— Waterloo, Ontario
It began with the geese.
I was sitting by myself, beside a small pond, when a pair of them wandered up to waterside. I didn’t mind the company, but I was a little apprehensive. Geese aren’t known for their charm, and I was probably trespassing on their territory anyway.
I quickly ran through worst-case scenarios in my head, planning my best defensive options: “If they go for my eyes, I’ll bring my hands up like this. . .”
But my fears were unnecessary. The geese eyed me for a few seconds, dismissed me, and then proceeded to preen themselves in front of me.
I watched this for nearly 15 minutes, and while it was probably pretty normal goose behavior, their methods struck me as odd. One of them in particular spent several minutes standing on one leg, poised like a ballet dancer with the other sticking out behind him. Then he sat down, shat out some green poop, stood back up and switched to his other leg. All while still cleaning his feathers.
◊ ◊ ◊
This incident alone is, I admit, a mundane and boring story and wouldn’t normally merit the space I’ve given it. But for the rest of that day, other birds kept appearing around me in unexpected contexts. For the next few hours, I found myself watching birds without actually looking for them.
To make sense of the incidents, I starting imposing a spurious narrative coherence on all that I saw. The geese were Act I of this drama.
Act II featured three ducks. I was walking through a nearby university’s campus and stumbled upon a violent mallard love triangle. Two males were fighting over and on top of a female.
They were rolling around, snapping at each other’s necks, and stepping on their poor bride-to-be. She didn’t seem to have any complaints though, as she sat passively by to be trodden on and kicked. True love indeed.
This lovers’ quarrel was unexpected, but Act III felt slightly surreal.
I was walking past a small, empty parking lot, when I noticed a lone chocolate cupcake with pink frosting sitting there on the pavement. It was upright, as though it had been placed (rather than dropped) there.
Even as I noticed this, a large black bird (let’s call it a crow) landed beside the cupcake. The crow pecked at it, sending chunks of pink flying; then the crow grabbed the whole thing in its beak and took flight, retreating to the top of a nearby building.
“Crow eats cupcake”
It was the newest headline in the small-town newspaper that is my life.
As I was processing this, I noticed the next bird, the star of Act IV . . . a shriveled corpse resting in the weeds.
It was once a little songbird. Now it was little more than a few dried feathers and bones.
“Coroner says bird died unnatural death”
Unlike its cousin the crow, this little fellow hadn’t adapted to modern industrial life. It lay at the foot of a large, opaque window, one that reminded me of a police interrogation room. Apparently it had mistaken reflection for reality.
◊ ◊ ◊
Act V: This story began with geese, but it ends with a peacock.
There is a little zoo in a little park not far from the university. I walked there on a different day–making this anecdote, perhaps, less of an Act and more of an Epilogue.
The zoo has several enclosures with one devoted entirely to birds: chickens, turkeys, pheasants–and peacocks. The birds seem to be a local attraction. That day, I felt out-of-place among the retired couples and parents with their toddlers so I didn’t look at the birds for long.
But as I was leaving, I saw one of the exotic residents–one of the two male peacocks–dashing up a nearby hill.
I didn’t actually see him escape, but it didn’t seem like anyone else had either. No one seemed alarmed. I saw two people pull out their cell phones, but they just used them to film the escapee. (After all, who exactly would one have called for help?) After running a large circle around the park, the peacock disappeared into a nearby grove of trees.
The remaining male peacock, still in the cage cried out repeatedly, even after the other disappeared entirely. As one mom explained to her little boy: “He’s calling for his friend.”
A recording I took of the caged peacock.
I left around this time so I don’t know how the escape ended. I haven’t been back to the zoo, but I assume he was recaptured. I somehow doubt he strayed far from his cage.
But perhaps he is still out there, wandering the city, surprising the residents, and eluding city authorities.
Whatever happened in his story, he provided me with a thrilling prison break to close my own non-narrative.
Liberty or death, man.
I saw both, and some duck sex antics too.