Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Story About the Bird

While texting Benjamin about current goings-on, I said, “Remind me to tell you about my harrowing experience with the bird. It’s too much to type on mobile.”

“Aww, did you try to save a dying bird?” he asked, immediately thinking of the sweetest possible scenario.

“No,” I replied. “It was out for blood.”

“I’m pretty sure birds can’t become vampires…” he texted back.


Honestly, we thought it was a bat at first. We'd have a nice dinner out, get home late, walk up to the front door and this... THING... would shoot out of the eaves and fly erratically away. “Should we install one of those bat houses?” we asked ourselves. “Nah,” we said. “It's probably a bird.”

It's definitely a bird. Let me tell you how I know.

This is not a story about me bravely overcoming adversity and heroically facing my fears. This is a story of cowardice of the worst kind.

So, given that it’s coming from me, all of you should be used to this sort of thing by now.

Matt was out of town. I was cleaning up the house before video games and bed. I had cleaned up the dinner dishes, put away my yoga mat, and fed the cats. All that remained was to take out the trash. I didn't need a jacket, of course. Twenty degrees or not, the trash bin was all of ten feet from the door. How long would it take, right?

See, that right there is the sort of thinking that gets people killed in serial killer movies.

As I stepped outside, I startled the bird. It flew down from above the porch light, ruffling my hair as it passed. I cursed, watching it fly out into the night, and picked the trash back up, having dropped it to cover my head with my hands. “Hello to you too,” I said, crossing the driveway and depositing the trash into the bin.

The trouble started when I turned back toward the house, the bird having already done so. It swooped from it's perch on the light fixture and hovered, chirping, in front of my face. I, very bravely, did not scream like a little girl. “Oh!” I said (calmly, I swear). “Thought I'd be gone longer than that?” I waited for it to fly away.

It did not.

“Um, okay...” I said. “Shoo!”

“Screw you!” said the bird. “It's warm over here!” Or, that's what it would have said if birds could speak. I imagine. I mean, I don't speak bird.

I waited, afraid it would claw me in the face. “It'll fly off,” I thought. So I waited. And I waited.

“Okay, it's too cold for this,” I said, ten minutes later. “It's a tiny bird. It'll fly away. This is not a Hitchcock movie. I'll be fine.” I took a step forward.

The bird looked me in the eye and very deliberately turned tail and flew into the house.

Or, he would have if he hadn't slammed head first into the (closed) screen door and flopped pathetically to the porch.

“Oh my God, I've killed it!” I said, reaching out with both hands.

The bird, very much alive, was having none of it. Twittering, it rose from the cold concrete like a small and very fluffy phoenix, hovering two feet off the ground as it scrabbled at the closed screen door. “Maybe I can just slip through the door... If I'm quick enough, it won't fly in after me,” I thought. Meanwhile, the bird “thwopped” against the door with a soft sound, a quiet sound, like unenthusiastic applause or a teddy bear falling off a bed.

Just the sort of sound, naturally, that could pull the cats out of a sound sleep. They materialized on the other side of that screen door as if they'd been summoned from the bedroom in some sort of arcane ritual. The oblivious bird hovered before their eyes, like an angelic visitation.

Slipping through the door was right out, not without the cats rushing out and the bird rushing in.

“Okay,” I said to myself. “I'll go through the back door... which is locked. And I don't have my keys.”

Inside, the cats began singing enthusiastic songs of romance, inviting the bird to come inside for cocktails and a light snog.

“I'll get the blanket out of the car and throw it over the bird... Except the car's locked. And I have no keys,” I thought.

One of the cats reached a tentative paw toward the glass, as if unsure this beautiful, amazing creature really existed.

“If only I had something to wave at it,” I thought. “Something like a jacket, for example.”

And then, both cats stretched up in undisguised glee, their declawed front feet swishing softly against the door, which jiggled, unlatched, in it's frame. Their full weight would push it open any moment now.

“I'll just call someone to come rescue me...” I thought, “from a small, frightened bird.” This, my friends, is what they call a low point.

I was out of options, freezing, faced with the cats' imminent escape. Now was the time for action.


“What did you do?” my mom asked when I told my parents about it over lunch. “Did you scare it away?”

“Oh, heck, no! I waited for it to fly off on its own!” I said. “I didn't want it to claw my face or peck out my eyes.”

“Was it a swallow?” asked dad.

“No, it was a male house finch,” I said.

