Ivan hated birds.
He hated everything about them, the way they looked. The way they walked, flew, chirped in the early hours of the morning. Cawing relentlessly into the late hours of the night. The foul smell they would leave in trails as they flew past him on his early morning walks.
And the poop.
Don’t get him started on the poop.
There was nothing Ivan found more appalling than to wake up to find a fresh, sloping pile of oozing, slimming poop on his baby—a 67 fuchsia red mustang. Rebuilt from the most humble of beginnings, it was Ivan’s pride and joy. It was what got him up in the morning and what allowed him to drift off into sweet slumberland.
Ivan would work himself up into fits of rage—a tizzy really—if he thought about birds for too long of a period. It would affect his overall mood for the entire day.
If Ivan encountered a bird while he was out and about, he would cross the road to make sure he didn’t have to be near it—although, on occasion, very specifically bad days, he would cross the road the other way in order to attempt kicking the bird or birds. He would hiss and spat at them as they fluttered their ugly wings into flight. He’d grab a handful of the nearest rock or dirt pile and chuck it at the birds, finding wonder when a dirt clod or rock would find its target, hitting one of the birds in mid-takeoff.
The joy, oh the joy he would find in their despair.
Pet birds? Blasphemy.
You couldn’t possibly have a bird as a pet. And if you did, you would not expect Ivan to show up at your next brunch party.
Ivan particularly hated the crow.
Its sleek black feathers, its incessant cawing. Its claim to be very smart—Ivan knew it wasn’t the bird’s personal claim, but nevertheless, felt a burning hatred for the bird’s predominant genius among other fouls.
They were all stupid in his mind. Brainless and imprudent.
He just didn’t see their purpose. Their worth. He struggled, on occasion, to actually see their appeal, but to no avail.
He read books.
Went bird watching.
But nothing was able to properly educate him on the reason birds seemed to hold such a marveled place in humankind’s heart. One of our many flaws as humans, he would say, but not me, no not mine!
They were the scum of the earth and air.
A murder seemed more than fitting to describe a group of these foul creatures.
Ivan could think of many beautiful sceneries that were ruined—murdered, by a grotesque blob of black crows. Numerous good moods, crumbled to pieces, much like that of the crumbs these abominations primitively fight and scoff over in the parks and restaurant patio dining areas.
They didn’t deserve special treatment, let alone any other form of tolerable, decent treatment.
It wasn’t that Ivan was an unpleasant type of person. In fact, he was well-liked by his peers of fellow humans. Looked up to even—to a certain degree.
And the feeling was mutual.
Ivan had much respect and admiration for his fellow man and woman. He took much joy and pleasure in their company.
Even other animal types, as well as insects and most arachnids, Ivan didn’t have a problem with.
Ivan just hated birds.
* * *
It rained the day Ivan witnessed the murder that almost got him killed.
More so than usually expected this time of year. So much so, it could have been seen as an omen of sorts.
A foreshadowing of events to come.
And if it wasn’t for the crows, Ivan would have surely perished.
Ivan gripped the wheel and squinted through the foggy windshield.
Blinded not only by his hot breath fogging up against the interior of the glass, or by the slight buzz—or not so slight—he was feeling after his night out with some friends, but also by the thick distorting wave of water building up on the exterior of the glass that the windshield wipers only seemed to exacerbate and pool directly in Ivan’s field of vision.
Ivan ran his hand through his long, thick, damp black hair and adjusted his box rimmed glasses, and speedily returned it to the two O' Clock position.
Ivan searched for ways to blame this on the birds. Any fault he could find in them would make him happy and would bring some semblance of joy as he fought through the unrelenting, some might even describe as being torrential, rainstorm.
The backroad between his house and the bar was a safer drive than directly through town. Avoiding any heavy traffic as well as the occurrence of police on patrol—Ivan knew better than to take that last shot—or so he thought—before quickly giving in to the adolescent chants of his most encouraging drunk cohorts.
The road ran alongside the only river in town. Its embankments were steep—and since the river was low, it was also a long way down.
