Mother Nature
by Michael Priv
          The hanging flower pot outside our patio door is shaped like a hat commonly worn by Laotian peasants as they poke at their water buffalos—kind of conical. My wife hung it there despite my objections, as usual. First, I don’t like gardenias. Second, I just don’t like the Laotian conical hat outside my window.
          The gardenias promptly died but the conical sarcophagus stayed as yet another reminder of the seeming futility of all life’s efforts as they run squarely into the inevitability of death. My requests to remove that specter from my presence fell on a deaf matrimonial ear as usual. As we all know, a woman’s mind is a complicated thing. “No rush,” she said, “Something good may still come out of it.” Excuse me? Something good may come out of a dead flower pot?
          Something good DID come out of it! “Damn! How does this woman do it?” I thought, scratching my hairy stomach and staring one morning through the patio door at mama and papa doves organizing a nest in the dead flower pot barely five feet from my nose. I went outside “to take a look”, but really harboring a well-concealed evil intention to scare off the birds.         
          My appearance—or the fervent look on my face—succeeded in scaring father dove away. Mama dove, however, had not budged. She glanced at me, as if I weren’t even there and turned her tail in my direction, saying, “Go away.” She kept one eye of her slightly turned head on me, as she was rearranging some dry grass in the flower pot, pretending not to see me. Crazy bird!
          I muttered a few swear words in two languages I know in mama bird’s general direction, got an insulting look in return and schlepped back into the house.
          The day went pretty much as my days go. Several minor emergencies and no-shows of my crew in conjunction with several real emergencies and natural disasters. I counted to a few thousand. I count all the time. Supposed to calm me down.
          “I told you something good was going to come out of it!” my wife greeted me cheerfully that night.
          “Yeah, yeah, sure!” I rejoiced unconvincingly. We both looked at the nest. The contented mama dove was now sitting on the eggs. She recognized me and gave me a derisive look with her biddy little eye. I wondered how good she’d taste in soup.      
          “So cute!” cooed my wife, probably just to annoy me. She couldn’t get enough of this nonsense.
          “Yeah, yeah, right, real cute.” I went to watch TV.
          Bruce Willis with blood all over his face was raking up a pretty good body count. Well, that’s always good. Kill’em, boy!
          I watched the doves over the next few days. Mama dove seemed to accept me after a while. One morning she even got up and showed me her eggs. There were two of them in the nest.
          I went to work that morning feeling a little lighter. Could this turn into a pleasant day? Nah! A scissor lift hit a sprinkler on one of my jobs, destroying freshly installed drywall and floors, eliminating the hope of any bonuses I was hoping to receive from that job. I counted slowly to one hundred to calm down. Then I counted some more.
          Javier, the worker who was running the lift, came to me with his lower lip trembling, eyes bloodshot and watery, asking that I not fire him, something about his family.
         “Its okay, man, could happen to anyone,” I said, forcing a crooked smile.  Nothing that a good count to one thousand couldn’t handle. Then I lost a bid on another job to Agi, the sneaky Mongol I know, who underbid me by $600 on a hundred thousand dollar job. Then I visited a few other sites and counted to ten thousand.
          Then we had a storm. “Poor birdies! Thomas, get your hands out of your pockets and DO something! Right now!” my wife yelled wringing her hands anxiously. “Yes, dear,” I said and went outside into the rain. Just water, right? Cussing under my breath, I moved the planter deeper under the eve, closer to the house, working in the pelting rain. The dove “smiled” at me gratefully, turning the two eggs around under her in her soaked nest. “Hang in there, old girl!” I muttered soaking wet myself. Mama dove looked at me dolefully as I went back in, feeling grouchy as usual but kind of smiling inside.         
          “Don’t bring dirt into the house! It's not a barn!” my wife yelled.
          “Yeah, okay,” I answered meekly. Geez! Why me?
