I’m having a rough day.
Walking home with a half stale loaf of bread and a wedge of cheese tucked in my arm, eyes closing, stomach doing that thing where it’s wanting you to fill it, daring you to eat, but with a snicker, a mischievous grin- you know full well if you eat something it’s going to doom your innards.
I turn up the music in my ears.
How can things be wrong with the Ronettes playing?
That’s right…they can’t.
The opening, no scratch that…the amazing opening drums of “Be My Baby” comes pounding into my ears and, I swear it was an accident – I step on a blue bird.
Are there even supposed to be blue birds in New York?
The thing screams. Seriously screams. It swears and pecks at my foot then flies off.
If you have ever heard a bird swear at you, you would have stopped like I did.
Little bird, big mouth.
I watch if fly away. As soon as it is out of view I continue on my walk home.
Singing in a horribly high pitched voice, not really paying attention to where I’m going…and I step on the bird again.
It has to be the same bird.
No two birds can swear like that.
I crouch down, whispering to it, whispering prayers that I didn’t kill it.
What the fuck is wrong with you? I’m bright fucking blue. Can’t you see me?
No, no…of course not. You’re stuck in your own damn head.
Is that bread?
I pull a few crumbs off the stale loaf and put them on the sidewalk in front of it.
Really? You step on me and then put food on the ground? Don’t you know how dirty these sidewalks are? Shit, what if I cooked you a beautiful steak and then put it on the ground. Would you eat it?
I pick him up, trying to adjust everything so I can tear the bread with one hand and hold him in the other.
He flies up and sits on my shoulder.
I laugh and open my mouth to say something to him but he cuts me off.
If you say anything – anything- about feeling like Uncle Remus or even hum a little bit of “Zippity-Doo-Da” I swear I will shit right on your shoulder.
I laugh and shove a piece of bread in his beak.
Be a good host. Don’t just watch me eat. Eat with me.
I take a piece of bread and chew on it slowly, feeling my stomach already begin to turn.
I walk, the bird pecks at my neck each time he’s ready for more food, or when he feels I’m not eating my fair share of the bread.
I offer him cheese and he lets out a string of curses about how he’s not a mouse.
“Wait here,” he says and flies off.
I take another piece of bread and chew on it, my stomach grumbles but in a different way. In an “I told you it wouldn’t be bad, feed me more” kind of way.
The blue bird comes back, carrying something in his claws.
Now, that is a mouse. Do I look like that to you? Give me bread. Cheese? Damn…act like you’ve never fed a bird before.
I look at the rodent, squealing in fear on the sidewalk.
“Um…that’s not a mouse. That’s a guinea pig. And it’s wearing a pink bow. Did you take someone’s pet to make a point that didn’t need making?”
He looks at me. He squints his little black eyes and stares right at me.
Can I eat it?
“What? No! Of course you can’t eat it. It’s someone’s pet! Where did you get it? Put it back where you found it.”
He laughs, a little bird laugh, and flies back to my shoulder, making it far too clear that he’s not going to be any help.
I scoop up the still frightened guinea pig and start walking in the direction he came from.
You’ll never find where I got it from, and, I’m not going to tell you where I got it from.
I shove a big piece of bread in his mouth and begin knocking on doors.
Do you know how strange it is to go door to door asking if someone lost their guinea pig in the last 5 minutes?
Do you know how strange(r) it is when a little girl stares at you because you are holding her guinea pig with a blue bird choking on bread and swearing on your shoulder.
Try explaining that whole situation to a five year old.
Yes, this angry blue bird stole your guinea pig to prove he wasn’t a mouse. Please, oh please, do not repeat anything he’s saying.
We leave the bewildered girl with her guinea pig and continue the walk home.
You know, after all that, I think I’d like to try a piece of cheese.
I break off a piece and hold it out for him.
He pecks at it and gives me his best little bird sneer.
Unsalted? How do you expect me to eat unsalted cheese?
“For something that is not a mouse, you sure have your opinion on cheese.”
He gives me that black-eyed squint again and flies off.
I put the cheese back in the bag and start walking, yet again.
I hear swearing in the distance, getting louder. A stream of “fucks” and “slow down, asshole.”
I turn to see the blue bird flying two feet above the ground, struggling to drag a cardboard box.
“What’s in the box, bird?”
“Smart bird. Why did you bring me a box?”
“Don’t your people have a saying…something about trash being treasure?”
“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure?”
“Sure. Here’s some trash I found. Not food trash or dirty diapers. But it’s one man’s trash. Let’s make them treasures, yeah?”
“You’re taking me on a hero’s quest slash charity walk aren’t you?”
