Afterwards the police spokesman said that it had been the most egregious example of stalking they had ever seen. The perp would stand for hours outside her house---on one leg and on the roof; and had even built a large, crude and rather ungainly nest on top of her chimney.
The reason that that sudden strange fancy came into my head as I walked down to the Fusion Cafe this morning is that I am myself being stalked1---by a sparrow no less! And I’ve just run off to escape all its malevolent fluttering.
You see, it all began upon a midnight dreary (or rather, since this is me we are talking about, around nine o’clock last night; though as it happened I was actually pondering over a curious volume of forgotten lore---at least I think Maureen Halsall’s edition of the Old English Rune Poem qualifies). Anyway suddenly and from behind me there came a loud and uncertain rustling that filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before, or at least not felt since that time the mouse ran across my cubical floor at work, and that was during the day!
And at first I thought it had merely been an outside noise that had fooled me; a ventriloquist perhaps scraping with a stick along my outside wall as he passed and nothing more.
And then: Oh! horror!
Again it came!!
And this time I was facing the source and got the full stereo effect.
And to my horror I realised it was coming from...
From...Now seems a good time to break the narrative flow to tell you somewhat of the layout of the room. As you might guess I have many a quaint and curious volume of both forgotten and even quite well remembered lore, and most of them live in a set of bookcases; the first of these running along that outside wall and next to the window, then two, back to back coming out into the room, and a final two running again along the wall, making in all a sort of ‘T’. In order to avoid the uprights of any of the bookcases getting in the way of retrieving books from the inside corners, this means that there had to be a gap--a sort of well behind the meeting of the cases about ten inches by twenty, an unavoidable void that I ignore year by year and that is filled year by year with nothing but dust and the odd, usually dead, insect.
And to my horror I realised the rustling, fluttering noises were coming from the void!
I, of course did what any self-respecting Englishman of my age and class would do---I sort of panicked and then immediately over-compensated and tried to scrabble up the bookcases so see just what sort of vile monster I was facing, without first considering the vile materials now used in construction so that the second shelf I trod on collapsed, spilling its contents and me on the floor. It was a shelf of twentieth century poets---Hughes, Auden, McNeice, Eliot, Larkin and the like, and we all know how well they can look after themselves so all in all it could have been worse.
And so I rethought and regrouped, and got a stool and a torch and cleared some space and gazed down into the void.
There gazing back at me and intermittently and ineffectually fluttering was---a small sparrow. And since sparrows are not VTO aircraft (nor VTO birds for that matter) it couldn’t fly out.
How, I asked (and still ask) myself, how in the name of all that’s feathery could a sparrow get into my apartment and behind my bookcases?2 Was it the dreaded Wall Burrowing Sparrow or was it perhaps the magics of the fabled Transmigrational Sparrow that were involved---pentagrams and birds in black and sigil-studded cloaks dabbling in Dark Arts of the sort that are best left undabbled in.
I immediately called Ron-the-Landlord for help, but his only suggestion, of using a shopvac on the thing, I immediately rejected on the grounds of “Yeuuuch!”, and went to bed, hoping the bird would do the same.
Then, the very next morning, I called the DFW Area Wildlife Hotline. And a delightful young lady called Lucy listened to my woes (largely, I suspect, because she thought they were really the bird’s woes) and then suggested that the bird might be able to climb out if I let down a rope of towels or sheets knotted together, but since the thing was not yet doing the 7 to 10 in Attica that it so richly deserved, I followed her other suggestion and got a small fishing net and went bird fishing. And it worked! I opened the door and attached the net’s pole to a dowel as an extension and caught it and dragged it up to the top of the bookcases and as soon as it saw daylight it was off.
I later saw the damn thing on the tree outside my apartment, happily progressing from stalking to criminal damage, on the roof of my car.
I’m off now to the car wash so...
Cheerio for now
1 If you are reading this rather than hearing it, remember that it is a spoken piece and in my idiolect the words 'stork' and 'stalk' are indistinguishable.
Oh yes! and *storking, defined as ‘following in the manner of a demented stork (usually under the influence of Konrad Lorenz )’ isn’t in the OED, though storkling; ‘a young stork’ and storkish: ‘of, pertaining to, or resembling a stork’ are.
2 Actually, I suppose, since I don’t own a bust of Pallas, once it was in the room there was nowhere else that the poor thing could go.
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