The grass is dewy on my bare feet as I stop outside. I haven’t had my coffee yet but there’s pressing business that needs doing before anything else. All night that bird, chirping at the window, summoning me like a patron to a waiter, right at the sill. Greta never stirred.
Maybe if the fat squirrels weren’t such pigs. Or if we’d never bought the damn feeder in the first place, or so faithfully filled it with seed so that it was expected, akin to a right, something to cause a nocturnal riot about if it wasn’t done… Maybe.
I haul out the bag. Greta perches herself at the window, ready to tap tap tap on the glass with necessary instructions. She’s probably hoping I’ll topple over so she can cash in on my new life insurance policy. Fifty pounds of feed. Who buys such a load of bird feed, besides a zoo, an aviary, perhaps Alfred Hitchcock? I drag the feed to the tree, thinking about that one bird, of conspiracies, of Greta the other day, mentioning how I should amp up that life insurance payout. Fifty grand is hardly enough to get you buried, she’d said, as though my tomb was being constructed as we spoke, lined with gold and jewels, hieroglyphs painted with bird shit.
I shake it off, trying to tip through the wet grass, the clippings between my toes, but it’s impossible to haul such a bag and be light about it. The squirrels watch intently. I wave them back, tell them to beat it, this seed is for the birds, the ones who crap all over my car. A quick glance to the house, where Greta’s beak is nearly pressed against the glass in foggy anticipation, waiting for me to fall or spill or otherwise screw something up.
I get the top off, set the feeder down. It’s one of those overpriced community market artisan projects that’s already falling apart. I grunt as I heft the industrial sack, dumping it in, dumping it everywhere, spilling it everyplace as my audience watches from the limbs. There was a time I was young, spry, went on hikes and played tennis, cooked out on the grill and sprang up to the roof to fix a shingle. Now my hands shake with the bag, spillage pouring out on the grass, Greta tapping from the window, as though I can’t see what is happening. Next she’ll ask if we should have the Anderson boy fill the feeder next time he’s over to cut the grass. I hate seeing that kid on my riding mower, whipping around, head bopping, tanned and unconcerned with skin splotches and cancer only what he’s going to get into with the fifty bucks Greta will slap into his palms.
The lid takes some finagling. Just as I get it the bag folds over like a washed-up heavyweight and I can hear Greta in there scoffing as I reach out too late and wrestle with the bag, making things worse. And it’s like I was never senior engineer at Robinson and vice president of the Neighborhood Watch and chairman of the Folkeshire Trust but instead a bumbling dunce slumping around on his hands and knees grasping for fistfuls of birdseed that fall through my fingers and I’m left with nothing but the Anderson boy’s lawn clippings in my hands.
It sets me off, and the next thing I know I’m broiling between the ears, kicking the bag. I kick it for the pain it causes my back every time I lift my leg, for the big toe I’ve probably broken in two places. For Greta and her bird watching, as though the fat pigeons she finds more entertaining than her husband, sitting on the chair, flipping through Popular Mechanics, the crinkling pages the only sound in our old house because she only wants to fly away and I have nothing to say anymore because everything has been said except for What time is your appointment? or Did you remember to call the insurance company? and who could forget I told you the tomato plants would die because you planted them to early.
I kick the way that Anderson boy might kick, until I lose my balance and go rolling over and the squirrels are having a laugh and I’m thinking this is the way I’ll have to explain it to my doctor because not only is it a broken foot but also busted nose and a black eye and all that wet grass on my feet and I don’t know if it’s better or worse that by the time I turn around Greta is gone.
Nothing but an empty window.
- From the Writer’s Digest prompt, Creative Writing Prompt: Writing the StreamWrite a piece using the stream-of-consciousness technique.
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