Sunday, August 10, 2014

Interpersonal disputes with foreign language animals

I hate mockingbirds.  I never did before.  I guess their mocking was less noticeable to me in the past.  They used to build nests in our citrus trees, and I would drag a splintery wooden ladder just beneath them, and climb up to peer inside the nest.  Sometimes there were speckled eggs that looked like Easter candies, and sometimes there were a few bedraggled pinkish nubs with brown down and comically unhinged beaks.  I remember watching their tell-tale striped wings as they wheeled around our yard, hollering and screaming.

Mockingbirds used to torment my great-grandmother's cat, a marble-gray Persian named Sheena, who would be permitted on nice days to lay in the grass just outside the front door, and sunbathe.  It was only a matter of time, after a peaceful interlude of slow blinking in the sun and lazy tail waving, before the birds came.  They'd flit from branch to bush and circle in the air, hooting and jeering.  Eventually, the brave ones would dive bomb her, floating down with wings awkwardly splayed to seize a beak or clawful of the loose long hair, and then shoot away impossibly fast to stash it somewhere.  I couldn't believe the ego and audacity; Sheena was scary and everyone knew it.

I haven't thought about them much since, but they've been hell on wheels this summer.  One of them followed me for a long time after I passed under her tree, jeering and screaming and swooping as close to me as she dared, which was pretty close.  Now two more live at either end of my house, and all they do is charge around their respective trees, branch to branch, barking at nothing.  Their chirps are aggressive, loud and mechanical sounding, like something caught in a machine.  I don't know what they're angry about, no one ever goes outside now except for a few listless outdoor cats who lie like corpses on their sides underneath bushes, motionless except for wind ruffled fur and occasional tail flits.

The birds will bark for an hour after I've passed by, or after a cat has moved.  Their indignation is completely unreasonable.  So now I just yell at them like a common schizophrenic, shouting and gesturing at a tree. "Shut the fuck up! Right now!"  "No one cares about your nest!"  "Should I get the hose?"  They're very obnoxious.  Nothing like the distracted tittering of normal birds.  Normal birds aren't trying to talk to you.  They're just living their lives.

Mockingbirds have to talk shit, though.

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