Saturday, September 30, 2017
I woke to the sound of sirens. Emergency vehicles were hurrying to remote quadrants of the city and dogs were howling with the sirens. In another room, I heard a bird singing, a few notes whistled in the silent room. The bird’s call was a question, an interrogative.
A bird was in the house. I didn’t know how this had happened.
Birds were in ten other houses in the neighborhood.
In one house, an old lady in her bathrobe shrieked as the bird flew past her, it’s wing brushing against her eyes. She didn’t know what to do and, so, called 911 to report the bird and the dispatcher said that birds were in other people’s houses as well, but that she would write down the woman’s name and, once the animal enforcement officer had time to respond he would come to her home. "Please be calm," the dispatcher said.
In the second house, a little girl had risen early and was watching TV and, in the kitchen behind her, a small sparrow-sized bird flew in helpless circles in a sunbeam. The little girl was watching cartoons and paid no attention to the bird.
In the third house, a burly man in pee-stained underwear was chasing the bird in his house with a broom. He pursued the bird onto the enclosed porch and batting at it, smashed the little creature to the ground. The bird lay on the floorboards, its breast rising and falling. The man went to his kitchen and picked up the bird with a Bounty paper-towel. He felt how warm the bird was – it was like a living coal in its paper-towel shroud.
In the fourth house, the family’s dog barked at the bird and lunged at it and the small winged creature crashed headlong into the picture window framing the home’s front lawn and the big oak tree there. The bird’s neck was broken. The dog sniffed at the fallen bird, but, when it twitched, retreated nervously and sat against the baseboard growling.
In the fifth house, an old man sat in his easy chair with a blanket across his lap and watched as the bird perched on his lamp and, then, flew in tight circles around the room. The old man smiled slightly.
In the sixth house, the bird dived toward a nineteen-year old girl who was holding in her trembling hand a tennis racket. The girl dropped the tennis racket and squealed and, as she backed away from the bird’s dive, she tripped over an ottoman and fell hard onto the floor, spraining her wrist.
In the seventh house, a mother sheltered her two little children from the bird spinning in circles through the living room. She held the door open and whispered to the bird: "Come this way, come this way!" As if by accident, the bird found the door open into the backyard, zoomed past her, casting a bit of feathery lint onto the mother’s cheek. The children giggled with delight and the bird swam through the air, taking laps around the tree where a red-tailed squirrel was scolding it.
In the eighth house, an old woman had died. She sat at her kitchen table with the newspaper open in front of her and her coffee in its cup still cooling. Her head was down and the bird came to her from time to time to pluck hair from her skull so that it could make a nest in another room in her home.
In the ninth house, twin boys turned from the Tv that they were watching to see the bird perch for a moment on the fishbowl where their guppies and goldfish lived. The bird’s eye was black and glittering. The bird leaped down onto the carpet where some one had carried a smudge of mud and leaf into the home from outdoors. The family’s cat, dived onto the bird, swatting it down with an outstretched paw and, then, proceeding to torture the little creature to death.
In the tenth house, a man dressed for work entirely ignoring the bird that fluttered in spirals around his head. When he left his house, the bird followed him closely and skimmed over his left shoulder as he turned to shut his side-door. The man went to his car and started its engine and he saw the bird wobbling a little as it flew up to perch in an elm tree. Sirens were howling in other parts of the town.
The reason that sirens where sounding was that, in each corner of our city, there were one-hundred birds trapped inside one-hundred houses.