“How do you know?” said mom.

“I had plenty of time to survey the markings. I'm absolutely sure.”

So that’s the story about the bird.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

More Inappropriate Things

This very terrible trait I have, this tendency to say inappropriate things, where does it come from?

It’s not much of a mystery. I’m surrounded by friends and loved ones who say inappropriate things.


Benjamin and I listened attentively as coworker Stephanie described her course work to become a speech teacher. Although I had studied linguistics in college, I had never delved into speech language pathology. Apparently, it’s very deep.

“Fetuses? What does that have to do with it?” said Benjamin, after Stephanie said she had spent an entire class period looking at fetal development pictures and needed to write an essay about it.

“Because most of these speech problems come from birth defects,” said Stephanie. “We had to look at like two hundred of these pictures!”

“Sounds exhausting,” I said. “And somewhat disturbing.”

“Aw, I thought they were cute! Such adorable little monkey fish baby things!"

Benjamin coughed in surprise. “Is that seriously how you’re going to describe the miracle of human life?”

“I’m sorry, but that’s what fetuses look like. Monkey fish baby things.”


The waitress had just placed our bowls in front of us, but after my phone buzzed for the fifth time, I couldn’t resist checking the screen. “Sorry! It’s all these birthday greetings! I don’t mean to be rude,” I said to my grandmother, who was treating me to lunch.

“Oh, no, sweetie! You respond to those birthday greetings! I understand,” she assured me.


“What is it?”

“It isn’t a birthday greeting after all. It’s Sandy and Randi messaging me about our upcoming New Years Eve party. Something about a choice between wine or Fruit Loop flavored vodka…”

Grandma nodded, sipping her tea. “Go for the vodka,” she said. “It’ll get the job done quicker.”


On Christmas Eve, we all sat around looking at family pictures together on the big screen, from a hard drive connected to Dad’s Apple TV. Matt got up to get more pizza and asked if I would like any. Before I could answer, I was distracted by the boisterous after-dinner conversation.

“And do you know how I learned to swim?” my brother Josh said, when the discussion turned toward the swimming pool in grandma’s yard, filled in a few years ago to make a garden when she and grandpa grew tired of maintaining it. “Dad was all like, ‘Go down the slide without your floaties on! I’ll catch you!’ And did he catch me? No!”

Everyone laughed, including Josh, who went on to say, “And you wonder why I have trust issues!”

“That’s just like how my brothers taught me to swim,” our other grandpa said. “They rowed me out to the middle of the pond and threw me in! And I’ll tell you what, the hardest part was getting out of that sack. After that, swimming was easy!”


“You mean to say you have no idea what your test will be about?” I asked Kristina who was freaking out.


“It’s not in the text book?”

“No, he went over the whole thing in class!” she lamented.

“Were you absent that day? Couldn’t you just borrow the notes from someone else?”

“No, I was there! But it was just so boring! So boring, and the room was really warm and the chair was really comfortable, so like I was fighting sleep the whole time and I have NO IDEA what he was talking about,” she said, slouching defeated in her chair. “After the first ten minutes, he could have been talking about how to make baby soup for all I know.”

I stopped short as her last sentence sank in. “Baby soup?” I asked.

She nodded. “Baby soup.”

“The whole world of provocative topics to choose from and you go with baby soup?”

“You need to know how comfortable that chair was!”


I had just rolled another gutter ball to no one’s surprise but my own. “I really thought I’d get it that time…” I said, sitting down with my friends as Matt got up to take his turn. Dave patted my shoulder consolingly.

“You’ll get it,” said Sarah.

“All we have to do,” said Alex, continuing a conversation I was late to join, “is gather them all up and put them on an island.”

“To what end?” said Zach.

“To their end!” said Alex. “Just get rid of the lot of them and never look back!”

Dave nodded sagely. “They’d all die off eventually.”

“You don’t think they’d just escape the island and come back?” asked Sarah.

“That’s the way with politicians!” said Dave. “They’d just keep delegating everything. Before they could search for food, they’d have to form a coconut finding committee, then the coconut picking committee, then the coconut preparation committee and the coconut distribution committee…”

“I mean, we’d at least leave them tools and things! No one would be able to say we left them all there to die!” said Alex.

“And waste perfectly good tools?” said Zach. “Oh, heck no!”


