Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Kill Human vs. Killdeer


It's been a week of discovery. Friday the Boettcher Foundation informed me that despite a very high score on an entrance exam (99 percentile), an almost equally high score in teacher competency (98) and an adequate GPA (3.04--I drank, smoked, radicalized, and generally philandered in my early years), I am not Fellowship material. They didn't tell me why.

Sunday the one fiction piece I was
certain would be accepted for publication, was rejected. I don't know why, yet.

Today's Tuesday, the week's not up, and there's time for something else from my life to not meet someone else's standards. I assume my lotto picks and the selling price for my old truck fall in there somewhere.

Writers are used to rejection; comes with the barren territory. Yes, I have moments of dejection that accompany an editor's rejection, but after the initial flush of "Should I take up painting instead of prose?" I move on despite lingering cold-flashes of depression.

Next to the elementary school where I work sits a parking lot and a
monte, as we call them, a huge vacant lot of weeds, dirt and gravel that exemplifies the financial importance schools hold for our legislature. I regularly take walks through it during lunch, to clear my mind.

A week earlier I'd passed through a couple of times and noticed this bird rapidly walking across it. Turned out to be some Colorado killdeer. It reminded me of a Texas coastal bird, but I couldn't remember seeing one here before. No biggie.

This week as I ruminated on the legal consequences of assassinating Boettcher interviewers, I saw the bird, again scamper across the
monte. Three times had to be more than coincidence.

I realized each time I'd seen it, it had squawked or chirped strangely. I figured it might be nesting in the area, possibly even on the ground--though the parking lot of a school filled with Americanized children seemed a dangerous nesting choice--so I tried to backtrack its path.

I went only five feet when the sucker screeched like he'd cut himself or something, tilted on his side, and stretched one wing out to expose white and orange underlying feathers. He appeared injured.

I wondered if I could do anything to rescue him, but then I remembered injured animals don't call attention to themselves, they quietly lurk somewhere--like my cat hides under the bed when she's wounded from a cat-fight. The light bulb went on over me, so I told the bird, "I'm not falling for that!" I searched the area but couldn't find a nest.

Next day I roamed the
monte, ruminating the legal consequences of also assassinating picky editors, and sure enough, the bird shadowed me. This time I noted where I first saw movement.

The closer I got to the spot, the more dramatic the bird got. After another fifteen feet, his performance could have got him elected to that legislature whose neglect had created the
monte. He kept making me laugh, and I kept taunting him, "I've already seen your act, dude; it's not gonna work."

I found the nest. Two gray-brown, splotchy eggs about the size of Easter eggs, lying in a depression, no grass or twigs, just exposed to the sun and vulnerable to anybody walking across the lot, especially children raised to believe in the fun of pulling wings off butterflies and tormenting birds with injured wings.

Over the next couple of days, whenever I walked toward the nest, Killdeer (I named him) went into his routine, became more vocal the nearer I got to the nest, even to the point of flying close in front of me to the opposite side of the nest to draw me away. But when I followed him as if I believed he was injured, he just walked faster, waited until I caught up and then scampered another five feet or so.

I finally decided my attention might be stressing her (I now assumed Killdeer was Mother) and stopped inciting her into her performance. "You know me now. You don't need to act. I won't bother them, okay?" She never answered in any way I understood, but she tended to give me more leeway.

Killdeer isn't impressive by human standards, despite her theatrics. This wasn't like the time a falcon swooped five feet off the ground through my campsite in the mountains, clasping a chipmunk in talons and making it scream its swan song. Killdeer's chortles don't even compare to Puma's roar I once heard from only fifty feet away.

But Killdeer made me laugh, she was so good at her portrayal. Three times she made me instinctively move to inspect her injury, and away from her nest. Despite my 99 percentile exam score, I automatically reverted to dumb human when it came to a test on the

We talked more, me about assassinations, she about I don't know what, except maybe the lines she'd memorized to go along with her melodrama. I think she came to tolerate me, mostly because I didn't eat her eggs; an apparently vegetarian competitor is not much of a challenge, no matter my monologues on topics like assassination.

Last I checked, she was still there, eggs intact; she feinted when I showed up, just not as much. During the hottest time of the day, she covered the eggs with her wings, though she did so without exposing those bright feathers she lured me with earlier.

So, in a week of no great discovery, Killdeer discovered me, teased me, and tricked me into believing a primordial routine her ancestors perfected hundreds of thousands of years before mine were reproducing to one day perfect me. Despite my exam scores, I think Killdeer's better. Hell, she even convinced me to give up the assassination idea.

Besides, whatever thrills my Boettcher interviewers and that fiction editor might have gotten out of culling me from the list of species-worth-surviving, I got something more from Killdeer in the
monte. There's a word or, better, a phrase for it, but the experience still thrills me too much to care to come up with one. Maybe I'll ask her, when she's done with her run.

NB: The day after I finished this piece I got another rejection letter, from a lit agent. So I returned to the
monte this morning. Got to see Mom and Dad together, and now there's three eggs! That's enough for me; I'm not going back.

© Rudy Ch. Garcia

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