A short story for Michela,
She had told me about the birds, the fucking birds. I’d discounted her talk, citing the usual reasons – the vulgarities of youthful excess, and a possible drug problem. So now, as I sit in my car, alone, with a kamikaze goose wrapped around my axle, I find myself trapped on a county road where people are afraid to stop to help a complicated stranger.
She said that they had approached her from the west -- two of them creating a diversion near a trashcan, while others were driving off customers with dive-bombing poop attacks on crowded tables, until she was isolated and alone. She felt a tug on her jeans, then, as she looked down, felt a sharply blunted peck to the back of her head. When she woke up, hours later, both her food and wallet were gone, and an irate waiter was waving a check at her while yelling obscenities in a language she didn’t understand.
I’m all for a little crazy, seeing it as a form of social lubrication for the inept, but the bird thing seemed to me to be too organized, unless it was just something randomly bouncing in her head – it was too anthropomorphic, man made, for my tastes – like something a schizophrenic, bored with the laws of Deuteronomy, would come up with as a reason to explain why their shoes were dirty and they had no teeth.
But I started paying attention after that. I noticed that the seagulls had, or at least appeared to have, a franchise at all of the McDonald’s trash areas, and the crows surrounded Burger King’s parking area like a ring of rent-a-cops.
I began to see patterns. Pigeons on the roofs of hospitals that followed doctors to their cars -- outdoor parakeets that danced just below my line of sight -- just yellow flashes that I caught out of the corner of my eye when looking away at something else.
It got weird, and I know weird.
I tried to call her, but the cell phones were dead, or at least mine was. My land line might have worked, but I’d used the batteries in my remote control a long time ago, and since then I’d cancelled my land line as well. I turned on the radio station and listened, again for the patterns and the rhythm of the thing I was sensing. It was Rush Limbagh, so useless for any purpose.
I decided to drive to her -- to set the record straight and to give us both a second chance. No one was out and it was spooky dark. I took the back road to her place to save some time. Unseen things bounced off my car with a pounding that matched my heartbeat. I think I hit something with a big long neck. It was still thumping with its wings and stuck under my car as I pulled over.
Now I’m sitting on the side of the road, waiting.