A lot of people are in favor of wildlife, and I guess I understand it. Pelicans, gorillas, whatever.
But I just got attacked by a goddamn bird and I’m tired of this shit.
I run outside a lot. Fitness running, that is. Pretty much any day it’s not snowing. I’ve been running for long enough that I can remember a time when seeing a Canadian goose or a deer or a wild turkey in suburban New Jersey was pretty amazing. Ooooh, honey, look a deer! Do we have the Polaroid Instamatic Land Camera with us?
Those days are over now. Half the time I’ll be running through some state park somewhere, and I’m yelling “Make way! Make way! Coming through!” as I push my way through a herd of malcontent loitering deer. Or I’ll return to my car and be accosted by a panhandling fox or seven.
And don’t even get me started on the frigging geese. All year long, these fat flightless fucks wander around in gaggles, converting every field and lawn into muddy vistas of green goose shit as far as the eye can see. But then, in the spring, they get especially sinister. They pair up and create nests and lay eggs. For some reason, they especially like road medians and the little triangles of grass created by crisscrossing running paths.
So I’ll be running along, head down, listening to some Killing Joke song on my headphones, and suddenly I’m involved in a dust-up with a 75-pound earthbound avian thug with anger management issues. A male goose will rise up on its legs, spread its wings, start hissing like a goddamn snake, and charge right at you. They bite, too, just like ducks. (I haven’t been bitten yet.) Eventually, the eggs hatch and, voila, a new generation of park system bullies.
Now that it’s summer and college exams are over, I have new places I can run. I like to run on the college campus where I went to school. (My tombstone is going to read, Here lies Harry Ramble. He never got out of New Jersey.) All the kids are gone; the buses run maybe once an hour; road hazards are greatly reduced. I run in the early evening, after work, and usually finish as the sun is setting.
Last night, I finish my run, and get the canister of protein formula and the shaker cup (water and ice) that are waiting for me in my car. I take these two things and a pair of shorts to a secluded area with picnic tables and a handball court behind the parking lots. It’s a good distance off the road. No one’s ever there in the summer. By the time I get there, it’s pretty dark. By mid-June, this area will be filled with fireflies. In August, it will be a screaming circus of crickets. It’s kind of nice.
As I’m mixing my shake, I hear something like a call or a bark, close by. Usually it’s a deer calling to other deer. Hey, guys, intruder in our midst! Get ready to run en masse across the street and get mowed over by a Ford Explorer, on my signal! It’s true. Deer bark to each other.
But there are no deer around. Okay, whatever. So I’m drinking my protein in the peaceful darkness and quiet, enjoying the stillness of a spring evening, thinking ain’t this the life, and I get absolutely WHACKED in the head by something.
This is very alarming. I’ve got protein drink all down the front of my shirt, and I whirl around, prepared to engage in fisticuffs with whatever depraved motherfucker has been hidden here in the dark, waiting to prey on some innocent citizen such as me. But there’s no one there. I’m all alone in the middle of nowhere. And I hear the call again. It’s definitely a call and I realize it’s a bird. Somewhere in the trees above me.
It’s too dark to see anything up there, though the bird must have been pretty big. I mean, my head rocked forward. It hit with a real thump. It must have been a crow or something. I reach up and grope the top of my head, feeling for blood. Nothing. So, okay, could be worse. My heart’s still hammering away because it’s very startling to be the only person you’re aware of within a good quarter-mile radius, in the dark, in the quiet, and suddenly get punched in the head.
It’s weird, but also kind of funny. I mean, what are the chances of having a low-flying bird blunder into your head by accident in the middle of a dark, deserted picnic area. Ha, ha, there’s one for the books. I finish the remainder of my protein drink that isn’t on my shirt. And then I take my sweaty shorts and underwear off.
Have I mentioned that I do this? I probably haven’t. For years, I would run during the summer and then just hang out in my sweaty, uncomfortable shorts until I got home. Or I’d change my shorts in my car. But changing your shorts in your car is actually a kind of iffy proposition. You never know who’s going to drive by or pull up next to you. Cops, in particular, take a dim view of old guys sitting in parked cars, in public parks or on college campuses, naked from the waist down. But I realized years ago, that this particular area is so secluded and dark that I could probably have a Nude Olympics back there and no one would notice. It takes about twenty seconds to change my shorts.
So I’m standing in the picnic area, in the dark, my damp shorts and underwear dangling from my hand, half naked, and I get WHACKED in the head again. And it’s like that 9/11 moment when the second plane hit the towers, only without terrorists or planes or Dick Cheney or worldwide implications. I realize that I am not at the mercy of random events. I’m being attacked by a sizeable bird. A big-ass bird with a grudge. And it calls at me again.
Why? I don’t know. Is there a baby bird in a nest somewhere above me? On the ground somewhere? Is it just taunting me because it can? Is it just a big bully of the avian world? I don’t know. How the fuck would I know?
And that’s when I come to a realization.
I’m so sick of wildlife.
Anyway, that’s it. That’s the story. And now I’m off to the zoo to punch an elk in the face.
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