by: Tanya Clary
The thud was loud enough, she knew a bird had struck her living room window. Looking up from a cold plate of bacon, she saw remnants of feather-down in the centre of the glass.
Fuck, she thought.
She’d just got back from a two-day Iboga retreat she’d fled from a day early than scheduled, was munching on chewy bacon she’d cooked the morning she left for the retreat, after getting instructions to eat a ‘full breakfast’, to prepare for the afternoon and evening fast before the ceremony.
She was trying to process the previous evening’s events, which didn’t end until after 6:00 am, a flurry of drumming sounds and vomiting echoing the hallways. She was hoping after she slipped out of the retreat at 8:00, the other Iboga-eating participants finally worn out, exhausted from visions, that the African drumbeats wouldn’t still be drumming inside her head after 7 hrs of continuous looping. But they were, all six tracks, over and over; she was still hearing it.
The thud on the glass could have been a drumbeat, she thought. Everything was going to sound like drumbeats for a while, she realized.
When she walked outside toward the window, laying feet up, in the flowerbed beside her struggling peony bush she had intended on trying to save at some point, was a very large black and white bird, with yellow and red features and an extraordinarily large bill. On its back, she could see the different feather patterns. She hadn’t been prepared for such a large bird.
She brought out her phone from her back pocket and took picture of the bird:
--hey, this bird just hit my window. I’m not sure if its dead or not?
--Oh shit, that’s a drag. Put in the shade maybe?
She’d been texting Kim about her frustrations regarding the retreat, awkwardly explaining over text why she left early, why she didn’t take much plant medicine, what she was feeling about the experience when the bird slammed into the window.
Kim was a bird lover, volunteered at a bird sanctuary in Seattle.
Putting on some leather work gloves, she followed Kim’s advice and picked up the bird still laying on its back, feet to the sky, not moving. She shook it, the head flopped back, loose.
–Ya, this asshole is dead. Serves him right, he was terrorizing the other birds just before he hit.
–Well, that’s sad. But its what happens.
Laying the bird on the sidewalk, she took the opportunity to at look at the plumage, the stark beauty of red on the back of its head, the blue of its eyelids. There were many types of birds in the trees surrounding her house, and she had become mildly interested in subtle and not so subtle dynamics of the thriving and varied bird communities. There was a healthy population of magpies, loud and aggressive. The chickadees always let her know when shit was going down someplace, and the ravens always visited the same areas of the back alley, every single morning at about 5:00 am, like a bunch of thugs minding their territory. It was a dynamic bird-world with relationships and hierarchy and drama. Lots of drama.
When she was unloading her vehicle earlier, a loud, unfamiliar screeching caught her attention. She wondered if it was a hawk trying to get the babies or invade the nests of the smaller birds. She didn’t see the bird causing all the ruckus, but when looking at the dead bird on the pavement, she assumed it was this one making mischief.
Warning chirps, shrill sounds of panic from ornamental trees and lilac shrubs had subsided now that she in the yard.
She first looked at the bird from a standing distance, but after admiring the feather pattern closer, saw something out of place in the bird’s mouth. She bent down, looked again, a bit leery the bird would suddenly wake. Quickly, she grabbed her phone and snapped another picture.
–Oh gawd… I think there is a critter in its mouth!
--Oh! Really? Alive?
–I don’t know. I don’t have the constitution right now to try and pull a mouse from a dead bird’s mouth?
She stood up, waiting for Kim to text her back. In the meantime, she texted the picture to several of her friends. She texts the same thing to them all:
–This bird just flew into the window.
I think its got a mouse in its beak.
Finally Kim gets back to her:
–Can you take a hammer to the bird,
to put the mouse out of misery?
–No, I can’t do that. I don’t it in me, not right now.
–It was a terrorist but… nope.
--What kind of bird is it, I wonder? A striker?
–Don’t know. Was hoping you knew.
She stood looking at the bird, at the mouth, a long tail sticking straight out of the bird’s beak.
She was exhausted.
Finally, she grabbed the bird by its feet and carried it to the garbage can. She held it away from her, arm straight out, fear the mouse would start to wriggle its way out of the bird’s mouth between transport from the sidewalk to the garbage can.
She put the bird on the lid, took one more look, staring at the shiny tail in the bird’s beak, for any sign of movement. She resigned that if the tail moved, she would attempt to rescue it from the bird’s beak. She looked at her gloved hand and considered if she would have the dexterity, with the thick leather, to grab the tail.
She decides she could not, not with the gloves on. Gloves off was not an option.
She looked for ten seconds, counting quickly, then grabbed the bird, opened the lid and dropped it.
Once she closed the lid on the can, she stayed outside, tending to her garden beds while sipping some tea. The peony plant needed some help. She’d only been home a couple hours, wasn’t tired enough to nap yet, despite the sleepless night and long drive home.
While she puttered in the flowerbed, she received a few texts back about the bird with the mouse tail hanging out.
Her one daughter got back to her:
–Poor sucker… that’s a bad omen.
–Well, ya, its dead so pretty much the worst omen ever.
–I meant for the mouse.
–Oh ya. Not sure if its dead. I contemplated trying to pull the tail to see if it would just pop out, but… I couldn’t do it.
Kim finally texted back:
–There is an app called Merlin, that helps identify birds.
Would be cool to see what kind of bird that is.
Because – ok- weird but maybe this is some sort of
communication about your retreat?
–Really? Like what?
–I don’t know, but its a fairly notable event, don’t you think?
Weird uncomfortable night, now a bird with a live mouse
in its mouth hits your window?
–Ya, good point. :/
She put her phone inside then went out and cut the grass. As she pushed her old mower up and down the slanted yard, she thought about the retreat, realized she didn’t feel guilty about leaving early. She had told Kim how uncomfortable she was with the facilitator, with a headscarf from the dollar store, tied on the side like fortune teller, the mishmash of jewellery, some with Buddhist symbols, other pieces obviously purchased from some sidewalk vendor, the African skirt was ill-fitted, and how the ‘healer’ had to sit with a hot water bottle on her back, in a large lazyboy chair, because of a pinched nerve that forced a limp and paralysis down one side of her lower body.
After an hour, she went inside to get a drink and the last piece of bacon. Her phone had messages. Kim had no more insight as to what the communication regarding the dead bird was, except to say:
–Famine to freaking feast.
She didn’t know what to do with Kim’s statement, so didn’t reply. Then she saw a text from another friend. She sent the pic to him because he liked strange and interesting things.
–Its a sap sucker.
Kinda like a woodpecker.
But they make trees leak
and then eat the bugs that stick.
–That’s its weird tongue for
licking up bugs.
–What? You think that the tail is a tongue? Gross!
–Ewww. I was going to give the tail a tug, save the mouse.
--Ewww Gross! Why?
–Because I thought the tongue was a mouse’s tail Was going to save it. Lol
--Nope. Its just a bird with its
weird tongue hanging out.
She quickly Googled ‘sap sucker tongue’. Under images, exactly like the bird picture she’d sent to several people, was a bird with a very long tongue, going from thick at the base of the beak, to being long, thin and pointy at the end.
Looking very much like a mouse tail.
–Fuck, I just texted like 10 people that it was a mouse tail. :/
She went back to the texts between Kim and herself. She had wondered, if perhaps the tail in the bird’s beak symbolized how trapped in the situation she was the night before.
She texted Kim:
–False alarm. Its a tongue. No message from the spirits.