Monday, August 03, 2009

the bird

It was Alfred Hitchcock day on Friday. I was watching an old movie, called Rebecca, by the famous director around noon on that fateful day. Really, I was supposed to be cleaning my house in preparation for guests, getting some groceries, writing this blog, working on my fiction, and picking up some dry cleaning. But, in doing some research for our book club, I stumbled upon this movie and started watching a few clips. Besides, viewing a classic movie is an excellent warm-up for housework, isn't it?

As I was watching the unnamed heroine interact with the evil Mrs. Danvers, I heard a strange noise coming from somewhere. I looked over the balcony rail to see if there was any unusual cat action happening, but all was quiet. I continued my movie and again heard a rustling. It was coming from my right. I walked over and saw Jazz intently staring at the fireplace, her face with its big eyes pressed close to the glass. And then I saw a brown flutter and heard that familiar rustling again. There was a bird in my fireplace! (reminiscent of Hitchcock's The Birds)

It was not a small sparrow, but quite a large brown bird. He was not happy to find himself in the small glass enclosure and had no idea how to get back up the chimney, so I flung wide the window beside my desk, not six feet from the fireplace, and pulled open the fireplace door. Dean later told me that this was not what one does in these situations. I wish I would have known that then.

The bird did not see the open window. He flew straight to the highest point in my house, which happens to be a bright sunny window at the peak of the vaulted ceiling, some 30 feet from the floor. And this is where he started to thrash about, hurling himself at the window over and over again. He would take a brief rest, during which I swear I could see him panting, and then he would bang himself against the window like some demented lunatic with voices in his head. It was most distressing to watch.

I ran down the stairs and opened several more windows as well as the front door which led to a common hallway. I talked and cajoled and pleaded and pointed and prayed and the bird continued to beat himself against the window. A few feathers and a few drops of stress-induced poop fell from his perch. Jazz was going crazy, licking her lips with the juicy excitement. I called Dean.

By this time, I was freaking out just a bit because there was no solution in sight. This bird was going to beat himself to death after pooping all over my place, and then leave me with his dead body rotting high above my head, totally out of reach. After Dean's laughter subsided a bit, he told me that birds will always fly to the highest point and are not likely to see an open window. I should have trapped the bird in a box first and then released it outside. Okay, so noted for future reference. But what do I do now?

During my phone conversation with Dean (he had several people in his office when I called so this provided some amusement for his colleagues), inbetween bursts of laughter, he tried to give me advice. I kept trying anything I could think of. I took a broomstick, stood on the couch on my tiptoes, and beat the pole against the wall under the window, trying to get the bird to move. Nothing. I could just not get close enough to the bird. I ran down a flight of stairs to the open door and called, "Birdy, look down, look down!" In answer, he flapped his wings and beat himself against the window, leaving several greasy bird marks on the glass. Argh!

Jazz was circling, waiting for the bird to drop within her reach. Dean suggested that I call an exterminator, someone who specialised in bird extraction. It seemed to be the only way out of this. I was still running around the room, calling and making a lot of noise and commotion, hoping to startle the bird out of his crazed focus on the top window. Suddenly, I had a bright idea. I would turn on the ceiling fan. I flicked the switch to full blast and then hurried to the counter to grab a pen and paper to take down the number of the exterminator that Dean had found for me. I scribbled down some wiggly numbers, the adrenaline making me a bit jittery.

And then I saw the bird swoop down. Maybe it was the ceiling fan. Maybe it was all this talk of exterminators. Maybe it was an angel come to the rescue. I yelled the good news into the phone. The bird landed on the windowsill near the front closet. The window was one that I had left wide open, and I encouragingly called to him, "Go out the window, birdy, fly out. Go out, go out, go out!" He turned and looked around, a bit confused, and then he flew outside. I skipped over to the window and stuck my head out, breathlessly telling Dean about the blessed exit in a high-pitched voice, running all my words together.

And then Jazz came over to me and started to meow menacingly, very perturbed by the recent events and blaming me for it all, I guess. She swatted at my legs with her paws and stalked me while I yelled at her to back down and stop being so unreasonable. I was barefoot and in shorts, so my legs were a bit vulnerable to her fangs and claws. She glared at me with big eyes, but settled down a bit.

Dean was happy to hear that everything had been resolved and thanked me for providing the entertainment for the day. No problem, Dean. I hung up the phone, closed the door and the windows, and sat down on the stairs, still breathing rather quickly and shallowly.

"What was that all about, God?" I asked. And this is what I thought he answered. "This is what it is like to work with the poor and destitute and lost. They land in your house, needing direction and freedom. They mess up the careful order of things and they can totally stress you out. Learn to welcome them in the proper way. Learn to guide them in the proper way. But never close your door to them."

Be free, little bird.

These are some signs at the Welland Canal in Ontario.

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