The Bird Blind

by F.

Behind our house we have a pretty large deck next to which sag a number of wires—phone, power, cable. And on those wires sit the birds. Crows. Sparrows. Other kinds which, in my ornithological sophistication, I refer to as “tweeties.” Inside the house sits Bijli (my cat—the name means “lightning” in Hindi) making that little “k-k-k-k-k” noise that cats make. Like some sort of imitation bird song. A really, really bad imitation. Probably like when we (humans) go “Meow! Meow!” to our cats, and they’re thinking, “What the fuck is he saying?”

Anyway, part of the reason we have so many birds is that we put a bird feeder out on our deck.

Can you see where this is going? Cat + bird feeder = ?

Exactly.

One day she brought got one. My wife and I were horrified. Especially when Bijli brought it in the house for us. It was way dead, of course. But still. My wife and I are both softies. We see a dead bird and we burst into tears. Which is what we did.

Fast forward a couple of days. Bijli gets another. This time, it seemed less horrifying. We thought it was too bad, but, then again, no big deal. Because Bijli seemed really happy.

Then it happened again. And again. Each time, our emotional reaction was more subdued.

And then we made her a bird blind. We put together some wooden panels behind which she can hide, then run out an nab a bird when she feels like it.

Sick, huh?

I know. It does sound twisted. Sort of like feeding goldfish to a pet piranha or mice to a pet snake. But we did it anyway. And now that the birds are back, I’ve just set up the bird blind again.

Now, is this really a sick and fucked up thing to do? I’m not sure. But in one of the stories I have been working on, I wrote a scene based on this experience.

This is from a story that I’ve abandoned. I tried to write an adventure story about a US soldier in Afghanistan, in the north of the country, near the border with Tajikistan. The story is a retelling of the Epic of Gilgamesh—pretty much has all the plot points from the Gilgamesh story. The Gilgamesh character in my story is Gil Morrison. He and the rest of his unit (the fictional ODA-556) sleep in a mud-brick building in a little village of maybe 500 people. In what follows, Gil has just brought a village girl back to the building and has taken her into a small bedroom for questioning.

Now, what the hell am I doing writing an adventure story about a US soldier in Afghanistan?

Good question. I read a stack of books on the subject. But once I wrote a couple of drafts, I could see that the story didn’t have the ring of truth, and I don’t think I can give it that, for perhaps obvious reasons. That’s sort of why I abandoned it. I think this is what they called “learning by doing,” which mostly means “learning by failing.” Anyhoo, here’s how I used the bird story:

The floor of this other room is covered with green felt material. Supposed to be carpet. Underneath is dirt. Around the room are sleeping bags, packs, ammunition, weapons, and Gil’s books are lined up against the dirt wall. Jung is on the end, a couple of Post-Its sticking out. In the far corner of the room is a cardboard box wrapped with a couple rolls of strapping tape. The CIA money is in there. The real motivator of Madi’s men. Operation US Dollars is what they call it.

“Sit down,” Gil says to the girl, motioning, then demonstrating, sitting crossed legged on the carpet.

She sits.

“English?”

As she shakes her head the light blue raiment moves from side to side.

“Well, that’ll make it interesting.” He looks at her head covering, says it just can’t be comfortable.

No response.

“I mean, if I wear a hat too long, it gives me a headache.”

And he takes off his baseball hat, which is tan and frayed at the edge of the bill. He tosses it onto his sleeping bag. Through the mesh he can see her eyes flicking back and forth. He reaches over and puts his hand on her shoulder and she recoils slightly.

“It’s OK. I’m not going to do anything weird.”

They sit like that for a minute.

“I have a girlfriend back home,” he says.

No response.

“So it’s not like I’m a deviant or something.” He smiles.

“I’d show you her picture, but it might give you the wrong idea.”

The only picture he had showed her bent over the kitchen table, lifting her skirt, showing it to him. It was the only jerk material he’d brought.

“I’m not sure where we’re headed though. She got all jealous on me.”

The shrouded girl doesn’t move.

“It wasn’t like I was fucking other women or something. It was because me and her cat developed sort of—sort of a special relationship.”

Gil looks toward the window, which is covered with a muddy tarp.

“See, she lived in this apartment in Sacramento. Had a deck overlooking this pool? There was a tree right beyond the deck—tons of little sparrows in it. So I got a bird feeder at Home Depot and stuck it on the deck. Then I took a cardboard box and made a little hunting blind for him. He could hide there and then jump out and nab a bird or two.”

Gil smiles at the girl but still she doesn’t move.

“So he could, like, keep his skills up.”

Gil picks at a piece of loose skin on this thumb.

“It worked a little—you know—a little too well. He, like, got one and brought it in for her. Took it into her closet, left it on one of her shoes. Her Pradas. She wasn’t happy.”

The girl shifts a little under the shroud.

“But, I mean, what did she think? What does she think is in that IAMS can? Like, soy protein?”

No response.

“I mean, have you ever been to a chicken farm? If I was a bird, I’d rather go down fighting a cat than have my throat cut on a conveyor belt. You know what I’m saying?”

Silence.

They sit like that for a minute.

Then another.

Then another.

Then he smiles and proceeds to do something weird.

So that gives a taste of why I don’t think setting up a bird blind for my cat is all that wrong.

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