To Mock a Bird

Submitted into Contest #102 in response to: Start your story with a metaphor about human nature.... view prompt


Contemporary Drama Funny

Nature has some bizarre creatures in her arsenal, but humans are by far her most baffling invention. They are the only creatures that can contradict themselves; that can lie, and believe their lies. Humans will purposefully act against themselves and convince themselves that they are doing great.

It’s insanity.

Imagine a tall tree that would refuse to grow upright, because it feared falling. One day it would inevitably fall, as death is the nature of all things, but it usually only comes after a lifetime of living. This tree could have grown tall and proud, rising towards the sun in all its majesty, but instead, due to its fear, it spreads its branches low to the ground, never growing higher than a few feet.

It spends all its life living low, so once the fall eventually happens, it doesn’t hurt as much. It’s seen how grass lives comfortably near the ground and now it thinks it can be safe by adopting the same strategy.

Now that's one neurotic tree. 


It was six-thirty in the afternoon as Ned came out on the porch. Having left the darkness of his home, he had to blink seven times for his old eyes to readjust to the brightness. He hated being blind as a bat for those first few seconds. He felt like prey.

Maude brushed against his calves and that was Ned’s cue to close the door behind him. The doormat got caught between the door and the frame again and Ned grunted, repeating the familiar gesture of kicking the mat away and closing the door. One of these days he’s gonna throw that sun-faded sorry excuse of a shoe wiper someplace where the sun-

He shook his head. Moving the right foot first, then the left, Ned crossed the porch to where his white plastic chair awaited him. He picked up the old seat cushion and shook the small leaves and dust off it, for a moment noting the nearly faded pattern of sunflowers on the fabric. 

A quick stab of pain did not go unnoticed in his heart, as his mind brought up a memory of the pillow being new and bright with colors… and of the person who loved sitting on it.

He sighed, gently stroking his late wife’s favorite cushion, and placed it on the chair. He grabbed the chair’s sidearms and with a grunt dropped himself into position. His wristwatch already moved to six thirty-five.

“A minute later every day,” Ned grumbled. “Like the goddamn sun.”

He smelled his breath and cringed; the broth they fed him with wasn’t particularly tasty today… or any other day. But at least he didn’t have to cook for himself. If only the lady that brought him meals wouldn’t be such a terrible driver. Some of the broth had spilled and made the food container all sticky on the sides. 

The sudden blaring of a saxophone jolted Ned in his seat, the plastic chair’s legs scraping the wooden planks. He cursed. So it was Tuesday again…

He put his palms to his mouth and shouted towards the neighbors to his right; “Window!”

Maude cocked her head and together with Ned, she watched as the window closed a few seconds later. The dreadful noise got muffled.

“Should be illegal to be making such a racket,” Ned said, shaking his head. He petted Maude three times on the head and scratched behind her ears. She purred for a few seconds, brushed her cheek against the chair’s leg, and lay down beside it. Ned was surprised at how long the cat lived already. He had expected it to die years ago, but the damn furball kept going. With his cursed luck, it would outlive him.

“Bah,” he said to himself and tried to stop feeling so old and useless. It didn't work. The pain in his back and the stiffness in his knees were too good a reminder. 

He reached to his left where a small raffia table stood and realized he forgot his crossword inside. Again.


At least the weather was warm.

Ned looked across the street where a young couple sat on their porch, having dinner outside. Their two kids, a boy and a girl of no more than eight or ten sat with them.

They were all so quiet. Too quiet. Young kids like that should be jumping around, never sitting still, talking excitedly, and harassing their sibling… not staring at the screens of their phones with apathetic faces, while the food slipped down their chin.

And the parents were no different. All slaves to those little flashy things. Ned couldn’t stomach looking at them, so he turned his attention to the other houses in the neighborhood. 

The sights were no better. A pile of garbage in front of one house, resembling a junkyard. A horrendous-looking bright yellow car of absurd proportions parked in front of another. A new modern house that was very environmentally friendly, but stood out like a shoebox in a tie store.

Dissatisfied with what the world had to offer him visually, Ned decided to close his eyes and take a nap. At least in his mind, he could live somewhere else. Or rather, sometime else. Back in the good old days when the world still made sense, when he was still young and his Rosy was still with him…

His head soon bobbed, chin touching his chest. Ned welcomed the sleep approaching as he knew it probably wouldn’t come later in the night. 

But the sleep didn’t fully come. It was chased away by something, like a jackhammer drilling through Ned’s skull.

“What in the world…” He opened his eyes and felt a little disoriented. A weird sound, one he’s never heard before, was coming from his right.

“Window!” he yelled out of habit. The neighbor's daughter must have been torturing some new instrument or something…

The noise continued. Ned turned his head, ready to shout again, but he saw that the window was still closed. Even Maude perked up her ears, tail twitching once.

