Surprise!’ they squawked, as Ari led Junior to the compost heap. She wobbled into land, flapping her wonky wings. ‘Oh, a birthday cake! And lots of cupcakes. Where has it all come from?’ ‘Well, I ordered it online,’ said Kelvin, scratching his tummy feathers. ‘Then Mrs P donated it to the needy. And now we’re recycling it at our “green” party.’ Tia finished plastering goo on a sign and fluttered back, dropping a buttercream container and spoon. ‘That’s the last one done!’ ‘Mrs P’s too busy making amends with the boss to bother with us,’ said Kelvin. ‘And with no rain forecast, Tia’s artwork will last well in to tomorrow.’ ‘Turning Junior’s party into a feast!’ said Ari. Kelvin chuckled and squinted at the sign. DO FEED THE KEAS
About the Author
Louise Jones worked for BBC Sport in London before re-locating to the northwest. She’s now self-employed with a writing, photography and administrative business. Louise is currently writing a middle grade animal adventure. She also writes picture books with one of her texts having taken third place in Writing Magazine’s 2020 Picture Book Prize. Louise has a disability in the form of the auto-immune disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and lives in south Manchester. She enjoys writing in local cafes and, as her animal tales are inspired by her travels, she’s looking forward to once again venturing further afield.
Feature image: Louise Jones