          “A-a-a-a-a! Thomas! Fast!” I heard my wife’s blood curling yell a few mornings later. From the sink, where I was brushing my teeth, I shut straight to the kitchen and saw it right away: a screaming blue jay was literally beating the dove out of her nest and then proceeded to eat one of the eggs. I glimpsed tears in my wife’s eyes, as she was yelling at the ignoring blue jay and waving her arms in the air.
          “You, motherfucker!” I bellowed, spluttering toothpaste all around the kitchen on my way out, “Ignore ME, you little prick!” Blue jay darted away from me and settled on the fence, eyeing me incredulously. In the yard I yanked out a stick supporting some flower or a tomato plant or something and ran after the damn bird followed by the terrified but determined papa dove. Blue jay bid hasty retreat screaming loudly. “Yeah! Run, you bastard! And don’t come back!” The brave papa bird and I looked at each other in a comradely kind of way. This docile bird chased after the bully despite his fear, albeit with me charging at the enemy at his shoulder, so to speak. Bravo!
          My wife hung her sweat suite in the window with the hood propped up as a scare crow to drive away the blue jay. The doves ignored it. We hoped the blue jay would be afraid to come near. He wasn’t. We were woken up next morning by his insistent knocking onto our patio door—just to annoy us. He flew away immediately, when he saw me in the kitchen. “Wait till I get a BB gun and take your eyes out, you blue bastard,” I thought to myself.
          I looked up blue jays on the web. Apparently they are territorial. I told my wife and she promptly called the damn bird “Terry” as in “Territorial”. Terry? Can’t shoot a bird with a name! Well, alright, Terry can stay. But from that point on we set up a watch to defend the nest from Terry, the murderer. We split the morning watch with my wife, then my no good daughter-in-law would take the late morning and early afternoon. She just studied her homework there in our kitchen, keeping an eye on the nest. Damn woman is 29 years old working 12 hours a week in a shoe store and studying in the Community College! No drive or ambition in that woman. Then late afternoon my good for nothing son would take over. Boy had absolutely no drive either and no future, if you ask me. With a college diploma and nearly perfect GPA he managed to find the most mediocre job in the known universe. Blah! Then my wife would come home and then I’d take over till dark. The blue jay would stay around but never close to the nest.  
          Then the nest was attacked by a hawk. It swooped on the nest out of nowhere but at the last moment was deflected and scared off by Terry, the blue jay, not at all silently, either. Terry was never subtle. The startled hawk tumbled away, losing few beautiful feathers, recovered and settled on the fence, trying to wrap his wits around what the hell just happened, when he was attacked by screaming Terry again, diving bomber style. The hawk took off heavily in an attempt to gain altitude and get away but Terry, now joined by several other blue jays and a crow, kept terrorizing the hawk. The whole ear-piercing mob cleared out, leaving the badly shaken mama dove alone. When my son heard the story in the evening, he drove off to Seven-Eleven and got some dry dog food which he proceeded to sprinkle on my lawn. “For Terry,” he explained succinctly. Ma’boy!
          The day came for the remaining egg to hatch. We stared at the cutest little baby bird that proud mama dove showed us.
          The little bird grew fast, papa and mama feeding it. It was nice to watch. Then about three weeks later the three doves just picked up and left our flower pot. It was on Sunday, we were all home, all four of us watching the birds. The doves just walked around, looking at us and then flew off. Terry walk-jumped in his funny way to the patio door and knocked on the glass as if saying “Hey, cheer up! I am still here!” “Hi Terry,” I waved, “Good to see you, rascal.”
          Next morning we wondered around the suddenly empty house. “Should we get rid of the flower pot now?” my wife asked me.
           “No, let’s leave it. Something good may come out of it,” I said.
           She smiled.
          “Have a nice day, honey!” I kissed her on a cheek.
          “You too, sweetie.”
          Yeah. I think now I will.  
   
                                                                                                                                                                                    © 2010 Michael Priv. All Rights Reserved.