Excerpt from Bernadette Peters Hates Me
Free Range Bird
I am obsessed with food, and not in the way that immediately comes to mind when a fat man types those words. I am constantly reading labels and trying to find organic products on my quest to be a healthy person. My normal diet is mostly vegetarian, and I have even considered going vegan (ok, I have read about the vegan lifestyle). I am a member of a CSA—community supported agriculture—farm, which basically means I get large baskets of fresh, locally grown, organic fruit and vegetables each week without having to actually tend a farm.
Regardless of how much I support local farms, I still have to go the grocery store each week for a lot of my food, and even then, I still try to buy organic products. Living in the Appalachian Mountains in a rural Kentucky town seriously hinders this effort. You don’t find much locally grown baby bok choy in the produce aisle at the Sav-A-Lot or the Piggly Wiggly.
As a result, not only do I have to leave the local farms and mom-and-pop grocery stores behind, but I also have to shop at the giant mega-grocery stores. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good outing to Sam’s Club or Costco and buying huge bulk items, usually large pallets of dog food to feed our normal sized Dudley and the horse-who-thinks-he-is-a-dog, Duke. Plus, there is a certain comfort in knowing that I will have enough olive oil to supply my entire cul-de-sac or that I will not run out of toilet paper should my entire household get stricken with a nasty stomach virus.
My main concern about these high-ceilinged superstores can be boiled down into two words: trapped birds. I am deathly afraid of these trapped birds. You all have noticed them. They are always there, lurking. You are minding your own business, trying to decide on which flavor of Hamburger Helper to buy when suddenly it does a fly by. You know the stupid bird is scared to death. He probably just flew into the Walmart supercenter to grab one of those bird-seed concoctions molded into the shape of a bell for dinner when he lost his bearings. He can’t find his way out of the store, and he is now in panic mode. The saying “bird brain” was invented for a reason: they have small ones, and they don’t use what they have that well.
Why be scared of such a tiny bird? Why be so bitter towards a poor, struggling animal? Perhaps I am overreacting, you say? I beg to differ. A couple of years ago, I was accosted by an angry, terrified bird in a Kroger MegaGrand Store. I honestly can say I will never be the same, and neither will that dumb bird. Here’s how it went down:
I ran into the grocery after work to pick up a few items. For convenience, I stopped at the store that was closer to work, so it was not my home Kroger. All the produce was placed in completely different places, and I walked around aimlessly trying to find the organic section, in particular, the celery. I was standing in front of a large display of carefully pyramided cantaloupe when out of the corner of my eye, I spotted something dark and ominous. It was a bird, maybe a sparrow, flying at what appeared to be the speed of a fully engrossed Indy car. I stood there and thought to myself, “Huh, that bird looks like it’s flying directly toward me.” The next thing I know I feel something repeatedly beating me about the head and ear, and I hear the FLAP FLAP FLAP of bird wings. “OH GOD! HELP ME!” I yelled, flailing both arms up in the air trying to fight off the crazed bird. I was feeling around for a celery stalk to use as a sword, and in my panic, I jumped back directly into the large display of cantaloupe. At this point, the bird had tired of terrorizing me and had flown away to target its next victim over in the dairy section, but I was still flailing my arms, rolling in the floor with about fifty cantaloupes.
After I was sure I was bird-free, I looked around at the scene. Gasping and out of breath, I was on my knees surrounded by a sea of cantaloupe, some still whole but most cracked open and oozing. My hair was tousled, my shirt had come untucked, and I was clutching my organic celery sword as if my life depended on it. The lady who had been restocking the iceberg lettuce rushed over to me while all the other shoppers in the produce section stared as if I’d just decided to do a back flip into the cantaloupe for no reason at all, like I was some sort of freakish, produce trouble maker. “Sir, are you ok?!” the lady asked. I couldn’t respond. I was incredibly embarrassed and just wanted to get out of the store.
I tried to maintain some level of grace, and finally told the woman, “Someone ought to do something about that bird.” She looked around either trying to see the bird or to look for security. Regardless, I could tell she did not believe I had been attacked. “Did you not see it?” I asked incredulously.
“Um, yes sir, yes,” she said as she helped me to my feet.
I made my way to the check-out getting madder with each step. That stupid bird had totally punked me right there in the produce section. He had done it so quickly and stealth-like that no one else had apparently even seen it. Stupid bird. Everyone just thought I was a big goober who had attacked the fresh fruit. Argh, that bird! I knew he was somewhere in the rafters of the store looking at me and laughing. I decided to gather what was left of my dignity and pay for my celery (no cantaloupe) and go home. Thank goodness this was not my home Kroger store.
The entire time my items were being scanned and bagged, the clerk kept looking at my shirt. I thought she had a look on her face that said, “I really want to laugh right now, but I will wait until you leave.” I assumed she had seen the incident, so I just ignored her. When I looked down to swipe my debit card, I noticed it. That bird—that vile, evil bird—had pooped all over my maroon button down. The stark white mess went from my shoulder, down my arm, and glared like it would glow-in-the dark against the color of my shirt. I looked up immediately and scanned the ceiling. I think I said something like, “You people need to get your bird problem under control,” to the clerk and then marched out the door, horrified.
So heed my warning, when you see a bird trapped inside a large store, be very careful. Know that it is stupid. Know that it is vicious. Know that it is ticked off because it’s too dumb to find the exit, and it’s looking to make someone pay. You do not want to end up being on the security camera blooper reel at the Kroger Employee Christmas Party. I have been there, and it ain’t pretty.
Keith Stewart’s strange adventures usually occur near his Appalachian hometown of Hyden, Kentucky, although he can be just as easily found wandering the streets of nearby Lexington at any given moment. Before he shed his corporate identity, he worked as a certified public accountant for a multi-national company. He now enjoys less stressful work with much less pay, blogs at www.astrongmanscupoftea.com, and is as happy as a clam with his husband Andy, and their two dogs, Duke and Dudley. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and been published in several anthologies, Kudzu, and Pine Mountain Sand and Gravel. He is contributor for HumorOutcasts.com and the GoodMedProject.com.
Bernadette Peters Hates Me is available on Amazon.
Paul De Lancey