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
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
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Copyright © 2011 by Andrew Burt
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