This morning your friendly bartender will not be pouring from behind the stick, for we’re taking a trip to that faraway land called Long Island. (Forty five minutes by train if you catch the Express.) And be warned, the adventure encountered on this journey from the city… this tale you’re about to take in… is not only true and a profile in courage and heroism, but a white knuckle chronicle of man versus most feral beast. In fact even as I sit here and recall this adventure, two years removed from its happening, I still get a shiver and wonder how I summoned the pluck!
We had just finished a brilliant lunch prepared by my loving sister when, as per usual, I plopped myself on the couch in the den and readied my brain to take on the New York Times puzzle. But then Sis stepped into the picture suggesting, rather sensibly it seemed at the time, “Since it’s such a beautiful day why don’t we take a nice walk instead of lying around?” Well, I had to admit, there was sense in that suggestion as I pondered Six Down on the page before me (three letter word for Yalie), for it truly was one of those perfect days… one of those crisp, autumnal Saturday afternoons that people actually get in their cars and drive out to see. And so before I could pen the word “Eli” in the blanks the two of us were kicking up leaves on a lush country lane.
Now here’s where it gets rather dangerous, dear reader, so if you’re wearing a hat have the good sense to hold on to it. For as Sis and I rounded a turn in the road and pointed our sneakers in the direction of the Great South Bay, a pheasant scurried out of the brush and ran along side me. I mean a beautiful, wild-ass, ring neck right out of nowhere. It was magical! “Isn’t this tremendous?” I said, being a true lover of nature, “this bird’s gonna actually join us for our little walk.” I remember feeling a sense of privilege at the time, like I’d been chosen and somehow accepted into nature’s warm bosom. You know, like this bird had sensed my inner St. Francis of Assisi or something. Or my Joy Adamson to Elsa the freaking lioness.
But after about two hundred paces of this magical stroll… this arm-in-wing romp with Ringo the ring neck… something quite strange transpired that rocked the dynamic. My fine feathered friend suddenly ran on ahead, “Aw no, don’t tell me it’s leaving!” stopped in its tracks, turned to face us then started to walk straight towards me to back me down. I’m talkin’, don’t-take-another-step, kind of back me down. And the damn bird meant it! For as I tried to go to my left, it scurried to its right to prevent it. If I tried move to my right, it scurried to its left to prevent that. And if I stomped my foot and lunged straight ahead which I ultimately did in an attempt to scare it away, it ran towards me and proceeded to dig in harder. What the St. Francis and Joy is going on here?
Well, I have to admit (and it pains me to do so) that I, your most friendly bartender, in possession of body of steel and mien most intrepid, because of this odd behavior exhibited by Ringo the kick-ass ring neck… this not-in-the-rule-book, freak-azoid, avian flip out… fear began to creep into my soul and I started to feel less like man of steel than I did the actress Tippi Hedren in the movie The Birds. And in this case instead of a thousand gulls swooping menacingly at my head, I had a mo-fo pheasant calling me out! But this is where the courage comes in and thank God I own it.
“You better step away, Sis,” I said in a take-charge voice. “Who knows where this could lead,” I added for effect. Then peeling off my jacket so I could twirl it over my head in an attempt to scare it… and of course to defend my superior species now being challenged… I turned to see if dear Sis had taken my warning. And Sis duly had. But why is she smiling and trying to suppress a laugh? Doesn’t she know I’m trying to save her life here??? Then back to the task of man versus beast I rolled up my autumn-weight jacket, raised it aloft and twirled it around like a nasty propeller most lethal, but instead of scaring “the beast” I only enraged it. It was now taking flight and dive-bombing straight for my face. What the Shit???
“Get back!” I yelled at my winged attacker, stomping my foot as I yelled, “Get back! Get back! Get back!” but to no avail. Then I roared some more this singular phrase in what I was convinced was an intimidating basso, but what I later found out in sisterly love was a basso soon turned to soprano with each new yelp. Hmmm, so that’s why Sis was laughing behind my back.
“GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME,” I (trilled?) one last futile time, for I now had to decide on one of two drastic measures. And, being a lover of nature as I stated before, instead of wringing its neck which was option one, I turned on my heel and ran for (its) fucking life.
Good God what a sight this must’ve been, to which sister’s howling gave testimony, for here was a grown man running down the road like a bat out of hell being chased by a pheasant from hell. And all the while dodging its beak which sought serious piercing. Top that Mr. Hitchcock! And what made this all even more embarrassing, as if this wasn’t enough, some guy passing by in a station wagon slowed down to ask with a smile just dying to widen, “Do you think you need any help over there, my man?” “No, I’m cool,” I answered with a snap, in what I know was a definite basso, then I continued my mad fucking dash for big Sis’s house. Ah, but when I got to said asylum (does this Twilight Zone episode never end?) the door was locked and my sister was holding the keys.
Well, I can’t say, “Let’s cut to the chase,” dear reader, ’cause we’ve already had that chase, but the upshot of the whole ordeal came about like this. The goddam bird had me pinned against the door while I waited for my sister to catch up, and it continued its swooping and diving in Kamikaze splendor. Until finally, from a distance that was safe for Sis when she mercifully arrived, she hurled me her keys hitting me in the chest and after at least the fifth or sixth try… each of which entailed swatting at the bird, sticking in a key, swatting at the bird, sticking in another key not knowing which would work… I finally opened the door and fell into the entryway. Then Sis ran around to the back of the house where I (still not understanding her doubled-up laughter) safely let her slip in through the back door. End of story.
Epilog: For hours the bird perched on the fence just outside the kitchen window, staring into the house and the rest of my day. How weird is that?
Sad Ending: We came to find out that Ringo the pheasant met with an untimely demise, having taken on a neighbor with a much different view of nature.
Happy Ending: Now when I visit my sister, and after each little lovely lunch, I usually just plop on the couch and tackle the puzzle.
Over and out from the front lines, see ya’ next week-end!