This morning I was out for breakfast with my beloved friend Frank. Actually I had spent the morning driving him to the eye doctor, as a follow up to his cataract surgery. I chide him to wear wrap around “terminator” sunglasses. He balks, believing the new eyewear will have him mistaken for a senior citizen or middle aged gaming addict. Did I mention I love Frank? We are like an old married couple…out for a day of cat litter shopping and cataract surgery checkups. And breakfast.
There was no lineup outside the hipster neighbourhood diner. It’s a glorious summer day and, with cat littler and cataracts out of the way, we have nothing else to do. Time stretches out before us. Sunshine rains down. Both of us note how rare it is in our city to have “open window days”; Windows that let in lush sunshine and lazy breezes.
And, apparently, big starlings.
I saw the bird first; hurtling into what surely must have appeared as solid matter. It surprised itself passing through the glass and into another dimension. More accurately, it slammed into the back wall.
“Oh. My God.” I shriek and immediately dive under the table. There is a decided quiet in the diner.
“Bird”, I hiss.
The other patrons, including my beloved Frank, turn away from the crazy lady under the table toward the very clearly agitated avian, now claw-repelling off the back wall. It recovers impressively. Now THIS is flight or fight.
The startled starling swoops, panics, most probably poops, until, breast heaving, it finally finds refuge on the high shelf near the air conditioner.
He takes a second to survey the area, eyes bulging. I can see it’s beady blacks clearly as I peer from underneath our deuce. My own eyes are most certainly bulging in reply and I can feel my breath in short sharp bursts.
The older woman sitting at the table nearer the window (whom I had originally pegged as kind hearted) turns to look at me. I gaze from under the table and see now that she is very amused! “Oh, are you afraid of birds”?
Her coo hits a raw nerve. Adrenalin courses, fear meets shame and I want to sneer, “yes I am “afraid of birds”. I am behaving like someone who needs to work on their shit.
Clearly she had never had an older house with a wood-burning fireplace. Clearly she has never had to deal with a nest architect, foolishly building its home over a chimney. Clearly she has never heard the telltale “whoosh” as sticks fall into the hearth. And obviously she does not know that, after that, usually comes a bird. Or two. Or in one rare case, FOUR.
FOUR BIRDS in the house.
Sometimes you can catch them with a blanket or a towel and wrestle then outside. Sometimes you can do this without injuring a delicate wing. Sometimes they are stunned and you can let them go. And then throw away the towel. And them wash your hands with dish soap and a touch of bleach.
But sometimes you are not there when they appear. Plop. Plop.plop.plop. A family of four sparrows suddenly arriving like surprised Santas. Sometimes you are away for a lovely weekend with your gift-of-a-boyfriend, thanking the Universe for your newly found incredible good luck.
Sometimes you return home to discover something that looks like white glue all over the kitchen floor. Sometimes you look up and see white glue all over the counters, the windows and the living room floor. And then furniture. And the bannister. How peculiar! Sometimes you climb the staircase looking for clues only to discover a rather large dead sparrow on the third step. Sometimes your heart races, beating as fast as a bird’s. Sometimes you scream and then yell at your new boyfriend to help you. Together you discover and throw out two bird bodies (one each what luck!) and scour the house thoroughly with bleach before heading to bed. Exhausted.
Sometimes you are not prepared when you open the blinds the next morning and another bird body drops out, landing on your bare foot.
And sometimes, months later, when you have told the story more times than you care to, like therapy really, for in the telling is a shedding of the fear…
Sometimes long after the scent of bleach has faded from your house and your heartbeat has returned to normal, you will be playing Olympics with your amazing, sparkly bodysuit clad five-year-old daughter. You will distractedly reach behind the couch to get her favorite plastic balance beam in preparation for “team practise”, feeling great about your parenting. You are PRESENT!
And you will pull out the two hollow plastic pink pieces and you will connect them as you have a dozen times before. And you will notice that they don’t seem to be clicking quite into place. And yes, you will peer in and see what looks like a tiny stuffie mysteriously wedged into the hollow end. And you will put in your hand, your arm really, because this is a “realistic full sized balance beam for tiny gymnasts”…
And you will feel it’s softness as your hand curls around it. And then, as you cannot identify this missing and clearly most beloved toy, you will bring it close to your face. And you are so curious you bring it even closer, ready to reclaim a friend who has surely been missed. And there is a terrible second. A terrible, long second and then you realize
It is a FUCKING BIRD.
And you will scream and throw it back. And you will scoop up your five year old daughter with your non bird hand and you will rush out of your tiny living room and into the very back of the kitchen where you will sit hunched on the floor. And you will soothe her as she too is now quite panicked by your very loud scream, her terror ignited by your own base human reaction.
And eventually you will soothe her. And you will self soothe (with the help of a shot of scotch) and you will place the desiccated bird body (which upon second handling is really quite light, it must be hollow, but don’t go there…) into a plastic bag. And then another. And you will place this light (is it maggots? how did it decay so cleanly from the inside out?) bag into the trash. And you will have another shot of scotch to quell your inquiring mind.
And you will put up a huge screen on the top of the chimney. And eventually you will sell the house and discover, upon the mandatory home inspection, that birds have been nesting in the attic.
And you will put away every cool or hip piece of art or knick-knack that has bird images on it. And you will stare at the real birds with a new kind of awe. And familiarity. And you will tamp down your terror.
Until one day you are sitting in the diner down the street on a beautiful summer morning with the windows open having a visit with your most beloved friend.
And the bird will fly in. And you will consider ordering scotch for breakfast.
Natural Cleaning Tip for Removing Hard to Remove Things
(um, like bird droppings)
- Mix juice of lemon with salt to make a paste. Scrub with a brush. Rinse.
- For smaller blobs, mix lemon juice with baking soda to make a paste.
- Rinse. Rinse. Rinse.