Monday, September 14, 2009

To Kill A Mockingbird

Everyone who knows me is aware of my great love of birds. The backyard of my home is a veritable sanctuary for them, complete with houses, baths, and several feeders. I love to watch as a cardinal male feeds his female in a sweet act of courtship. I love when the tiny golden finches take a bath, then sit on the edge of the fence, puffy and clean, waiting to dry. I love the way the momma birds bring their groundlings to the feeder and "show" them how to get the seed, even though the babies still flap their wings and crane their necks, wanting HER to feed them. I can observe them for hours.

I have to admit, though, there was one particular bird that I can genuinely say I truly hated with the white-hot passion of a thousand suns. I still wonder to this day what happened to him, though. Here's that story:

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I'm a runner. My favorite time to run is first thing in the morning. I like to get it done and not have to think about it for the rest of the day. Back then, in order to accomplish this and still get to work on time, my runs usually occurred just as the sun was coming up. It was always a quiet time of day, even the school kids weren't at the bus stop yet. The sidewalks were clear with the the possible exception of a few older hispanic women out on their morning strolls, saying their rosaries and walking briskly. They always seemed pretty pre-occupied with their "Hail Marys," so I'd just smile and nod and continue on my solitary way. Because I am an intense creature of habit, I always took the same route. I liked seeing how my effort changed day to day, and this was the perfect way to gauge my progress.

So one particular morning as I was heading into mile two, I passed a mockingbird sitting on a fence very near the sidewalk, singing and trilling sweetly. Mockingbirds, though not very pretty in their simple gray and white, are beautiful singers. They have a capacity to trill many different types of songs, and can actually imitate those of other birds and creatures. There was a mockingbird in the employee parking lot at Universal Studios that could expertly sing the tune of each car alarm he heard every day. It was a terrific show!

But back to my singer on the fence. I slowed a tiny bit to enjoy his warbling, then checked my heart rate watch and continued on. That's when I heard the bird again. Only this time it wasn't
singing, it was SCREECHING. As I turned to see if he was hurt, I realized his screeching was at me. He was also DIVE BOMBING my head like a Kamikaze pilot over Pearl Harbor. I felt his flapping wings graze my head, then he was gone again. I checked my heart rate, it was off the charts! Just then, I saw him coming back from the other direction for a second pass, all the while screeching, flapping and pecking. Now, I'm a pretty touch chick when it comes to being around bees, wasps and other flying attackers. But I must tell you, that satanic bird was TERRIFYING!!

When I returned home from the run, I told Alan about my assailant. We decided it must be a momma protecting her nest, then laughed and soon forgot about the whole ordeal. Well, skip ahead THREE months when that little bastard was STILL buzzing my head in that same portion of the sidewalk. This was no momma, this was just an indignant bird with a giant CHIP on his shoulder!

He was a MASTER at it, too. Some days, he'd allow me to pass. He'd just sit there on his fence throne, trilling away, lulling me into a false sense of security. Then, a few days later, I'd be lost in some thought or calibrating my miles when I'd look up. There he'd be, sitting with an evil look in his eye (I don't know how a stupid bird could pull-off a Vincent Price eyebrow curl so expertly, but I SWEAR to you, this one DID!). "Go ahead," his look said, "I'll give you a head start..." Then the wicked screeching and swooping would ensue. Looking back, I think I actually became a better runner during that time because of the full-on sprinting I was doing each morning at that dreaded fence!

Here's the funny part, he left all the rosary women alone. I'd warn them when I passed, "There's a dangerous bird up ahead, be careful!" They'd give me a confused stare, then continue on, completely unharmed by the mockingbird. Apparently, it was just me he didn't like. This hurt my avian-loving heart immensely. Didn't he get the word that I offered a freaking bird NIRVANA in my backyard, for crying out loud? I wanted to hold a meeting with the sparrows and morning doves at my feeders and say, "Fellas, go tell him I'm cool!!"

I got all kinds of advice from friends and co-workers. They suggested everything from running with a tennis racket and "going Billie Jean King on his ass," to holstering a beebee gun to my thigh and "taking him out" the easy way. I couldn't do either of those things. So, my chosen brilliant method was to take my work-out towel and swat at my assailant when he swooped me. At the very least, the air current it created served to screw up his flight pattern a bit and throw him off course. It worked briefly. I considered it a small victory. Sometimes, when I was approaching his Fence of Terror, I'd hold up the towel and give it a good swing, showing him what he was up against.

But one day I was lost in thought again, working out some problem I was feeling stressed about, not paying attention. He seized the moment, giving me a classic terrifying buzz, then flew to the nearest tree. I'd had it. I promise you I am not making this next part up: I stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, swung my towel wildly over my head and screamed at the tree, "Come on, let's DO this!!" Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a figure. I turned and looked. There was a tiny hispanic woman, also stopped on the sidewalk, staring at me, her mouth gaping open. I pointed at the tree, stammering, "There's a bird...he keeps buzzing my head..." I trailed off as the woman performed the sign of the cross, did an abrupt about-face, and walked briskly in the other direction.

I never saw my mockingbird again after that day. He probably tried to pick a fight with a ferrel cat or a bald eagle or something and lost. But I'd like to think that I won the battle of the territory that day by standing up to him, and he respectfully conceded. Sometimes you just have to declare to your bullies that enough is enough and swing your towel with wild abandon. But I'll tell you a secret: I'm not as tough as I appear. To this day, every time I hear the sweet trill of a mockingbird, I run for cover.

Thanks for reading!!


3 comments:

Kathy B said...

I love this story no matter how many times I hear it. That doesn't mean you tell it too often - just that I always look forward to hearing it when there is someone who hasn't gotten the story yet. I WISH i could have been there to see that last confrontation. Way to whip his tiny little gray butt, Joan!

thedoggedpursuit said...

Chica! You freakin' stole my line!!! Did I, or did I not, give you "White hot passion of a thousand suns?!?!" Where's my freakin' credit?!

Ok, enough.

You, my dearest, are an awesome, funny, amazing writer and person. I love "Naked Man." You are definitely on to something here.

That said: slow the f*#k down! You're making the rest of us poor bloggers look bad. Sheesh.

All the best to you and Studly.
Stasha

Anything Fits a Naked Man said...

Oh, no! Stasha, I sincerely remember you saying the "thousand suns" line, but I thought we both stole it from Diann on "Cheers!" I distinctly remember her describing her disdain for Sam with these words! Geez, I hope I'm not wrong! If I am, I will change this IMMEDIATELY and give you ALL the credit!! Thanks for your kind words, S!

xo, Joan

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