By Jessica Bourque — Cindy Eaglen — that’s eagle with an ‘n’ — sits in her computer chair, a bird in one hand, a mouse in the other. The mouse is of the computer variety, but the bird is an African grey, one of the smartest avian breeds in the animal kingdom. Cindy carefully holds the two, kissing one on the beak and using the other to scroll through YouTube videos; she is searching for one of her favorites.
“It’s amazing!” she says. “They put on some NSYNC song or something (it’s actually Backstreet Boys) and this bird starts dancing — just bobbing his head and moving his feet perfectly in line with the beat!”
She finds the video, and soon a cockatoo named Snowball appears on the screen.
“Look at him! Isn’t he ?” she seems about to finish that thought with “amazing” or “incredible,” but she’s interrupted.
This story was written by a University of Illinois journalism student in Professor Walt Harrington’s Literary Feature Writing class taught in collaboration with The News-Gazette. Funding for the class, which was taught at the newspaper’s headquarters in downtown Champaign, came from the Marajen Stevick Foundation. The story was part of an occasional series titled “Slices of Life” that ran in the newspaper’s Sunday Living section. All the stories in the series are also collected in the book “Slices of Life.”