Ivan knew what to look for that would signal the proximity of his destination. A small, wooden bridge that took him across the river and into the residential area in which he lived. The bridge looked much like a long red barn stretched across the ravine met at either end with the paved road.
Built in the 1800’s, the bridge would not instill confidence in any new passerby, but Ivan knew the bridge. He grew to rely on the bridge for many travels.
He trusted it.
If a flap of a butterfly wing could bring about a hurricane, then surely a puny flap of an ugly crow’s wing could cause such weather as right now, Ivan thought as he hunched over, craning his neck. Ivan wanted so badly to be able to blame the misfortune of the weather on the intolerable crow.
“Ughh.” The dissatisfied sound drooled from his mouth.
He eased off the gas when the road was less discernible, hovering his foot over the brake pedal.
He accelerated once he was comfortable with his surroundings, and could get a better read of where he was and what was around him.
Sleep pulled at Ivan’s eyelids.
Threatened to really blind him.
Ivan decelerated as he took his eyes off the barely visible road.
The faint green numbers on the digital dash displayed: 2:34 a.m.
He pinched the dial knob of the radio and scanned for some tunes that would help keep him awake for the remainder of his drive home.
A statistic came to his mind about most accidents occurring within five miles of home. He wasn’t ready to be a part of that sobering statistic.
The bridge was about a couple of miles out from his house and he was still roughly one and a quarter miles from the bridge at this point, putting him at about 3 and a quarter miles from home—well within the statistics set parameters.
As he was about to settle on a radio station playing some old punk rock music from the 90’s—possible Blink-182—a loud thud erupted from the windshield.
Ivan threw his free hand back to the steering wheel—brushing against the sensitive volume dial, dragging it to a blaring level. His hand grabbed the wheel, pulling it and the car along as well, in an overcorrection.
He quickly returned his gaze to the foggy, rainy windshield, heart rate accelerated.
All the Small Things blasted, violently vibrating his eardrums.
“Je . . . sus—,”
Adrenaline pierced through his body like a shot from a shot glass.
Straight to his head.
He quickly became drunk again, this time off the adrenaline, and not the fifth shot of bourbon.
“…Watching, waiting, commiserating.”
His eyes bulged in his skull and he seemed to take in more stimuli than absolutely necessary for the present moment.
Catching just a glimpse of the thing that made the sound—A bird. A crow. The physical embodiment of evil. A manifestation of Satan himself.
Anger—rather, rage seeped into existence deep in his core.
He reached down, without taking his eyes off of the road, turned the volume dial all the way down.
The repetitious thud of the lane guides came to attention.
He gently guided the car left and the noise ceased.
His breathing returned to near normal, felt the slight buzz slowly re-enter his body, like meeting up with an old friend that you hadn’t seen in years, returning for a quick, pleasant, refreshing visit.
He muttered softly under his boozy breath, cursing their very existence.
The rain paused its intensity for a moment.
The faint outlines of the bridge came into view, off in the distance.
No thanks to the birds, he thought to himself.
Ivan readjusted himself in the seat, holding the seat belt loose while he shifted. Letting the seatbelt go from his grip, the slack quickly reeled back into its hidden compartment, gently holding his body in place against the seat of the car.
The short break in the rain ended.
It beat down on the windshield. Harder than before. Much harder. It was as if a giant bucket in the sky was tipped and dumped directly onto Ivan.
Ivan’s hot breath pressed and stuck on the interior of the window, coating it from top to bottom, left to right. Every inch of the glass left completely opaque.
“I can’t see a thing,” Ivan commented to no one.
He took his shirt sleeve and swiped the windshield. Leaned forward, inches from the glass—so close, the top of his rimmed glasses tapped on the glass as the car bounced and jostled.
Nearing the turn that led into the bridge, Ivan slowed down.
Then accelerated rounding the turn.
By the time he realized it, he was going too fast to stop.
He wasn’t even really able to process what was happening in real time.
It was a blur.
As if all his life was now being filtered to him through a foggy windshield on a dark and stormy night.
An amorphous blob of black rose swiftly from inside of the bridge—first as a tight formation, then spread as if it were—birds! Crows! A whole murder of them!
