I’m just going to report it, Murray and I may have hatched in the same nest, but he’s no feathered specimen of intellect and I hope he flies into a window.
Speaking of feathered intellect, I’m dictating this to my friend Ebony. She’s one smart chicken who can write. Also she will be sticking around this winter whereas I’ll be flying south. So for the reporters that will inevitably come around looking for the bird brain who wrote this, she’ll be here and I’ll be in Mexico feasting on tacos and tostados and hanging out with my other good bird friend Hemmingway.
I probably should describe Ebony as she doesn’t wear a name tag. First off she’s a chicken covered in feathers. Her favorite place to spend the afternoon is in the tall grass by the long black stone. Everyone thinks Ebony’s a real beauty. Right now a casual observer wouldn’t notice but as Ebony is writing she’s blushing. Ebony never brags about her beauty or intellect or goes around flaunting her feathers and that makes her all the more lovely.
When I’m down south and I tuck my head under my wing Ebony’s kind little chicken head is the last thing I think of before I slumber. Her plumes are stacked like flower petals. Her feathers are the color of night sky. When she poses in the sun her feather have the sheen of the green summer grass.
Ebony is one classy chicken because she never uses derogatory clucks directed at Murray. She just shakes her sweet little chicken head the in a way that means she’s trying to believe the best in another bird but she cannot.
Speaking of Murray, what is he doing right now? Yeah you guessed it; he’s goofing off and playing with that ridiculous gray squirrel. The two numbskulls are over by the shed scooting up and down the climbing yellow rose. You’d think they were grasshoppers.
I do not talk to and therefore I do not name squirrels. Squirrels are boastful creatures and are so beneath birds they do not deserve names. Also I so wish I could cover Ebony’s perfect little ears because the truth about squirrels is especially horrible.
Squirrels eat birds.
Even worse, squirrels don’t have feathers, they have a body covering that looks like they’re trying to be a miniature deer. Speaking of deer, I don’t name them either because they snort in the most ridiculous fashion. Also deer hog the apples from the tree next to where I sleep every other night.
Oh wow. Would you look at Murray right now? I’m shaking my head. He’s at the top of the rose arbor hanging on a stem singing up a storm about how great he is and how he’s going to be the migration leader the whole way to West Virginia. I hope Murray flies into a building in Morgantown.
Ebony and I turn our backs on the squirrel and the squirrel-want-to-be relocating ourselves to a more pleasant view of the human’s house. Here by the sumac trees, under the shrubbery we can hear the creek tinkling a sweet song.
Under these bushes it is such a lovely way to spend my last day before I join the others and migrate south. Tiny gusts of wind are scooping and tossing the dry autumn leaves. Even on land, I delight in the breeze. The nice human who feeds Ebony and the other chickens is placing potted chrysanthemums and ghostly white gourds on her front porch. We don’t fly up to the front porch anymore as the mean man swats as us with a broom.
Somewhere close a human is burning leaves. I know it is a human because they don’t allow animals to have fire sticks. The smoke from the human’s fire chokes me. If I had one wish it would be for pond water would fall from the sky.
Ebony has encouraged me to talk about how birds that migrate know it’s time to migrate. She’s seen the great mass of black moving dots that dance in the sky and turn over again and again like water flowing down the path on the hill. She always wondered where everybody was flying off to.
I am a bird who migrates. I just know when it is time to go. I don’t know how, I just do. So I go. And I know tomorrow is the day. I’ve been eating as many bugs as I can find. Sometimes I think my stomach is going to burst and then I see another mosquito and well who could ever turn down a delicious juicy bloodsucker.
Ebony is nodding; she knows bugs are delicious and nutritious. Her favorite tasting bug is a brown tick.
I have succeeded in padding my body with a little extra fat for my long flight. Hemmingway, my best friend from Ohio, always says skinny birds don’t survive the trip any father than the place where the yellow trees meet the red rock.
As usual, I’m looking forward to the migration. Some humans watch us. When they see us they point and hold two big circles up to their face and make happy sounds. That’s the time Hemmingway and I make a big fuss and fluff our feathers and do all sorts of birdy things with our beaks. I know I’m doing something fabulous when the humans take out a small flat stone and flash us with sunshine.
