The door to my backyard study wasn’t widely opened. Just a tiny crack. Of course, it doesn’t require much of an opening to arouse the curiosity of a wayward Carolina wren or much of a squeeze-through space to allow his admittance.
I never saw or heard him enter. I was, in one of my rare moments of undistracted concentration, proofreading a recently finished magazine article. There I sat, minding my own business, when that perky little tail-flick caught my eye.
It was not a “midnight dreary.” I was not “weak and weary.” Nor was I pondering any curious volumes of “forgotten lore.” Foremost, this little dude was no “raven.” Matter of fact, he was about as far removed from an Edgar Allan Poe character as I am from Poe’s literary brilliance. It’s difficult to picture a Carolina wren as “bird or devil,” after all.
That said, the wren was no less distracting. I mean, it isn’t every day a writer looks up and sees a bird hopping around in his study. I do occasionally hallucinate, but never when I’m working or out of Irish whiskey.
First thought: Oh, bother, I need to get up and shoo him out of here. Second thought: No, I’d better not. He may fly against the wall and hurt himself or, worse, go “number two” on my open laptop.
Ah, a dilemma. What would Poe do? No, never mind that. He’d just drink a bottle of brandy and pass out. I have neither the brandy nor the time.
I know. Get the broom, reach out and carefully push the door open all the way. That’s it. Perfect. Give the wren an unobstructed avenue of escape and at the same time actually use the broom that’s been leaning in the corner gathering the dust it should have been sweeping up. Two “birds” with one stone, if you will.
There, now. Slowly, carefully. Ease it open. Don’t frighten him. Eureka! Mission accomplished.
Moments later, nothing. He just sat there, perched on the rim of my grandfather’s old shaving mug. Then, tiring of that vantage point, I suppose, he flew down from the curio shelf and settled on the rim of the trash can, not three feet from me.
We sat there looking at each other. I was fascinated and he seemed bored, a testament to either the fearlessness of wrens or just how intimidating I am. My pen slipped from my hand and fell to the floor. He wasn’t the least bit fazed. The rattle of my ancient portable electric heater didn’t seem to bother him, either. Carolina wrens are like tough, runty little playground boys. They don’t scare easily.
“Hell with it,” I said aloud. “Stay if you want. I don’t care.”
Seconds later it occurred to me I’d just spoken to a bird, yet one more reason to locate one’s study away from the house and out of human earshot. I remain quite thankful my little intruder didn’t utter “Nevermore” in reply.
The wren stayed with me about ten minutes more. In turn, he checked out my bookshelf, my air mattress, a Coleman lantern charging in the corner and a storage carton of old newspaper tearsheets. Eventually, he casually exited, having pooped on nothing and, in general, doing no harm to me or mine.
Except for one thing. During his time in my inner sanctum, he totally spoiled that “moment of undistracted concentration” I earlier mentioned. Thus, with my attention turned to him, the last page of my aforementioned magazine piece was carelessly neglected. The proofreading I was determined to meticulously perform was done, at best, haphazardly.
Hence the call I just received from a rather amused editor. Precisely where on Lake Lanier, he asks, can he go to find those large schools of “strippers” I so eloquently wrote about? And while I’m at it, can I go back and check my next-to-last paragraph? Seems I left the “b” out of the term “spotted bass.”
I’m embarrassed and humiliated. I need some of Poe’s brandy.
And a BB gun.