It was a flock of crows that must have been taking shelter from the storm underneath the roof of the bridge.
Ivan slammed his foot down hard on the brakes.
His hands wound the wheel hard to the right.
The tires lost traction, Skidded, screeched.
Ivan spun out of control. The force of the rotation knocking Ivan about silly within the car.
He heard something move free of its place. Lifted through the air and hit him square on the head.
His head became wet, hot, and sticky.
The horrible sound of rubber tires skidding against wet pavement created an echo chamber within the bridge.
A chorus of thwaps and thuds rang off the windshield as the car plowed into the murder of crows.
The front of the car slammed into the side of the bridge, exploding a gaping hole. The car drifted sideways taking out plank after plank, widening the gap.
And just as quickly as it happened, it ended.
The front end of the car left hanging outside of the bridge, and the back rested safely within the confines of the bridge.
The tapity-tap-tap of rainfall hitting the exposed hood of the car.
Ivan lifted his hand to feel the wound. Pulled back his hand now covered in his own blood.
“Ohh . . .Ow ow ow!”
As the disorienting feeling of the moment began to leave, Ivan felt a slight movement. A teetering.
Feeling as if he was about to tip forward and plummet to his death in the ravine, Ivan threw his back into the seat of the car, reclining it, giving a momentary pause to the drift, but ultimately not achieving anything useful. The car continued to tip forward.
Ivan was sure that he was to fall to his death here and now, on this bridge—all at the hands of the birds.
What a demise, killed by the very thing he hated most...
Bracing for the long fall and inevitable crash at the bottom, Ivan clenched his chest and heaved heavy breath in and out of his lungs.
He shut his eyes.
A whimper escaped his mouth.
He waited to die.
But then... Nothing.
The teetering feeling reversed and Ivan opened his eyes to see the car righting itself, seemingly on its own.
Still confused by what was happening, Ivan loosened his grip, and his breaths became more level, more even.
The sound of the rain echoed through the damaged bridge. A moment passed before Ivan decided to glance at the back of the car.
To his surprise, his horror, his excitement, there was an ever growing collection of birds—crows—perched on the tail of the car. The weight of the collective tipping the scale that was Ivan’s car.
He owed his life to the very thing he despised.
The thing he loathed more than anything in the world, has now become his savior.
He nodded in humiliated gratitude to the heroic birds, a nervous chuckle puffed out from his mouth.
* * *
Weeks later, Ivan finally built up enough courage to leave his house.
The self-deprived hermit walked outside of his door, and into the rising sunlight with a morning scone in one hand, a coffee mug in the other.
He breathed in the air. It felt like new life.
Ivan made his way towards his favorite walking path.
Sipping the coffee, nibbling on the scone as it crumbled and bits fell to the ground.
The familiar sound of fluttering wings fell behind him on the path.
Ivan stopped and turned to see a small, sleek black crow, hopping, bouncing along the dirt path.
Its small stature and high pitched cawing told Ivan it was a juvenile.
The bird skipped along the path picking up Ivan’s dropped crumbs and seemed to be enjoying them very much.
Ivan crouched down getting closer to the bird.
He pinched off a small piece of his scone, laid it next to him.
The bird made its way over. Slowly. Hopping a sort of sidestep, switching from its left to its right, and then back to its left every few hops.
Ivan watched as it neared, a soft chuckle exhaled through his nostrils.
Ivan cocked his arm holding the coffee mug back into his chest. He quickly jerked it forward, expelling the lukewarm contents at the bird.
Unable to react in time the bird stumbled away, soaked by the coffee.
It frantically flapped its wings trying to rid them of the moisture so the bird could take flight and escape its tormentor.
Ivan watched as the bird twitched and writhed from his doing.
He watched with childlike glee and amusement.
He slowly got up, turned around. He continued walking the path.
No remorse. Not a second thought.
A grim smile etched itself across Ivan’s stone-cold face. A chipper hop in his step. Ivan blamed the bird for his lack of coffee in his mug.
There was a lot that could be said about Ivan, but there’s only one thing that was for certain.
Ivan hated birds.