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Written by L.E. Greeve, this chapter tells the story of a strange customer who visits Mr. Purcell’s shop. This man is not like Mr. Purcell’s usual customers. His unusual gesture leaves the shop owner confused.
Mr Purcell owned a pet shop. His shop sold all kinds of pets including dogs, cats, fishes, monkeys and birds. He also sold animal food, bird seed and bird cages. Always surrounded by all these animals, Mr Purcell had grown accustomed to the sounds of twitters, rustling, squeals and squeaks.
One day as he was seated on his high stool reading the newspaper, a strange customer walked into the shop. Mr Purcell greeted the customer in his habitual manner with a smile. The man seemed to have not heard or ignored Mr Purcell’s greetings. While the man was looking around the shop, Mr Purcell observed his cheap, ill-fitting suit and shiny shoes.
The strange customer then came up with his unusual demand for something in a cage. When Mr Purcell suggested a rat in a cage, the customer snapped rudely because he wanted something which had wings and could fly. The shop owner finally realised that his customer wanted to buy birds and offered him two snowy doves in a cage for fifty-five dollars.
The strange customer could only offer five dollars. Mr Purcell knew he could make enough profit even by selling the birds for five dollars, so he agreed. The customer revealed that those five dollars was what he had earned in ten years with hard labour. This implied that the man had served a sentence of ten years in the prison and had eventually been allowed to walk out of jail with a new suit and shoes.
Mr Purcell was only beginning to give him caretaking and feeding instructions for the birds when the customer walked out of the shop. The customer stepped outside the pet shop and opened the gate of the cage. He then freed both the birds and walked away, leaving the shopkeeper utterly puzzled.
Because Mr Purcell is the owner of a pet shop, he is accustomed to keeping the animals caged. This is why, he fails to understand the man’s unusual gesture of freeing the birds. To the strange customer, freeing two creatures from captivity is an act of liberation. He has himself lived in captivity for ten long years and he values freedom. This explains his unusual demand of wanting something in a cage and then setting it free.