Member's Anthology

Private Conversations

By Roger Bergold

 

Whoa, what the fuck was that? Did  something hit the house, or was someone breaking in?

1 AM, shit, I  always meant to get a gun.

I slowly got out of bed. I didn’t turn on the light thinking the dark might hide or protect me from whatever was now scaring the shit out of me. I got down close to the ground and moved toward the source of the impact. I listened. I could hear the refrigerator, my pounding heart and nothing else.

My house is surrounded by hundreds of acres of land, most of which don’t belong to me. And all is very, very dark at night. I have always harbored a silent concern that this isolation could someday present a problem and here it was.  For a quarter of a century, when awakened by a sound in the night, I would turn to my wife and ask the predictable, “Did you hear that”? I now turned to her side of the bed, instinctively. But, held my question. My wife and partner of almost a quarter of a century is no longer living, a victim of breast cancer. She died in my arms in this house and I have been lying alone in bed since then, more awake than asleep.

Now I rose and stood preparing to meet the unknown noisemaker. My brain, under duress, has always conjured up vivid images, real or imagined often ridiculous, and even inappropriate. Using humor to diffuse fear has been one of my life long defenses. Now my defenses REALLY let loose. I imagined escaped convicts, motorcycle gangs, overzealous Jehovas witnesses, pissed off mother bears, bands of coyotes, Hari Krishnas looking for an airport, and even process servers.

Everything came to a silent halt.

Recently, on a cool summer day, I had been mindlessly walking out from my garage. The weather was so beautiful that my thoughts turned to holiday and where I would go this year. As I looked up, something moving caught my eye. A huge black form, about 100 feet away, was coming into focus.

It was a large black bear. My mind seemed unable to process and respond and my legs were turning to lead. As my complete dumbfounding was continuing my inertia, he or she fortunately had the good sense to avoid a confrontation and high tailed it up the hill and away from me. With this posterior view, all I could think about was a giant, black Old English Sheep dog.

Was this “blackie” again? Could he have returned emboldened by my threatlessness? If it’s him, back for round two, I’m in deep shit. I looked around for a weapon. As I stumbled through the darkness, I could see the blue lights of my computer. Was it to be PC versus bear? It seemed to be the only candidate. But, it was a desk top! It was big and unwieldy .Why didn’t I have a lap top? Well, I guess this was heavier. Finally, in my dazed ambiguity, it struck me as hardly useful in a close combat battle whose result did not seem to favor me against the unknown intruder. So, empty handed, I moved slowly toward the kitchen. The only sound I could hear was my racing and very loud heartbeat. My throat was constricted with fear, I could barely breathe. I anxiously turned on the light. The whole kitchen window was lying on the floor. Glass was everywhere. The wooden frame had been splintered, by some, as yet unknown, force.

Now, I am sure this is not a dream, but cold and possibly dangerous reality.

I mustered up the courage to go to where the window formally resided and saw nothing, but heard a faint, unfamiliar and decidedly not human, sound.

I turned on the outside light. I saw nothing. Whatever had taken out the window seemed to be invisible. Now, positive that I was experiencing cardiac arrest, I stepped outside and saw, collapsed under the space where the window formerly resided, a full-grown turkey. It was bleeding from several spots on his body and dripping blood from his mouth. As I have come to learn, turkeys sleep in the trees at night. Something must have spooked this one and without slowing down, it crashed into my kitchen window. He must be really pissed off.

I think it’s important in the case of crashes or catastrophe in general, to step back and think. The window was destroyed and was not repairable. My thoughts turned to the welfare of the bird. He looked bad. I waited about 15 minutes to see if he would recover and fly away. When I returned, it appeared the turkey was not going to cooperate.

Of all the creatures in the world, my wife loved birds the best. She had a pair of excellent binoculars, the Roger Tory Petersen field guide and would regularly venture out to marvel at the beauty of those graceful creatures that defy gravity. This was clearly a bad situation for one of those she loved.

We have an animal rescue hotline, which I called. It was now 1:45 am. Amazingly, a woman answered. She was unable to help me personally, but gave me a slew of numbers to call. She said that she was part of a group that rescued animals all of the time. What she neglected to say was that they just didn’t do it in the middle of the night. They apparently needed daylight and perhaps even good weather to even don their helpful gear. I left messages and checked in on the bird. In some spirit of love and compassion, I leaned over and stroked the creatures’ feathers and told it that all was going to be fine. Reality smacked me in the face as this wild creature did not respond like my dog and became visibly upset at my ministrations. He wobbled down the hill on the side of the house and plopped over sideways in the driveway. Again, I left him alone, hoping for a recovery. When I returned to my guest there was blood on the macadam and the turkey was not looking good.

