I’m a Magpie
We woke up this morning to an eviscerated bird on the dock near our front steps. Don’t worry; I didn’t take pictures. In fact, nerving up to look directly at the thing took me the better part of an hour.
As a nearly lifelong vegetarian, I sometimes worry that my body lacks some essential moxie vitamin, some sort of grit and determination derived from an iron-rich diet. I don’t deal well with dead or gross things. I rarely cook meat, and when I do, I have to steel myself to touch or even look at it. Birds especially. They’re just so anatomically complete. In fact, Brian usually has to cook his own annual thanksgiving game hen, and this year he said he’d actually rather forego the pleasure and not have to watch me flinch as he eats the thing.
Basically, what I’m trying to say here is that I’m a wimp. I don’t deal well with death, bodies, blood, or guts. In a crisis, I am somewhere down the scale from useless.
So this morning, when there was a dead thing on the dock between me and the world, I started from the assumption that someone else would have to deal with it. Brian, most likely.
But Brian was out getting coffee, and I wanted a shower. Though our boat does have one, it’s a small, piddly affair, with a slow drain that means water pools about your ankles from the first minute onward. The marina bathrooms, by contrast, have strong, fire-hose-like showers with endless hot water and drains that I’ve never had to give a second thought. But between me and my hot shower lay The Bird.
So why shouldn’t I be the one to deal with it? I would like to be the person who takes care of things, who rises to the occasion. For the last month or so, I’ve been in a decided funk, haunted by a sense of abiding failure. So, if my lack of competency is the problem, shouldn’t being the person who deals with the grossness help?
For my first attempt, I went out with just a single trash bag, then retreated, gagging, at my first full on look at the thing. (I won’t describe it here, because really. Gag.). I retreated all the way back to bed, pulling the covers over me and Skyping plaintively to Brian. “I tried to clean up the bird.” I wrote. “[puke face]“.
“It’s okay,” he Skyped back. “I’ll take care of it when I get home.”
I lay there for a minute, feeling sorry for myself, and for the bird, and for anyone who happened to walk past. Brian will deal with it.
It was then, dear reader, that iron entered my soul. I am not the sort of shrinking woman who swooned while her husband confronted life’s crueler moments. I live on a boat. I am thirty-five. Nature is outside my door and I face it head on.
But first, I put on my Wellingtons. And then I put on two pairs of gloves and gathered up no less than four trash bags. And then, gagging and flapping my hands and apologizing (to the bird, for some reason) throughout, I cleaned up the mess.
And then I took a shower.
I'm a librarian. Special skills include dog charming, brochure writing, slapdash cooking and long-winded nattering. I also enjoy watching the sunset's reflection in the tall buildings downtown.
For a while there, I taught classes on Classical literature, philosophy, and the history of religion at New College of California. I have an MA and an MFA in Writing, and live on a boat in Sausalito, CA.