Seed

I wrote this some time in the 1970s. The conversation with the Honda garage actually happened; some times life hands you the best lines.

* * *

It was the bills I think. First there was the bill from the power company, and then the telephone company, and then one for auto insurance. I rarely take the car out. And when I do, it’s to the garage for a checkup. The checkups come by months, because I never run up the required mileage.

“How come you never take the car out?” Tony said on the phone.

“I don’t go anywhere,” I replied.

“Why don’t you take your girlfriend out for a drive?”

“I don’t have a girlfriend.”

“I’ll get you one.”

Now that’s a service department, but I thought it best to turn him down. I wasn’t much in the mood for a girlfriend. All I could see were more bills. A suit here, a dinner there, and then a divorce. My last divorce was only $75, but my lawyer is in a bigger office now, with carpets and everything.

And then someone broke into the apartment downstairs, and that was about it. The old day-to-day was just too much. I made some quiet arrangements with a few trusted friends, and moved into a bird cage.

It’s a very nice bird cage. I have a little mirror with a bell, two long bars to perch on, and a swing. I get water in a little ceramic receptacle, and seed in a matching holder across the way.

At night they drape a white towel around my home, and I fall asleep in the filtered glow of a single reading lamp and the television.

I can see how people harboring similar fantasies of withdrawal might be curious about how I did it, legitimately curious. Well, you have to get very small and feathery. I accomplished this through diet, and the proper mental attitude.

You have to enjoy seed. I eat it all day, and I never get bored. There are different kinds. Some is regular, and some is “songbird seed.” This latter type makes you a little high, and you warble a little tune. I eat a lot of “songbird seed.”

For times when I want to gnaw on something (and you still need that, even when you’re a bird), I have a big cuttlebone wired to the side of the cage. A few minutes of hard chewing and I’m as good as new. Keeps my bill filed down, too.

I didn’t tell many people where I was going so I don’t have many visitors. But one friend came and stood outside my cage for a long time.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” he said.

I hopped on my swing and rocked absentmindedly, avoiding his eyes.

“You know a lot of people were counting on you.”

I side-stepped over to the mirror and gave it a few taps with my beak, listened to the bell ring.

“Susan’s very upset; she thinks it’s her fault.”

“It’s not her fault,” I tried to say, but it came out as a chirp.

He turned away and said “oh brother” under his breath; I haven’t seen him since. Not that I can really see anything anymore, in the conventional way. For a while I listened to the news, and the weather, but the weather isn’t very important in here, and words have become harder and harder to understand. The sparrows in the trees outside, though, are making more and more sense.

Occasionally, just before bed, someone opens the cage door and strokes my feathers, just below my neck. I remember people then, and I think about going back. Early last Friday evening, I heard a familiar voice through the wire.

“I’ve brought you an enchilada and a cold beer. I’m leaving your door open.”

I sat very still, and after a long while someone came and softly closed the door, and draped the towel over the cage. It’s so quiet here, and peaceful. But you have to like seed.

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