Ned focused and followed the sound’s origin. With a frown, he noticed a bird sitting on a dry branch of his cherry tree.

“Get ‘im, Maude.”

Maude cracked open one lazy eye and looked at Ned.

“Be useful for once, furball.”

She closed her eyes and stretched, continuing to nap. Her tail kept twitching, though.

“Bah, useless!” Ned exclaimed. “You’re just an overgrown hamster that I have to keep feeding.”

The bird chirped on its branch, staring directly at Ned and Maude. Ned could not believe the sounds coming from that little feather creature. They sounded nothing like a bird; a cacophony of dissonant chirps, screeches and clicks, all absurdly loud, drilling right into the soft parts of Ned’s cranium.

“Even birds aren’t what they used to be,” he said, trying to shoo it away by pretending to be reaching for a pebble. The little demon just watched him, head cocked, beak spatting.

Ned cursed, waving his arms. “What infernal species even are you?” It had boring grey and brown feathers, with a streak of black ones on its wings. A grey beak and grey feet, a pair of beady black eyes. It even looked a little fat.

Ned nudged Maude with his foot, evoking a hiss from the cat. “Go on! That’s your dinner right there!”

She stared at him, tail flailing. “Come on, furball!” He nudged her again and Maude growled, smacking his shoe with one paw. She still had the speed, the darn thing, but didn’t use it where she should.

“Bah,” Ned huffed and gave up on the cat. He looked at the bird who was clicking in rapid-fire. “If you think I’ll get out of this chair because of you, you’re mistaken. I’m old and patient and you'll get tired sooner or later.”

The bird cocked its head in the other direction and went quiet. 

Ned relaxed in his chair, a grin forming on his lips. To think that he was considering getting a broom…

The bird began ribbiting. 

Ned blinked. Was he seeing wrong? No, that was a beak and those were feathers… “What, you forgot how to be a bird? You spent too much time on the phone and it fried your little bird brain?”

The creature flew from the branch and landed on top of the wooden fence, separating Ned’s front yard from his neighbor’s. There, it unleashed a new volley of its hellish symphony.

Ned had to swallow his previous statement and stood up. His knees complained and his back cracked, but he stood. The broom was on the other side of the porch, but Ned's annoyance was fuel enough to get him to pick it up.

“Watch closely, Maude,” he said. “I’m doing your job.”

The cat kept its eyes closed.

Ned raised the broom and waved at the bird - it kept sitting there. He cursed and stepped on the grass, minding the high step from his porch. He walked to the fence and swung.

Finally, the bird moved. But not without screaming like a crow.

“A mockingbird!” Ned exclaimed. “Of course! What ill fate has brought you to my front yard?”

The bird flew back on the cherry branch and settled there, out of Ned’s reach. It cocked its head.

Ned pointed with his broom. “Don’t.”

The mockingbird did.

“Argh! Fine!” He threw the broom on the grass and walked back on the porch, feeling the bird’s eyes on him as it chirped obnoxiously. “Maude, inside. We’ll cut it early today.”

The cat raised its head and meowed softly. “Once I close that door I won’t open it again ‘till tomorrow. You want to spend the night outside?”

She twitched with her tail but got up as Ned opened the door. Once back inside, he had to blink seven times again for his eyes to adjust to the low light. With all the windows closed, the horrendous bird could not bother him inside. 

“Blabber all you want, stupid bird,” he said, looking at it through the window. “See if I care!”

Feeling relief in his ears, Ned found little solace in his retreat. The wristwatch said it wasn’t even seven o’clock yet and he was already inside. What will he do for the remainder of the day? Watch TV until he fell asleep? That never worked with him, as it did with Rosy…

A sudden tapping on the glass shook Ned and he turned to see if someone was knocking. No one was at the door.


The tap came again. Ned looked at the right-most window, the one that overlooked the porch and his chair. A grey-brown bird with black wings sat on top of the chair, tapping its beak on the window glass.

“Infernal damnation! You are a demon!”

Ned jumped to the window and began lowering the shutters… but then stopped. The bird raised its tail feathers. 


Ned watched in horror as white poop fell on the sunflower cushion. 

“You… monster…”

The bird began chirping lively, as if happy to have relieved itself. Even through the closed window, Ned could distinctly hear it.

His hands shook and in his mind, he strangled the bird, he felt its fragile bones crushed in his grip, the life snuffed out from its tiny demon body.

Filled with adrenaline, he rushed into his room. Maude jumped on the window sill and lazily tapped the window with one paw. The bird cocked its head and watched her, then patted the glass with his beak where the paw was.