I called 911.

My wife passed away less than a year ago and I so did not want any more death to occur here. The 911 operator put me through to the Sheriffs department. The person who answered told me they would respond, but I would have to be patient as there was a shift change happening.

Around 2:30 a young guy from the Sheriffs department showed up. In the dim light near the porch, he appeared tall, lean, young and scared. We talked about what we were capable of doing and of the condition of the animal. He confessed he had no experience with this kind of thing and all he could really do was to shoot the bird. GREAT! I needed rescue 911 and got the grim reaper. It was to be what I had hoped to avoid.

Considering that it didn’t look like this feathered wreck was capable of finding its’ gyroscope, it seemed the humane thing to do. I reasoned that it would be a quick end for a noble creature that had obviously suffered. I had seen this too often. I tried not to ask why.

We carried the turkey down to a lower portion of the property and I was told to get back. As I offered up some form of incantation for this bad flier, he shot. The sound was not that loud, and the air filled with the smell of gunpowder. We both stood still. It became very quiet.

After a moment, the officer kicked the bird a few times and then handed me the number of his report to give to my insurance company. He then got in his car and drove off leaving me with this final reminder of the reality of the nights’ events. I was numb.

I stumbled up to the house to get a big plastic bag in which to put the turkey, and went back to collect his remains. When I tried to lift him, I immediately realized the bird was not dead. SHIT! I called the sheriff. The person who answered the phone told me the bird was dead and that what I was seeing was some neuromuscular death response. I went back and took a good look at the kitchen crasher. He was not dead. Again, I called the sheriffs department. They told me they would send their crack shot out again. He arrived and grabbed the turkey with startling indifference. He showed me where the bird had been shot and reaffirmed it should have died from this piece of lead. I was told to step back. Again he shot this poor creature, which, were it not for the image of the woods reflected from my window in the moonlight, would be asleep in some tree.

Feeling like a vet who had seen this before, I asked if he could stay around to make sure it was dead. He said, “I am not going to shoot that bird again”. I asked if he had a suggestion on the outside chance his marksmanship again left something to be desired. “A shovel to the head”, was all I heard as he drove away.

Consternation was the perfect word for the moment. The somnambulistic sojourner was 20 feet away, yet his presence surrounded me. Confliction seized my soul. I knew I would have to do the right thing if it came to that. Could this super bird continue? I begged no. Slowly I closed in for, what I hoped would be, the final inspection.

The bird was not dead. It could not follow my movements with its’ head, just his eyes. SHIT! It showed the signs of impending death that I have unfortunately seen many times before. My heart sank. There was only euthanasia.

I went up to the house and retrieved a long axe. In the hope of a swift end, I firmed up the ground under the errant gliders head. I offered up some invocation remembered from my catholic childhood and struck hard with the blunt end of the axe. Unable to walk, he ran without his head or side ever leaving the ground. I felt revulsion and guilt and quickly struck the neck of the animal with the sharp end of the axe. With what I perceived as remarkable resilience and pure life energy, it again ran on its’ side, then rolled over on its’ back, gave a final leg thrust in my direction and died. I dropped the axe, leaned against the tree nearby and wept uncontrollably.

I later opened the body bag and gently placed Ben Franklins’ symbol of America in a big picnic cooler and covered it with ice. I don’t know why. Maybe I thought someone would eat this traumatized, headless, bullet-riddled bird. In a haze, I plodded up to the house, filled a water glass with cognac, lit a cigar, sat on the porch and cried until the sun came up.

I had known the numbness that watching a life depart its corporal form before and it now held me again. I moved the cooler closer to the house and went to bed.

Over the next few days I continued to ice the bird every day and carried on conversations with my new land mate. I spoke to him about anything going on in my noggin. It was good not to be corrected often. I envisioned his response and occasionally verbalized it in a “birdy” voice. The oddity of my behavior did not really hit home with me until the day that I was sitting on the porch talking to my wife and the bird at the same time. I was about as out of touch with reality as one could be and knew I had to do something about it.

I put the cooler in my car, drove to a pond in a state preserve and slid the frozen form into its’ final resting place. Then I drove home to continue my conversation with my wife without any chance of being interrupted.

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