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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Fine Feathered Foes - A Short Story

Because of so many things going on at once (mostly my grandmother's funeral which is taking place this upcoming Monday), I've decided that for the next three days, I would post some pieces that I worked on over the years and share them with you here.

I guess you could consider this to be my writings prior to the blog beginning.

Though that isn't entirely true.  This piece was written in February 2012.  I composed this piece for the Canada Writes Short Story Contest three years ago.  Although I didn't win that competition, I enjoyed writing it.

And now I want to share this story with all of you.  It's got a pop culture twist to it which I will reveal to you at the end.  Can you figure it out before you get there?

The story is called - FINE FEATHERED FOES

If there was one hobby that Mr. O'Toole loved doing more than anything else, it was bird watching.

Every morning he visited the park, carrying a set of binoculars and a well-worn notebook to record everything he had seen. He would sit on his favourite bench to watch all the birds that flew past. He enjoyed seeing the many different types of birds which called the park home during the summer months. The last week of September was one of his final opportunities that the man would have to watch as many species of his feathered friends as possible before the harsh brutality of the cold winter winds moved in, and he wanted to take full advantage of it.

It was a lovely day for bird watching. There was a chill in the air, which was normal for early autumn. The leaves on the trees turned brighter shades of orange each day, and the gentle breeze rustled through the tree tops.

The park didn't have a lot of people around. It made sense, given that it was only half-past seven. There were a few joggers taking advantage of the early morning sunshine. Otherwise, it was fairly quiet. Mr. O'Toole was in his element. Peace and quiet made for the perfect bird watching conditions as far as he was concerned.

He sat down on his bench, overlooking the river that flowed alongside the park's bicycle path. He took out his binoculars and watched the riverbank, hoping to spot a rare breed of bird that he had not yet seen. There were pigeons and seagulls flying around the park, but Mr. O'Toole wasn't interested in those. He really wanted to spot a Northern Mockingbird, but knew that the odds of locating one, were slim, especially around this time of year. While it would have made his day complete to spot one, for now, he was quite content sitting in the park on a gorgeous September day.

His gaze happened to fixate on a couple of boys who were strolling through the park. They couldn't have been much more than fifteen. Mr. O'Toole eyed the two young men curiously. He could see that both of them were carrying backpacks, a clear indication that they were on their way to school. He also noticed that both boys were staring at the screens of their mobile phones.

He shook his head with a mixture of disbelief and disgust.

He didn't need to have the electronic devices that many people felt they needed to make their lives easier. He was quite happy going on long walks, taking in the beauty that nature had to offer. When he was a young lad, he enjoyed riding his bike through the park, taking a dip in the lake, and of course, bird watching. He didn't even want to understand the need to be tied to a mobile phone device all hours of the day. Not when there was so much beauty out there in the world.

Yet there they were doing exactly that.

He couldn't quite figure it out. How these boys could stare at a tiny screen, pushing dozens of buttons every few seconds.

“If only those boys could turn off those devices for five minutes...” Mr. O'Toole thought to himself. “...then maybe they could appreciate this beautiful day as much as I do.”

It almost frustrated Mr. O'Toole to see both of these young men have such disregard of their surroundings because their mobile phones took up their entire attention span. One of the boys was so drawn to his mobile phone that he caused a cyclist to swerve out of the way to avoid hitting him. The other boy almost walked directly into an outdoor garbage can, as he was too busy typing something to notice it. This prompted the other boy to point and laugh at his misfortune. Mr. O'Toole couldn't understand what the boys were saying to each other as he was too far away to overhear them. At this point, he didn't really seem to care, as he thought they had caused enough trouble. He was not impressed with either young man.

“With attitudes like that, no wonder the birds are staying away.” Mr. O'Toole said to himself.

The two boys composed themselves seconds later and went right back to typing away on their mobile phones. Mr. O'Toole could not believe his eyes. He would have thought that the boys would have learned their lesson just moments earlier, but it seemed as though they would have to learn that lesson the hard way.

The boys had now arrived at the section of the park where Mr. O'Toole was sitting. He could now get a good look at them both. One of them had messy red curls on top of his head, and was clad in a lime green hooded sweatshirt. The other one had short, dark hair, wearing a black, long-sleeved sweater with what appeared to be a logo of a giant green pig stitched on the front. But Mr. O'Toole wasn't interested in fashion critique. Instead, he wanted the boys to leave the park as soon as possible so he could go back to bird watching in peace.

Mr. O'Toole's focus soon shifted towards a small bush with tiny red berries growing on it. He knew that those berries could feed dozens of birds at once. He had gotten some of his best sightings around that bush. The last thing he wanted was for the boys to cause any damage to it.

Like clockwork, the boy cloaked in green was so focused on his phone that he failed to notice a deep crack inside the concrete of the path they were walking down. He stumbled over the crack, his phone flying out of his hands at that moment, and fell head first right into the bush. His phone smashed into several pieces beside him.

The other boy ran to the bush to check on his friend. “Are you okay, man?”

“My phone!” the other boy moaned. “I just bought it yesterday!”

Mr. O' Toole continued to watch as the boy in the black shirt attempted to pull the other boy out of the bush. The boy's attention was so focused on helping his friend that he didn't quite hear the loud chirping noise in the background.

But Mr. O'Toole heard the noise, and immediately stood up. He recognized it immediately.“That sounds like birds chirping. It couldn't be...could it?”

Sure enough, Mr. O'Toole's suspicions were correct when a pair of the very birds that he had hoped to see flew past him towards the direction of the two boys. Without warning, the two Northern Mockingbirds swooped down towards the boy wearing the black sweater, scaring him. “Hey!” the boy screamed. “Get lost, you stupid birds!!!”

Mr. O'Toole could only watch as the two birds attacked the boy in black. Because he owned every book ever printed on the subject of ornithology, he knew that if the habitat of the Northern Mockingbird was threatened in any way, they would attack the enemy to defend it.

In this case, the habitat was that bush. And the enemy was the boy with the pig on his shirt.

The boy swatted the birds away in desperation, but the birds were relentless in their attack. The boy started to run away from the birds, hoping to outrun them, but in the scuffle, his shoelace had become untied. Tripping over the lace, the boy stumbled in the direction of the river flowing through the park and before he knew what had happened, he fell head first into the water with a gigantic splash.

Mr. O'Toole could not contain his laughter as the two boys made their way out of the bush and the river respectively. “Serves those boys right.” he thought to himself.

“Those stupid birds! I'm soaked, and so is my phone!” the boy in the black cried out. “I'm gonna have to go home and change! We'll really be late for school now!”

“Come on!” the boy in green said. “Let's get out of here before those birds come back!”

And from a distance, Mr. O'Toole chuckled to himself. It had been a day that he would never forget. Not only had he gotten the chance to see the elusive Northern Mockingbird, but he also had the satisfaction of seeing two distracted boys being taught a valuable lesson by a couple of angry birds.

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