“Just grab the shit and let’s go! The sun is setting!”
“Okay, Cinderella, don’t get your feathers in a twist.”
I look in the box. There is a pair of shoes, a nice enough lamp, a painting of a palm tree, a book without a cover.
Let’s go! There’s crap to be given and bread to eat!
The sun begins to set. The blues darkening and the clouds catching all Halloween-orange and Welch’s- purple.
Yeah, yeah, I know it’s pretty but the sun setting means it’s about to get dark when means it’s about to get late which means you need to hurry up and give away that crap…unless you want to take it all home. Whatever works.
I tie the shoes together and throw them over my shoulder, carrying the lamp in one hand and the books and painting in the other. The blue bird is eating the last pieces of bread on my shoulder.
We walk as the sun sets, the air becomes chilly. The blue bird whistles a soft, happy tune.
I think it’s the Ronette’s “When I Saw You” but I know if I ask he’ll fly away and bring back god knows what as some sort of weird blue-bird-punishment.
Birds are weird.
Some kids are in front of us, running through the sprinkler in their front lawn. Laughing and jumping. The blue bird gives me a light peck on the cheek, calling them to my attention.
It’s getting dark, I bet they could use a lamp.
It’s only May but the days have been hot. Hot enough to stir up those young feelings of pre-summer cabin fever.
The kids call to each other, playing a game of some sort, throwing things through the sprinkler, seeing who could make it the furthest.
I watch, holding all the crap and hoping the bird doesn’t say something that will get me in trouble.
The kids run up to me, all smiles and wet hair sticking up in funny directions.
Can we throw those through the water? Please? It will be fun!
The bird clears its throat.
“Don’t they know what books are for? Tell them to go dry off and read them. Educate themselves.”
“Shut up, bird.”
Kids have a way of accepting things. Things like a talking blue bird and a guy holding a lamp.
I hand them the books and they begin ripping the pages out, one by one.
“What the fuck are they doing?”
“Watch your mouth, bird.”
They begin to fold the torn pages into flimsy paper airplanes and fly them through the water, giggling as the paper becomes wet and the plane dive-bombs into the grass.
They tear more pages and forget about the bird and I.
We continue our quest.
Planes? They made planes out of those books? They could have read them, learned something!
“It was a cook book…in what looked like Korean. Why would they even pretend to like that? Listen to them…they’re having more fun making planes than they would trying to learn how to cook soondubu jiggae.”
Human’s are fucking strange. The whole lot of you!
The sky is losing colour, becoming black. There is a cool breeze making it to us all the way from the water.
In the middle of the street we see a fat raccoon.
A huge raccoon.
A raccoon so fat it’s dragging its belly on the ground.
“Friend of yours?”
Oh, hell no. We don’t associate with those creatures. They eat trash!
“You tried to eat someone’s pet!”
We watch as the raccoon struggles over the curb and makes its way to a trashcan.
It stands on its back legs, wobbling and swaying, trying to tip over a very full trashcan.
I take the shoes and push one deep into the garbage, letting the other hang out.
The raccoon grabs the shoe and pulls, tipping the trashcan into the street, spilling the garbage everywhere.
One thing I’ll say for man, you sure do think out of the box. Got any more of that cheese?
We walk in the darkness, eating cheese, looking around for what to do with the painting and the lamp.
He sings out as we approach the house with all of the seasonal decorations. You know the house, every neighbourhood has one – no matter the holiday or the season, those people have decorations for it.
The windows are covered in fake flowers. The lawn has bunnies and gnomes.
I put the painting down next to the big tree in the lawn, propping it up behind a stone bunny and frog.
I find the extension cord they use for their Christmas lights and those moving reindeer and plug the lamp in, tilting the shade so illuminates the palm tree and makes their plastic flowers glow in the night.
Well done, human! That looks fucking beautiful. And shiny! You did that for me, didn’t you? You know how birds like shiny things.
“I didn’t do it for you. I did it for me. I like their decorations…and look at those fake flowers…it’s like they are on fire.”
“Selfish…but understandable. What now?”
We stand there, finishing the cheese, admiring the decorated lawn.
It’s getting colder, the blue bird moves closer to my neck, trying to capitalize on my heat.
We walk in silence now. I’m smiling. I’m sure the blue bird is smiling.
“End of the road, bird. This is me.”
He sings a little song, his blue feathers shimmer under the street light.
“Get up, grandchild, your dawn is rising.”
He flies away, singing.
I watch as he lands on the shoulders of a tall Chinese woman. Her dress shines the same colours as his feathers and they walk down the street together, into the shadows.