Ebony says she’s tired of writing and we need to go eat bugs. She says she’ll write more later on and I can never argue with Ebony. All she needs to do is tilt her head just so and look at me with her big dark eyes and I get all steamed up.
As the sunshine goes to sleep a blue glow comes through the sliding glass door at the human’s house. This is also when a sun stick lights a patch of grass next to the chicken coop. Little patches of the darkness still exist everywhere in the grass and anything could be lurking. It is at this time I know how to tuck my feathers into the bark and disappear.
Tonight when I sleep I shall dream of soaring in a dense ever changing formation of flight.
When I was a young bird I thought maybe being a human with legs and an oversized head would be great. But I hear the humans and they don’t sing beautiful songs to each other. Plus this summer all the humans have had sad eyes. Sometimes humans come to the end of the field of goldenrod and slowly walk down the hill. They come to rest and stare. Sometimes they dip a twig in the creek and swirl it like they expect something to happen. Humans are funny creatures, always seeming to be searching for something. Ebony stares at the grass when she tells me the humans have have been searching for their smiles since my last migration.
As darkness grows I’m too nervous to sleep. I close my eyes and want to soar and feel my feathers glide across the current. Other animals run and jump through the field, but we birds run and jump through the air.
As morning comes Murray is nowhere to be found. We’re supposed to be leaving later tonight. It’s been this way since… Since forever!
Just past the evergreen trees I fly and hang a right after the walking bridge, I start counting the other birds all lined up like blackberries waiting to take off. I soar and make one last pass around the arborvitae.
I sing out calling Murray’s name. He’s got to come. I don’t know why he has to come with us. I only know he must come. Today. We’re leaving soon. Birds like us don’t survive white winters.
Just then three crows waft past me. I follow their tail feathers because crows know all the bird gossip. The head crow is named Edgar. He tells me Murray is sleeping with the squirrels in a nest. Edgar says if I fly get to the place where the turkeys are roosting high in the trees, do a u-turn and come back to the wasp nest and go due south. Crows give terrible directions.
Much later after I ask directions from the bunny, the field mouse and wild turkey, I find Murray. My feathers are a ruffled mess. I screech-beg him to follow. He scratches his head and wakes the good-for-nothing squirrel sprawled out beside him. If I hunted until forever for knowledge in a squirrel brain I’d never find a speck. A flea springs from the squirrel’s fur. I squeeze my eyes shut. I could not dislike squirrels any more than I do right now.
“I’m staying with Donnie the gray squirrel, he’s my new friend.” Says Murray.
I stomp my little bird feet on the branch and make some demands and threats that I’m not too proud of. I use words like reckless and cavalier and mock. And let’s just say one of my threats rhymes with the word…. burder.
I never saw the squirrel coming at me. I tumbled out of the tree. Later, Ebony shook her pretty little head at me and gave me a hard peck which I choose to believe was a chicken kiss.
“Don’t be a show off.” Ebony says. “Keep your beak down and stay out of trouble.”
At the right time, when the stars were out, I took off with all the others. I circled back for one more look, I had hoped Murray might have rolled out of the squirrel nest to join me airborne for what is always the trip of a lifetime.
I have every hope that this will be the year that I’ll be banded!
I’m always nervous before the trip but as all of us join wings airborne together it is bliss. The stars guide us.
The air is our comfort.
The air is our transport.
The air is our life.
As we flew, I thought of the smell of tacos and flying around with Hemmingway. He always finds the best bugs. And oh the butterflies we see! Maybe I’ll fly through the marsh and into the net and the humans will put a band on me. Banded birds are so special. I’ll really be something!
Days later, near the swamp that flows near to a big lake I started to hear chatter about Murray. It was the older male birds that were whispering first. Humans think it’s the female birds that spread all the gossip, but they’re wrong. It’s those chatty old male birds. And I still don’t have all the details but I knew somewhere just south of where the two rivers make one.
At first his squawking was low and intermittent, but as he got closer I heard him squawk-complaining about a down draft and how he should be in charge.
Murray flew with us the whole day. And when he glided in near the front of the flock I shook my head. As soon as we landed I offered him the juiciest beetle I could find crawling in the mud.
The next day, I soared higher and dreamt of my beautiful Ebony. Oh how I can’t wait to return in the spring and add to my story. Also I hope that gray squirrel gets hit by a car.