Bird Brain

by Veronica Montes

I have a number of questions that carousel through my brain on an ongoing basis, and chief amongst them is this: where do birds go to die? This would be easy enough to research. I could tie a rope around my waist, dive into the Internet morass, and emerge with the answer in a few moments. I’m not desperate to know, though. I’m more…desperate to wonder. Why are the streets not strewn with bird bodies? Why have each of us not been hit in the head—multiple times!—by a lifeless bird spiraling out of the sky? Why do we not see dead birds everywhere?

Perhaps they use up their last bit of bird energy to tunnel beneath leaves, and we crush them underfoot without ever knowing. Or maybe they heave themselves into bushes or between the roots of trees, expire without fanfare, and are soon carried away by cats, raccoons, squirrels. When I was younger I got it stuck in my head—possibly with an assist from Walt Disney—that sickly birds were cared for by charitable deer. That deer were somehow the nurses of the avian world, using their velvety noses to nudge their winged friends to safe havens where they might recover and take flight once again.

As if deer don’t have enough to worry about already.

Confession: I am not a passionate lover of non-human animals. Beyond this question of death, I have little desire to learn anything about birds, really. Not their names or their strange, feathered histories. I don’t care about their biology or the logic behind where they fly and when. Starling murmuration and elaborate mating rituals give me pause (I’m looking at you, peacocks), but not enough to keep me awake at night.

Once, when seated next to a psychotherapist at a dinner party, I told him about an issue that I have (the specifics of which I will not reveal here; you’re welcome) with majestic, beastly swans.

“What does it mean?” I asked.

He stared at me while chewing thoughtfully on a stale roll. “Darling,” he answered. “You don’t want to know.”

You don’t want to know.

Maybe I don’t want to know where birds go to die.

Maybe birds should be, for me, like love and loyalty. Things that don’t require an explanation, in other words. Things that simply exist and then cease to exist, well outside the boundaries of why and how and what for.

Thanks for reading! My collection of short fiction, Benedicta Takes Wing, is forthcoming from Philippine American Literary House in 2017. Learn more here.

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