Slow-Cooked Sentences

The bird lady

Rachael Conlin Levy
“Red-tailed Hawk on Arm” courtesy of Jim Frazier.

Pat stood in her yard and glared at the sky. Clutching her drink, she gestured at a small spot high in a tree more than a half-block away. The ice rattled in her glass and she took a long drag on her cigarette.

The spot was a Red-tailed Hawk, a fierce predator of the dozens of sparrows, finches, doves and quail that visited her yard. She loved these birds, their daily visits to her feeders, the splashing they made in the pan of water she put out for them.

“And then this drip came along,” she spat out. “I called animal control, but they said he was doing exactly what God meant for him to do. Well, he’s not going to do it in my yard. I wish I had a BB gun. But I can’t shoot him because he’s protected.”

I met Pat just a month ago, though I’d been walking past her home daily for more than a year. My footsteps would startle dozens of birds, busy stealing seed from the feeder just a few feet from her front door. The cloud of feathers and the excited fluttering of wings always caught my eye. And I would wonder why anyone would put a feeder so close to the front door, wouldn’t it make the walkway a mess of seeds and shit?

Pat’s a short woman with pointed nose, eyes that have yet to smile, and long, gray hair that she pulls into a loose nest on top of her head. The morning after our introduction, she hurried to her fence to catch me as I walked past. She was anxious, agitated, because the hawk had killed a dove and was eating it in her yard. There were feathers everywhere, she said.

I bit my lip to stop myself from smiling, from lecturing her for creating the situation she now loathed. I can’t understand her passion, but I can appreciate its intensity, the way it defines her. I listened to her struggle with the sorrow and guilt she felt because her joy in the birds brought about one’s death.

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One response to “The bird lady”

  1. mamapease says:

    Oh, Rachael, I let out a whoop of a laugh! thank you !! Oh, yeah. Poor old Pat.

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