The man sits in a cheap, checker-strapped lawn chair, the kind the homeowners’ association decries. Worse, he does not sit on the patio, next to the pool and heated spa, overlooking the fifth tee. No, he sits in the driveway of his million-dollar home in the gated community.
He feels poor in comparison to his rich and famous neighbors, but then he has always felt a knot of deprivation. No matter how much he has earned, no matter how much he owns, there is that sense it is never enough – that it, he, is always at risk. That fear compels him. He continues to practice long after his peers have retired. In his heart and mind he fights for survival.
So he sits in plain view of the golf carts that purr about as if people have someplace important to go. It is the preferred transportation in this oasis of wealth marked by an occasional royal wave as the rich and retired famous go to and from the club houses – one for golf and another by the docks for boaters. Should it be called a yacht club? There has been discussion of a third by the courts, but tennis is the poor cousin in the manicured world of The Cove.
“What is he doing?” neighbors ask one another with distaste.
“It must be against the bylaws.”
“The way he’s dressed.”
The man is dressed in scruffy loafers with no socks, ripped shorts, and a stained Izod tee shirt. His hair is gray and uncombed; his face stubbled.
They try to ignore the gun, a pellet gun, borrowed from his landscaper. He holds the grip in his right hand; the weapon lies across his lap. He is armed and ready, waiting to repel the attack. His eyes shift watchfully from treetop to treetop.
Waiting. Watching. He has learned their silhouettes – the enemies: a woodpecker, red-plumed head, long bill, neck arched and ready for work; and another, a female, slower to emerge, slightly less brilliant red – perhaps more yellowed. The male a nest builder, ready to hollow a place in the trim of his house – through the plastic sheathing, scattering the Styrofoam insulation pellets insulation on the lawn.
He waits for them to attack again. He may feel the fool, certainly the object of community ridicule, but he feels no guilt – only anger at the birds. First had been the drumming, endless mating call, high in the coconut palms that surround his quarter acre of prime Florida paradise. Early morning wakeup call from nature. It was more than enough to want them gone. But this new problem, their assault on his own nest – that is intolerable.
The male bird circles briefly and then darts forward. Seizing a toehold with its strange feet – two toes forward, two back. The bird has returned to yesterday’s work. He starts today’s: crack, crack, crack. The sound of beak against plastic is unsubstantial. Five thousand extra for trim – Cornice the salesman had named it. “One of the nicest we offer,” he had insisted.
Carefully the man takes aim. The lead projectile is released. Does the bird sense it? Hear it? Does he start to move before the pain can reach him? Or, perhaps it is simply bad aim. The man cannot tell. The shot is missed; the bird flies off but quickly returns.
Another, a better shot. The woodpecker seems for the moment disoriented, almost ready to fall. Recovery. He flies to a nearby tree and perches.
There she is: the two now together. Is she offering succor? For all the patients he has helped and all the pain he has relieved in the consulting room, the human does not care. He wonders if he can hit one or both there, high in that palm. He takes more careful aim.
As if sensing his intent, the birds fly off – the male slightly ahead.
With a grunt of satisfaction, the man folds his chair and carries it inside his three-car garage. The borrowed air-gun is nestled in a case and put on a shelf beside his golf shoes and the garden shears.
Tomorrow they will most likely return. So he will sit again in wait. Day after day he will chase them off. When they no longer appear, he will have to continue his morning vigil. The landscaper has told him it will be at least a week, perhaps ten days, without seeing them before he can be sure.
His wife, embarrassed by what the neighbors see and might think, has suggested they buy netting to hang from the gutters, that they perhaps mount plastic owls on the roof, that they do something – anything other than his morning vigil.
He has refused such solutions. They are unmanly. War gives him purpose. He is man the hunter, the taker of life and maker of home. It has become a matter of pride.
About Kenneth Weene
Life itches and torments Kenneth Weene like pesky flies. Annoyed, he picks up a pile of paper to slap at the buzzing and often whacks himself on the head. Each whack is another story. At least having half-blinded himself, he has learned to not wave the pencil.
Ken’s novels, Widow’s Walk Memoirs From the Asylum, and Tales From the Dew Drop Inne, are published by All Things That Matter Press.
To learn more about Ken’s writing visit http://www.kennethweene.com
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