LAST TUESDAY, MY DAUGHTER AND HER BOYFRIEND invited me to dinner at the boyfriend’s parent’s house. They said it was an important “next step” in their relationship, all of the parents finally meeting. I am not a sociable man. This was true before my wife died and it remains probably truer since her passing after a lengthy battle with colon cancer just over two years ago.
But my daughter is my daughter, and I confess, if there were anyone living who could get me to step out of my “shell” and down from my happy perch of isolation it would be her. This was a difficult thing to agree to, nevertheless. I’ve grown accustomed to my privacy, which primarily consists of studying my birds, tending my collections of amateur ornithology equipment and miscellanea, and spending most of my time with idle thoughts affixed to birds of all kinds, real and imagined. Oh yes, the birds I’ve made come to life in my own mind.
At my daugher’s persistent insurgency cut with remonstrations and harangue, I finally gave ground and offered that I would attend dinner provided she would, for the time being, let me return to my birds, which she happily did. Then she physically left, and I returned to concentrating on birds, as was my preference.
My daughter phoned me a day or two later and said she was certain I’d enjoy the company of the boyfriend’s parents. Evidently before they retired they had held quite significant renown in the profession of taxidermy, and had a special affinity for birds’ preservation. I met this news enthusiastically and, for the first time, brightened at the thought of meeting them. I will consult them of their joy for birds, I thought.
I wore my best flannel, a collared shirt crosshatched in the traditional red and black stripes. Further accoutrement included blue jeans, gray socks and my favorite pair of shoes, the white ones with Velcro. The shirt may have been washed recently or set on a line to air out for awhile, either possibility now rapidly become an extraneous detail I have since put behind me. Without prompting, my daughter said my casual dress was fine, rather well anticipated.
She and I arrived on Saturday morning at a whitewashed and gabled cottage, said to be the parents’ summer home. It was free of much in the way of decoration, as for example, there were no frills adorning the gabled roof. There was a rosy smell in the air, attributable no doubt to the rosebushes that comprised the lion’s share of personality extant in the vicinity. Besides that, they had an antique weather vane propped up on a pole among their garden’s roses. For reasons I feel will be obvious, it immediately attracted my full attention.
At first glance the weather vane appeared to be an aged brass rooster set above the weather vane’s compass, per custom. However, being the studied bird enthusiast I am I noted the engraved plumage’s detail was all wrong; its bill was that of a bird of prey, though relatively small and somewhat blunted for its size; and it was missing the characteristic comb and wattles so immediately identifiable as rooster.
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by Sanjeev Sethi
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