The bird beat its wings against the ceiling in a frantic attempt to stay in the air until it could find a place to rest. Cullen turned the recessed lights on and they seemed to agitate the bird. It battered itself against the walls and then somehow found a perch on the top of a curtain rod. The window was too close to the bird to attempt to pull the screen down, so Cullen opened both of the doors to the front and side porches and watched in dismay as an army of moths collected around the lights. His wife would be cursing all the next day as she found them. He was about to reach for a broom and try to coax the bird out one of the doors when it said, “How are you, Old Sport?”
The utterance froze him. The bird was looking at him. It was not a parakeet. It was a wild bird with the brownish gray coloring of a sparrow. “I’m fine,” said Cullen, “but we have to find a way to get you out of here.”
“Gregor Samsa,” said the bird.
Cullen could not help but smile at the irony even though he knew that the bird could not possibly understand the story that he evoked.
“Mother died today, or was it yesterday,” said the bird.
“I’m sorry for your loss,” said Cullen. It was an automatic response and Cullen wondered if it made any more sense that what the bird was saying.
The bird cawed. “Ahab was not my first husband.”
“Did someone teach you these things?”
“Terror is a secret cause,” said the bird.
Cullen was confused. It was 3 AM and he had no idea how this bird had gotten into his living room but that was a question for another time. At first, it was simply an annoyance and he wanted to shoo it out so he could go back to sleep. Now a part of him wanted the bird to stay long enough to have this mystery unraveled. The bird seemed to be breathing fast enough so that its whole body trembled.
“Romance at short notice was her specialty,” said the bird.
“You are well read,” said Cullen. He laughed at himself. He talked to his plants and did not find that absurd but they didn’t talk back. Still holding the broom, he walked out of the room, poured himself a drink and then came back. He moved the dog’s water bowl to a spot underneath the bird and had a momentary rush of panic at the chaos that would result if the dog discovered the intruder. He calmed himself when he remembered that he had closed the bedroom door when his wife had come upstairs to tell him that there was a bird in the house. He rested the broom stick across his lap.
“It made a difference to that one,” said the bird.
Cullen was a bit shocked. The bird seemed to be quoting from books that were all in his library. He had a good collection but it was not the most extensive and it was surely eclectic.
“The conditions of a solitary bird,” said the bird.
Cullen took a sip of his brandy. “Can I get a nevermore?”
“Nevermore, Nevermore, lost Lenore,” said the bird.
Cullen had a large cage that he had used when the dog had needed to be isolated because of an injury. He put his brandy down and retrieved the cage from a closet. He unfolded it as the bird watched and cawed, “Nevermore, nevermore, Lost Lenore…” The bird repeated it incessantly as Cullen unfolded the cage and snapped its rails into place. He placed the cage on its end with the entrance pointed up and the entrance flap open and hanging to the side.
“Heaven and earth Horatio,” cawed the bird.
When Cullen extended the handle edge of the broom, the bird jumped into a frantic flight of flapping wings that that struck against the walls and then the ceiling again and then the walls once more. Cullen spun the broom around and with the straw end herded the bird down into the cage and then quickly closed the flap.
He winced as he saw the scratch marks the cage was making on his newly refinished floor as he dragged it towards the door with the frantically trapped bird inside. He managed to get the cage to the open doorway and then out on the porch. He closed the door in back of him and opened the entrance flap to free the bird.
“Heaven and earth Horatio,” said the bird. And then it flew out into the pre-dawn sky.
Cullen smiled and said almost wistfully, “It was nice to meet you.”
He decided to leave the cage on the porch until morning and walked around to close the other door just as the bird flew back into the house.
“Miles to go before I sleep,” said the bird.
In spite of his frustration, Cullen laughed, shook his head and headed back upstairs.
“This is going to be the start of a beautiful relationship,” he said over his shoulder.