Saturday, May 15, 2010

How I defended my child from an evil bird and lived to tell the tale...

Sure, I'm bookish, but that doesn't mean I'm unlikely to take action when the situation calls for it.

Actually, let me back up a bit.

I don't like birds. I like the idea of birds, and I like the sound of seagulls from far away, finches chirping outside my office window during the day, or the quasi-wild parrots in that Telegraph Hill documentary. But my most common reaction to birds is rage (when they wake me up at 4am and I stumble groggily, muttering obscenities, to close our bedroom window) or fear. It's not just because I've seen movies where flocks of birds inexplicably attack or spread typhus and/or zombie epidemics. There's something about their beady eyes, pointy beaks, chaotic flapping, and amoral nature that chills me to the bone. I can hear you responding, "But animals are not capable of moral understanding," and to that I'd say that birds seem LESS capable of it than mammals. I can usually read a mammal's mood. Mammals appear to have personalities. My cat, a selfish creature, is at least rational. I am the giver of food and the opener of doors, so if she wants Fancy Feast or to go out on the porch at dawn, it makes sense to jump on my bed and complain in my face.

I have a history with geese in particular. My dad and I were chased by a goose when I was about 3, and it's chilling to hear him tell the tale. A couple of decades later, I was stalked by vengeful Canadian geese, displaced by construction, at my office in St. Louis. One bided his time on our roof, out of sight, only to explode in a murderous frenzy and chase me through the parking lot as I ran to my car.

All of this to say, we have an evil Canadian goose in our park. It's the talk of our town, at least among the "library moms" whose preschoolers play at the park. Yesterday morning, when my son tired of the playground and toddled over to watch the ducks and seagulls, this black-headed, black-hearted avian fiend made straight for us. It stopped several feet away, stretched up to its full height, and looked at me like this:

Now, to its credit, this goose only showed up this week with an injured wing, so it's clearly feeling abandoned by its flock. I get that, but that doesn't justify his aggression toward me. Plus, our park is REALLY NICE for birds, insofar as people throw them so much food that they don't even bother eating all of it, and he's bigger than all the other birds, save one big white goose (that my friend named Howard).

As soon as I saw the goose glare and come for us, I picked up Ben and moved away (trying to maintain a calm and non-threatening demeanor). My diversionary tactics seemed successful, but the wicked creature outsmarted me by staking out a spot right next to my water bottle. I really needed the water in that bottle, and I refuse to be one of our town's littering troglodytes, so I had to draw the goose away from the bottle, then rush back to snatch it, all while carrying a squirmy 27-pound boy. Public Works watched the drama unfold from the safety of their vehicle.

When I arrived at the library later that morning and asked my compatriots about the homicidal goose, everyone piped in:
"I saw that goose yesterday! He was scary!"
"He's so out of place! My son kept asking why he was there."
"I saw a policeman trying to catch that goose earlier today! But it didn't work. The policeman lost."

I'm sad to report that, as of this morning, the Canadian blight has not only NOT been removed to a sanctuary or bird hospital, he has corrupted Howard. Both Howard and Canada went after us this morning, and after a narrow escape, I watched them chase and hiss at the poor duck couples for no justifiable reason--at least no reason I can conceive of in the human or goose world.

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