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beyond the last star   a bird in hand

You can read the first 10% of this story for free; if you like it, you can read the rest for $3.99 (payable by paypal or credit card.)

[ Read more about author Andrew Burt ]

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Sometimes I wish birds had never discovered that humans were intelligent...

(If you like playing Angry Birds then you've got to read this one. First published in Outside SF / FarSector in 2003.)

A Bird in Hand

by Andrew Burt

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Sometimes I wish birds had never discovered that humans were intelligent.

That's a mean thought, I know, but that's what I'm thinking as a magpie struts on the lanai railing outside the kitchen window, watching me wash up last night's dishes. "Cemetery birds," Dad called them--as in, "stay away from them cemetery birds, Kim darlin'"--because magpies would always be found pecking at fresh graves. I pretend to ignore this one. After all, who can tell the talkers from the signers from the arrogantly mute Avian Firsters? I rinse the remnants of poi and salsa from a plate, running it under the fierce, steaming water hoping it will take off the enchilada cheese that the microwave had practically sewn into the pores of the plate. With my other hand I reach for the soapy sponge, flipping it to the abrasive side.

"You're wasting water, human," signs the magpie--a backstep with a dip of the butt for "waste," an extended-neck swallow for "water," and a raised foot for "human." Did I mention those half-fluffed black and white feathers for disapproving tone? Hey, I think, who are you to criticize? We Hawaiians have a word for nasty immigrants like you: haole.

I sign back, "Get the hell out of my sight or you're cat food," making it clear that I have a cat at hand, ready--his name's Aristotle--not that I mean some abstract cat, someday. Birds aren't afraid of abstractions. The magpie takes flight with a "yek-yek-yek!" and an eye-flash of anger. Okay, I couldn't really see the pupils dilate, but when they flap away suddenly like that, with a couple quick wing pumps, you don't have to, eh? Sometimes I hate that I speak Standard Avian better than most people do English.


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Copyright © 2011 by Andrew Burt . All rights reserved unless specified otherwise above.

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