Speakeasy #164: The Birds

There is no warning rattle at the door.

Not anymore. You see, there was a bird that would come everyday at one-o-clock, pecking frantically at the groove between the glass and the wood, trying to do god-knows-what. Our Pa thought the reflection in the glass was the culprit, confusing the bird with its sharp reflected light.

It seemed he was right. Everyday (as long as there was sun) the bird would swoop in, peck, and right before our dogs would run to the door, barking and whining as their hunting instincts kicked in, it would fly back to its perch on the highest branch of a nearby oak tree.

They say there is a huge problem with birds colliding into windows. Around a billion die a year from running their little heads into hard glass, day and night. Sometimes they die on impact. Other times, they die a few days later, from internal bleeding in the brain, or somewhere else. They see reflections of trees in the window and SMACK — dead bird. Or they think a dark window is the night sky and SMACK — dead bird.

But this bird didn’t smack into our door; it just pecked, only to fly away for a few minutes and return to peck some more. Pa said the bird thought it was another bird and it was trying to mate or peck its eyes out. Birds can get territorial that way, he explained. Pa knew a lot about birds.

He earned a merit badge for bird watching as a boy scout — the first merit badge he ever earned. Dippers, Kinglets, Bald Eagle — he checked them all off his list. His love of nature brought us here to live, where the nearest neighbor is no less than 50 yards away and where the variety of trees have provided the best, natural privacy fences for hundreds of years. “Nature is our Zoloft,” he’d say, “Nothing clears the mind better than unplugging from technology.” He brought us up that way, you know? Campfires and walking to school in the snow — didn’t need a backyard when we had a forest as our playground.

But the bird — it was a goddamn condor. For all Pa’s wisdom about birds, he had no idea why it obsessed over hammering through our front door. The first time it pecked and rattled the door, we thought it would poke right through the glass. The dogs yelped and hid under the kitchen table and would not come out until we lined the floor with treats into the living room. The first time it pecked and rattled the door, my Pa coughed a little blood.

The day the condor stopped was the day I stepped away from a house full of people dressed in black and on to the porch to light a cigarette. I leaned heavily against the log railing, feeling judged by the clean mountain air. In the distance I saw that condor, perched on the same branch with its shoulders hunched and unwavering eyes looking in my direction. Another, almost identical in size and color, came to join it. They looked at each other, ruffled their feathers a bit, and lifted their impressive wings into flight.

Cigarette between my lips, I removed my Pa’s 1952 pocket bird check-list, turned to the “C’s”, and marked a red check next to his pencil gray.

This prompt is in response to this week’s Speak Easy challenge using the line “There is no warning rattle at the door”, from Maya Angelou’s poem, A Plagued Journey. She will live forever in her work and legacy. RIP.


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20 thoughts on “Speakeasy #164: The Birds

  1. The narrator’s voice is so amiable and authentic. And you have some great asides: smoking a cigarette and “feeling judged by the clean mountain air.” Brilliant. Really smart take on the prompt. Well done.

  2. I liked this. It reads like someone talking and telling me a story. Not like someone writing about a story teller. Big difference! Well done.

  3. I felt as if I was sitting on a porch swing watching the narrator. I assume that your header photo was intentional. Lovely photograph and touching piece of writing. It’s at times of loss that we ‘see’ and cling to signs that our departed loved ones are passing to another spectrum.

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