Air Aria

A tree on 10th Street. There is a glass building behind it.

It almost sounded more like squeaking bedsprings than tweets and chirps. Except that there would have been an old time hospital ward full of beds, and those beds would need to be fully exerted in a most athletic fashion to create this level of racket.

Maybe the tree was a bird version of a packed convention center exhibit hall, the echoing din of vendor and vendee voices combining to fill the cavern. Except that the pitch was much higher and frequently punctuated. The noise didn’t grow to a generalized loud buzz. It didn’t fade into the background. It was scraped, like a metal rake on concrete, onto the air.

You couldn’t actually see the birds in the tree, but there were likely hundreds. It wasn’t as much that the tree was large–although it was–but that there were a lot of birds. Peering into the dark foliage you might think you could make out the movement of a bird, but it was as likely to be the movement of a leaf. Undoubtably disturbed by a camouflaged bird. Their shiny black eyes didn’t reflect any light and their beaks and wings melted into the evening shadow of the bounteous greenery.

Walking under the tree, people only thought about birds dropping. Not the birds themselves, you know. The gray sidewalk was splashed with white splatter shapes of guano. It wasn’t slick, but it looked it. Pedestrian heads ping-ponged between carefully looking up to avoid walking into dropping poop–carefully in that they didn’t want anything falling into their eyes–and looking  down at the ground to avoid a slip and a fall onto the fresh “paint.”

But it was the shrill turbulence of peeps and warbles, and the furious rustling of leaves and branches, that drew attention. And questions. Why that tree? Why so many birds? Why this evening?

As the walkers reached the second half of the block, they forgot that they had even wondered.


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