Every autumn Inigo goes through a wicked molt and becomes quite a prickly pear. When feathers come in, they have a blood supply and they are covered in a waxy sheath. The sheath helps to protect the feather from breaking while it is still growing. Birds don’t have a lot of blood, so if a big “blood feather” breaks, the blood loss can be dangerous depending on the size of the bird.
The blood supply dies back once the feather is fully grown and then the sheath starts to dry out. Birds usually preen the wax away at that point. If they have a mate or avian flockmates, other birds will preen the feathers they can’t reach. As an only bird, Inigo has to rely on me. I’m not as adept as a bird in figuring out which of his face feathers are still blood feathers and which are ready to be preened, so I tend to let them grow in a good bit before I even try to get them. Blood feathers are very sensitive and there’s all sorts of commotion and drama if I make a mistake and touch one of those instead of a regular pin feather or “pinnie.”
Besides, letting them grow in a bit before getting them guarantees that he has a headstart on a good Halloween costume as Pinhead of Hellraiser fame every year.
The first three Hellraiser movies are among my favorite horror movies of all time. They’re classics at this point. They’re gory, true, but considering they were released in 1987, 1988, and 1992, the gore is not as gory as today’s gore is, if that makes any sense. There’s blood and some guts, but today’s horror TV often has more, and more realistic blood and guts at that. (American Horror Story, I’m looking at you. With glee.)
Hellraiser has a great premise: People solve a puzzle cube that summons Cenobites, otherworldly and terrifying creatures for whom pleasure and pain are pretty much the same thing, kind of like demonic S&M dungeonmasters and -mistresses . The movies are based on Clive Barker’s novella The Hellbound Heart, and if you’ve never read anything of Barker’s, do. All of his fiction is smooth, rich, and decadent, the chocolate cherry cheesecake of horror and dark fantasy—which cracks me up to no end because in his early book jacket photos he looked like an accountant.
If you’re not into horror but you love a good fantasy, start with Weaveworld. That was the first book of his that I read and I was hooked. It’s about a secret world that is woven into a rug. I was 22 or 23 when I read it, and I was floored by it, no pun intended. I’ve never looked at a hand-woven carpet the same way since.
As for Inigo, he can indeed be a little hellraiser when he’s molting, but eventually he starts putting his head down when I pick him up, and that’s how I know he’s ready for some preening. In the meantime, I avoid any strange puzzle cubes.