Wild green parrots circled the sea grape tree, squawking loudly. They settled noisily on the tree branches, squabbling and cawing among themselves as they fought for the juiciest of the ripe sea grapes.  One parrot, larger than the others, flew down to a branch opposite the open bedroom window. He sat with his head cocked to one side and cried, “Awk, awk, arrauk,” as he peered in the window.

Paco opened his eyes at the sound of the squawking and watched as the green parrot hopped onto the window sill.  Paco  remembered that he had an important decision to make today. He lay in bed trying to think what was the right thing to do. He had to be sure to make the right choice. So very much depended on it.  The green parrot poked his head inside Paco’s bedroom. Cocking its head to look Paco straight in the eye, the parrot said as plain as anyone would say, “South, south, arrauk,” then flapped its wings and flew away.

“Who has ever heard of such a thing,” thought Paco. “The wild parrot has just said, ‘South, south’ to me just as plain as can be.” With that Paco made up his mind. He would head south today on his journey, as the parrot seemed to be telling him.

Paco jumped out of bed and pulled a tee shirt over his head tucking it into his shorts as he ran into the kitchen. His mother was busy rinsing the dishes before leaving for work. Mama worked at the Hospital, and wore a crisp uniform that rustled as she moved.  “Good morning Paco,” said Mama, kissing the top of his head as he ran past her. “Good morning Mama,” said Paco. “Eat something before you go, Charo,” called Mama.
Paco scooped some of last night’s leftover black beans and rice onto a slice of crusty Cuban bread to eat on his way. “And put on your shoes. I don’t want you running all over Miami barefoot.

Mama and Poppy were both born in Havana, Cuba and told the story many times of coming to Florida, when many Cubans left their country and came to the United States in small boats. Paco and his older sister, Rosa were born in America.  Mama and Poppy had seen many people in Cuba who went barefoot because they could not afford shoes to wear. So Mommy made sure that Paco and Rosa, never went anywhere without their shoes. That way people in the Little Havana area of Miami where they lived, would know that the Alverez family was not poor.

Paco grabbed his sandals with his free hand and said, “Mama, I’m going south today. I was sleeping, and a green parrot flew to my window sill and woke me saying, ‘South, south.’ It must be a sign from Padre God that I should take the boat that way this day.

“Perhaps you are right Pacito,” said Mama. “May you have much luck today.” Paco raced out the door eating his rice and bean sandwich, his sandals flapping in his hand as he ran.

“Buenos Dias Senior Garcia,” said Paco to Mr. Garcia who had the fruit stand on the corner. “And a good day to you too Paco,” replied Mr. Garcia. “Help yourself to a couple of juicy mangoes. You want to keep your strength up for today.”
“Gracias Senior Garcia. Thank you.” Paco said, as he picked out two of the biggest, mangoes biting into the ripest, the juice running down his arm. He put the other mango in his pocket for later. “May you win the biggest prize,” said Mr. Garcia leaning forward over the stand to see as Paco disappeared down the street.

Paco finished his mango and was licking the sweet syrup off his fingers, when he reached the coffee house of Senior Gomez. The sun was not very high in the sky and already the tables outside on the sidewalk were filled with businessmen having a cup of the strong, thick, dark Cuban coffee that was served in little cups. Each day the businessmen had their rich, flavorful coffee and read the newspaper before going to work.

“Paco, come and have a coffee to wake you so your head is clear to catch the fish this day,” said Mr. Gomez. Paco stepped to the counter for his coffee. “Oh no, my friend,” said Mr. Gomez with a big show of dusting off a table on the sidewalk. “Today the best table I have is for you, Mr. Fisherman.”

Paco sat and drank the thick coffee with many spoonfuls of sugar in it. All the businessmen wished him well. It had been rumored in the city that more than a few of the businessmen had placed bets on Paco and his fish. “Gracias, thank you, Senior Gomez,” said Paco when he had finished his coffee.

6,400 Words
Flesch Reading Ease 83.3
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level 5.2