For The Birds

All right, many of you should stop reading right now. I’m about to admit something as egregious to some of you akin to last year’s admission that I had never seen “Star Wars,” (still haven’t.) But this one may be worse, given the place we live, the friends I have and the occupation of a fellow Citizen columnist. I hate birds. Not every single species, and not the ones way up in a tree or high above me in flight. But generally speaking I hate birds when they’re close to me, peacocks in particular, and my reasons are justified. Trust me.

Let’s revisit the 1500 block of Seminary Street in, say, 2000. I spent a great deal of time there back then, as two of my best friends lived there and they had a pool. It was my departure from said pool one evening that launched my lifelong campaign against those evil, plumed things. The sun had set on yet another sultry day. I generally made my way through the house when leaving and got into my car out front. To this day I don’t know what dark force propelled me to leave via the pebbled walkway between the house and the neighbor’s eight-foot fence – in the dark. Now may be a good time to point out that I don’t see very well in the dark, not at all. My eyes take a long time to adjust to darkness – longer than it took to traverse that dreaded walkway into hell between two homes on Seminary Street . I merrily called my good-byes over my sunburned shoulder and trudged confidently along the path toward the front gate. I had made it about a third of the way when my life nearly ended. Seriously.

It started with the most piercing, God- awful screech about two and a half feet above me. The sound pierced my eardrums so thoroughly I nearly threw up Then, in a sick moment of 20/20 clarity before the worst of it took place, I looked up into beady eyes atop a scrawny neck stretching toward me. It was the end of the world. This was it. The combination of noise, beady eyes and feathers that drooped below the fence for what seemed like miles was more than I could bear. My flip-flopped feet slid out from under me in one of those banana peel, slip-and-falls usually reserved for cartoon characters. I assume some noise came from inside me although I don’t think there was time to let out an actual scream. It was likely more of a breathless grunt. I landed in a pile on the rock, shoeless and with wet shorts. That’s right, the evil bird made me wet my pants. This anecdote has become a favorite among my friends, who miss no opportunity to torture me.

A few months later found us all at the Hotel Nacional in Havana having a lovely mojito on a verandah overlooking the harbor. My friends, instead of appreciating the sunset and contemplating the different world that exists just 90 miles from our island, used their time to corral the hotel’s three resident peacocks and quietly usher them toward me (I mean, toward my back.) By the time they called my name, prompting me to turn around, the evil was right behind me. They didn’t shriek, but the stare was the same. I hate them. But I also think birds hate me. They can smell fear. Some creepy looking white one with long legs (not a heron) followed me as soon as I entered Busch Gardens . It ignored everyone except the screaming chick that was sprinting through the crowd. A friend’s macaw will dart out from under its cage to attack my feet, and another friend’s tiny parakeet dive bombed me immediately upon being set free. But let me say this, birds from a distance, are OK. They’re even better if I need a pair of birding columnist Mark Hedden’s binoculars to see them. Interestingly, the city’s chickens have never bothered me. I know they’re loud and their eyes are beady, but they’ve never made me wet my pants.

Mandy Bolen’s columns appear in The Key West Citizen

Mandy Bolen's award winning "Tan Lines" column appears bi-weekly in the Key West Citizen. Offering unique insights on life in the southernmost island and life in general, her wit and wisdom has been likened to that of a "female Dave Barry."