“Stand aside, Maude!” Ned shouted as he emerged from the bedroom with a double-barreled shotgun. Maude startled at the shout and jumped, her feet spinning frantically on the floor. Ned squeezed the trigger and a spray of buckshot shattered the window and the surrounding wooden frame.

Maude disappeared to the kitchen, overturning something in a panic. Ned’s ears rang from the shot and his hands trembled from rage and recoil. He stepped over the broken glass and inspected the damage.

A long and low chirping prompted him to look outside. The little devil got away and was sitting on the fence again!

Ned cursed and charged outside.

“No one desecrates the memory of my wife, you punk!”

The blast from the shotgun echoed in the street and buckshot went flying; some embedding themselves in the wooden fence, some flying over and breaking the neighbor’s window. The saxophone stopped playing abruptly and Ned cursed, fearing he shot the girl.

Something resembling the sound of a chicken prompted Ned to turn toward his car, parked on the driveway. The mockingbird sat atop the hood, pecking at a dried bug on the windshield.

“Don't move,” Ned whispered, reloading his gun. He heard confused shouts from the neighbors behind him but ignored them. “You picked the wrong sucker to mock, feather-head.”

He pulled the trigger and shattered the windshield of his car, as well as punctured the front tire. The damned bird took off in the last millisecond and landed on the roof. Ned screamed and fired, the buckshot hitting the gutter. What was it with this bird? It seemed to have supernatural reflexes! Or maybe he was just too old to even hit a bird…

Ned reloaded once more, fishing the last two buckshot from his pocket. He cocked the gun and listened. People shouted his name, someone was crying. Ned didn’t care. There was only one sound he would respond to now.

And it came from the tree!

Ned spun on his heels and shot at the cherry. In his recklessness, he didn't brace for recoil and the stock hit him hard in the jaw. Ned fell on his back, the world spinning for a moment. His bones sent pain signals into his brain and Ned thought he broke something, but a few moments later he opened his eyes. 

The shotgun lay in the grass, barrel pointed toward him. The grey-brown bird hopped onto it, near the trigger. It cocked its head at Ned and chirped once.

Ned froze. There was one more shot in the barrel. 

The bird pecked on the gun with its beak.

I’m going to die to a bird, Ned thought. He tried to move, but his back hurt like hell. He could only stare into those little black eyes and watch the beak hitting the gun guard.

Then, something dashed from the left and snatched the bird, leaving only a few feathers behind. Ned blinked in astonishment and could not believe his eyes.

“Maude! You wonderful critter!”

The old cat - missing nearly all its teeth, claws blunt - held the demonic bird in its mouth, pinning it to the ground with one paw. The bird flailed its wings, trying desperately to escape.

The relief of being so near death gave Ned new strength and he managed to get up on his knees. He crawled to Maude and snatched the bird from her. The cat hissed in annoyance.

“I’ll feed you extra tonight, you wonderful furball,” Ned said. He held the bird tight and felt its little body trying to wiggle away. “I’ve got you.”

The bird stopped moving.

“It’s over.”

The bird cocked its head and looked at him, straight in the eyes. It let out a soft chirp. Ned grinned, gripping the bird with both hands to squish it.

Then he noticed the neighbors watching. Someone was filming him. Someone else was on the phone. Police sirens sounded from a distance.

Ned looked at the bird with all the rage his old bones could muster.

“You think this is some sort of a lesson, huh? You think I’ll go to jail because of you? Repent for all I’ve done, apologize for how I’ve been? Wrong! I’ll kill you, you ugly demon! I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you, I’ll kill you!” 

The bird just watched him, silently. It didn’t move, it didn’t even peep. Ned found his grip losing strength.

“Can’t even kill a damn bird…”

He opened his palms and the bird flew up in a flutter of feathers. It screamed as it dashed high up in the sky. Maude looked questioningly at Ned, then brushed her head at his leg.

As the police cuffed Ned he started chuckling and by the time he sat in the police car, he was laughing uncontrollably. The neighbors watched in shock and confusion as the police drove him away.

He had nearly killed someone while trying to shoot a bird.


Humans truly are bizarre. They say one thing but do the exact opposite. 

In prison, Ned became a different man. He opened up to people, let them get close. He talked and he listened. He confronted his grief and realized anger wasn’t going to solve it.

Once he accepted what he had done and made peace with his loss, he began helping others to do the same. 

The thing he loved most, all up until he died, was to tell people a comic version of the story of how he landed in prison. Of how he let one bird unravel him to the point of nearly killing someone.

In his own words, “Our thoughts are like that mockingbird. They’re innocent, spontaneous, oftentimes wild and untamed. They come and they go. But if we try to control them or take them too seriously, hold on to them or push them away, we might end up killing someone; most likely ourselves.

July 14, 2021 09:35

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