birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Birds of a Feather Flock Together

I have never been a fan of birds, particularly large flocks. Whether perched on telephone wires, or flying in the sky they always disgusted me. My family always thought I was over the top in my response to avoid seeing excessive quantities. I would intentionally turn my head, drive or walk in the opposite direction of the birds. My daughter entertained by my angst always point them out to me. Birds in abundance are like the end of my deodorant bottle right before it runs out, the deodorant has all these circles on the bottom that causes my skin to crawl.

When my son was in 2nd grade his elementary school class had a field trip to the Wild Animal Park in San Diego, California. One of the exhibits were exotic birds that you can feed. I thought we could skip this section of the park altogether but the children with their limited ability of phonemic awareness read the billboard promoting the exhibits like champs. I was chaperoning four kids including my own that day. They all wanted the experience of feeding the animals.

We visited plenty of animals and went to several shows with my hopes to distract them from the birds. I bribed them with ice cream and made promises to bring them to the play structure in the park. My plan seemed to be working and on route to the playground we walked square into the exhibit. There was no hiding, and no more excuses. They cheered and jumped for joy to have finally found the place I could not seem to find on the map. I hesitantly walked to the booth to pick up the cups of nectar as the employee explained the rules to the children. I zoned her out to watch all these exotic birds flying freely in the large cage. I heard the final instructions where each person had to enter holding their cups away from their body and the birds would drink from it. I thought I could meet the kids at the exit until the trainer stated the children would have to be accompanied by an adult.

I was grown in body but in that moment not in mind. I wanted to curl up into the fetal position. I took a couple of deep cleansing breaths and decided to face my fears. The children entered the facility and I slowly followed behind. I scanned the pen looking left and right at the birds that surrounded me. I chose not to hold onto a nectar cup with no desire to have a bird come any closer than necessary. I began to relax a little, and the birds were actually pretty, they had a tropical appearance with beautiful blended colors, they glided with wings expanded in the air. My son, proud and confident, stood with arm extended away from his body just like he was told. I desired his confidence and was so proud of him. The first bird came flying near him and drank the nectar from the cup and then flew away. He was so excited and I was equally excited for his achievement. The next bird seemed to be a little misguided, it swooped near him but missed the nectar all together. He giggled and I smiled.

I scanned my surrounding as I watched people feeding the birds. I looked back toward my son and watched the bird land on his arm, with the cup nestled in his fingertips. The bird walked up his arm and perched on his shoulder. I took the opportunity to take a photo. My son held his position like a mannequin. The bird turned his head and clamped his beak onto his ear, and my son screeched in pain. I froze in fear not remembering the protocol if this happened. My son screamed louder and I moved into action. I swatted the cup out of his hand and swatted my other hand toward the bird. It loosened its grip and flew away. I squealed loudly and dragged my son by his hand to the exit of the exhibit leaving the other children behind. He cried in pain and I cried in fear. The other children soon came out to check on us, they watched the spectacle take place. My son's ear was red and swollen and the park brought him ice to put on it. His classmates thought he was brave for surviving the attack of a wild animal. I thought he was brave as well but this incident confirmed my dislike of large quantities of birds.

Only Once