I recognized that look as I stared at vacant eyes, gaping mouth and body language that screamed, "Feed me!" I remembered that look, sitting on my couch. I knew a hungry teenager when I saw one.
The problem was that this "teenager" was a bird--A BIRD--a half grown scruffy-feathered, gap-beaked blue jay bird, and it wanted to be fed. Typical. I had just scratched up an earthworm with my garden rake. What could it hurt? I fed the earthworm to the scraggly blue jay teenager bird. It was a bucolic, earthy gardener's moment. Charming.
It was also summertime. Our air conditioner was broken. Typical. So, I called the AC man, a nice congenial man with interesting tattoos on his large muscles. He looked like he could tunnel out of a prison or had. He arrived and got to work puttering around the air conditioning unit. I puttered around my garden.
The entire time I had that strange, eerie feeling that someone was watching me . . . and yelling at me. Typical.
There it was, plopped on a mulch pile--slouching, staring, and yelling--the blue jay teenager bird. Not only was the pimply bird slouching, it looked like it needed a shave and some deodorant. Typical.
I walked closer. Its mouth gaped open. I attempted to shoo it away. Its mouth gaped wider. I talked to it and said, "What's your deal?" Its mouth almost unhinged at the jaw. I recognized that look. It wanted to be fed--again.
Get a job, I thought.
The AC man finished his puttering and brought me the bad AC news. We stood shoulder to shoulder, the invoice on his clipboard a history of AC neglect. He gave me the total. I sighed. I wrote a check.
Blue jay teenager bird, its tiny brain firing on all 1.5 cylinders, recognized "worm-getting-lady." It sailed, erratically, from the top of the mulch pile, past my face, to land on AC man's shoulder. I screamed. AC man used his large muscles to toss his clipboard. AC man screamed. The teenager bird's mouth gaped open. It didn't budge from its shoulder perch.
I thought I should explain why I had collapsed onto the ground.
"I'm so sorry. The baby bird thinks that I'm its mother. I fed it a worm. It startled me."
AC man tried to dislodge the blue jay teenager bird from his shoulder. It reluctantly flew away to a nearby tree branch.
"Wow, how amazing was that?" I said, trying to sound like Snow White, who had the power to sing birds out of trees and was used to them landing on various body parts.
"Lady, you shouldn't scream like that." He took my check and retreated to his work van.
I took my rake and retreated to my garden just as the blue jay teenager bird (once again recognizing "worm-getting-lady") dove at my head from the tree branch. It crash-landed onto my hair. I screamed the scream of the banshee and began running blindly, flailing wildly, and sobbing hysterically. The blue jay teenager bird's mouth gaped open as it clung to my wildly bobbing head.
AC man's van, its window tinted, never moved even though the engine was running. I streaked across the yard, back and forth, in front of the work van. The bird rode on my head like it was waiting for the eight- second count in a bull riding competition. I thought I detected the soft lilt of laughter, but seeing as how my screaming went on for while, I could be mistaken about that.
Finally, blue jay teenager bird noticed a fat grub on the ground and flew off in an attempt to feed itself. And that's how I became an empty nester.
I promise; this story is true, mostly. It is an example of creative non-fiction, which is the truth dressed up to go to a party. For example, I could have been wearing a hat, but it's funnier if the bird landed in my hair.
Linda (worm-getting-lady) Zern