Board games in the Hamilton house are serious business, comparable to gladiatorial combat, as I was reminded over the family vacation last summer when, in a riveting game of King of Tokyo, Curtis’s tiny cardboard giant monster killed off all of our tiny cardboard giant monsters one by one.  Matt and I watched as it all came down to Curtis and Leann, son vs. mother.

And then Curt annihilated Leann with a single roll of the dice.

“Bastard!” she cried.

“Leann,” I said meekly. “What does it mean when you call your own son a bastard?”

It means we all say inappropriate things.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Inappropriate Things

“Did you ever know (name redacted)?” said Kenzi at D&D one night.

“Oh, gosh, yes,” I said, recalling the socially awkward guy in question.

“Yeah, he got married. They have three kids now.”

“How?” I said. “Was it Stockholm Syndrome?”

Which was not at all what I intended to say.


Sometimes I say inappropriate things.

It’s not intentional. Mostly. Usually. Quite often really.

Honestly, I wonder if I might have some kind of brain damage that stops me from thinking before I speak.


When my friend Tiffany and I were training for a 5k together, we tried every tip and trick in the book (the book in this case being the most recent issue of “Runner’s World” magazine). We did intervals, ran sideways and backwards, stopped at park benches to do push-ups – basically, anything we could come up with that allowed us to actually run less. One day, Tiffany mentioned something new.

“Fartleks?” I asked.

“It’s a Swedish word,” she said. “It's a type of sprinting.”

Later, Benjamin asked us how the training was going.

“Very well!” I said. “Tiffany and I went fartleking after work and it was sooo hard and we were all out of breath and sweaty. Her husband's out of town, so she had nothing else to do, and mine's cool with it. But man, are my thighs sore!”

Benjamin opened his mouth as if to say something, then quickly shut it in a shoddy attempt to suppress wheezes of laughter.

“That’s… actually not as dirty as it sounds,” I said lamely.


One morning after a workout, Matt and I stumbled back home from the gym.

“I’m going to be so sore later, I can tell,” said Matt. “I’m tired now!”

“Tired? Don’t you mean virtuous?” I asked him.

He said, “Oh, sure. Is that what that feels like?”

“Of course! Being virtuous feels terrible! Why did you think it was so hard?” I said.

He chuckled. “That must be why all those virtuous saints and martyrs died horrible deaths...”

“Yeah, it’s true. Remember all those times as teenagers when we DIDN'T have sex because it would have been wrong? Remember how that felt? That was virtue.”

Matt grimaced at the bitter taste of truth. “Virtue is such a cockblock,” he said.

“No, wait! Virtue is supposed to be a good thing! Don’t listen to me!”


“It’s this great exhibit I saw once,” I said, describing Body Worlds for my coworkers. “There was like a mad scientist or something, and he took these bodies that had been donated for science and preserved them by injecting them with some kind of liquid plastic. They’re all posed in interesting ways to show how complicated the human body is.”

“It sounds disturbing,” said Benjamin.

“No, it’s great how all the organs in the torso fit right together! Like, God must be awesome at Tetris.” I said.

“I bet,” said Tiffany. “He's probably got the high scores. He totally rocks at Tetris.”

“Oh, not the high scores, surely,” I said. “He’s really more of a Sims guy.”


As I walked out the door, I gave myself the pat-down: checking each of my pockets in turn, to be sure I had my wallet, phone, and keys.

Quoting Austin Powers, Matt said, “’Spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch...’ So, do you have your testicles with you, then?”

I said, “Well, are you coming with me?”

“What’s that got to do with it?” he asked.

“Because anybody only ever needs one, you know. That's why you have two of them. You're meant to share.”


“It was terrible!” I said, after Tiffany and I finished our 5k. It had been around the city park in front of the library, so afterwards we had stopped in to apprise Benjamin of our experience. “They laid it out all wrong! At the three mile mark they had us circle the pond again instead of heading directly to the finish line. It was more than FOUR miles!”

“That’s silly!” Benjamin said. “All they had to do was follow the route the city uses for all its other races!”

“Right, but this one wasn’t sponsored by the city – the CITY would have put more than one water station in. Seriously, only one water station at the one mile mark! They could at least have put in another one if they were going to make us run FOUR FREAKING MILES!”

Tiffany sighed. “At least our entry fees went to benefit that little girl with leukemia,” she said, charitably.

I made a bitter face. “Yeah, well, I bet SHE didn’t have to run four miles!” I said, because sometimes I say inappropriate things.