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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA



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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

War of the Warblers

I’m locked in a battle of wills. With a real birdbrain. And I’m losing. I’ll explain.

Close by our house, the neighbors have a tree. It’s a nice tree — full of branches and shade and life-giving oxygen. I have no beef with this tree, in the matter that follows. Don’t go thinking I’m some sort of tree-bashing psycho nutjob. The tree and I are tight, yo.

(Except in the fall, when the jackass tree drops all its leaves on my damned grass, and I’ve got to rake them up. That’s uncalled for. Do I dump my coffee grinds on this tree’s roots? No. Do I fling my garbage onto its trunk? Certainly not. Do I drop trou and whiz all up in it’s boughs?

Well, okay, but just the once. And that was on a bet. I still say I would have hit that squirrel, too, if the cops hadn’t shown up. I demand a re-pee.)

“I don’t know whether they’re nesting, or courting, or maybe they’re running a bird sex line out of the tree, offering chats with ‘plumper pigeons’ and ’round robins’ for $3.99 per minute.”

Rather, it’s what’s in the tree that’s causing the problem. We’ve got birds. Chatty, chirping, chubby little birds, chittering away from dawn till dusk. They’re constantly there. I don’t know whether they’re nesting, or courting, or maybe they’re running a bird sex line out of the tree, offering chats with ‘plumper pigeons’ and ’round robins’ for $3.99 per minute. I can’t say. But if I ever manage to get that husky-voiced whippoorwill on the line, you can hold my other calls. Rrrrrawr!

All I know is, other than on positively frigid mornings, these songbirds commence their cawing at some fairly unholy early hours. Eight, seven thirty, even seven in the morning. Gosh!

(Probably earlier, I bet. But I’m a pretty heavy sleeper before seven o’clock or so. You could probably throw one of those birds down my pants at six AM, and I wouldn’t stop snoozing.

I’m not suggesting you actually test my theory, of course. I don’t want a bullfinch in my BVDs any more than the next guy. And quite probably, less.)

This was the schedule, for most of the past few weeks. I doze blissfully until around seven thirty, then *chirp chirp chirp* go the birds, up I wake, shake a fist at the window, and the day begins. They were like a fully-organic alarm clock, powered by earthworms and sunflower seeds, letting me sleep late-ish but not too late. Not bad.

That was, until last week.

Last week, we installed a set of wind chimes on the porch.

(When I say ‘installed’, I mean ‘hung precariously on a rusty nail’.)

(And when I say ‘we’, I mean ‘my wife’.)

(The other words in the sentence mean more or less what you’d expect them to mean. Just letting you know. I’ll shut up now.)

In a way, the wind chimes were our little measure of revenge on the birds. The chimes are clearly within earshot of the tree, and this is New England — it’s always breezy around here. So the chimes are constantly jangling and tinkling about. And, presumably, waking up the birds in the middle of the night.

(So we’re lousy neighbors, even to the avians in the area. What the hell did you expect?)

The birds’ counterpunch to this affront has been to sing at just about any time of the morning, afternoon, or — especially — the darkest dead of night. In other words, the time when we’re trying to get to sleep. Frantically trying, because we know those birds; even with their circadian clocks out of whack, they’ll cluck loudest, longest, and seemingly closest to the bedroom window just around seven in the morning. The fact that some of them are taking a graveyard shift to play ‘cuckoo karaoke’ at three AM isn’t important. That wakeup chirp’s a-coming.

So now we sleep by trying to drown the birds out — window fans work okay for this, but sometimes distort the bird calls into a haunting, eerily oscillating sort of noise. It sounds like the love child of Big Bird and Bjork yodeling underwater. Try sleeping with that nightmare in your ears, why don’t you?

My inclination is to fight back. I’m more highly evolved than these feather-flaunting fusspots; surely I can ‘persuade’ them to take their cranky crowing elsewhere. I’m thinking of strapping speakers to the tree, and blasting ‘Cat Scratch Fever‘ at them all night for a couple of weeks. That’d learn them to screw around with a guy with opposable thumbs and a stereo cassette deck.

I’m worried that wouldn’t be the end of it, though. These birds have already shown a stubborn resilience by staying close by the wind chimes. What if matters only escalated further? I’m a busy guy, folks — the very last thing I need is a cheesed-off sparrow with a bullhorn outside my window at four o’clock every morning, screaming:

TWEET, MOTHER FUCKER! TWEET! TWEET!!!

So I guess it’s back to wearing earplugs to bed, and adopting stray cats to patrol the tree at night. The birds have won, at least until I can think of a way to strap their beaks shut. I never thought it would come to this. These battles of wits are for the birds!

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