No Birds Sang
by Teo Hedigan
There are no such thing as birds, and everyone knows it. If you ask my uncle, he’s never seen one. But then again, he’s a bartender. And he’s not even my uncle, he’s my dad’s cousin. My friend Gabby said she once had a pet bird, until a detective knocked on her door in the middle of the night and confiscated the creature. It was all screeching and talons, she said. She says a lot of things, though, and has a lot of nightmares. Gabby has caused disturbances before, and I think it was a rat in a costume anyway. In truth, the absence of birds makes everyone sing a little louder, chirp a little more. People look up to the sky, and I’m sure some think of the myth of birds. Nostalgia for something that never happened. But some of us are inspired by this absence – to flap our elbows or grow wings. And the poems, all the poems that no birds inspired. My favorite is NO BIRDS by Pope Edgar Allen II:
and the sky turned orange
and no birds sang, only me and my little brother
no birds ran away from home
or stole from the bride or groom
no starlings disrupted our dinner
no birds danced and none learned to fly
none defecated on my holy mercedes benz –
so now i glide through a crowd of believers
on a four-wheeler
they chant NO BIRDS
and i’m proud of the world’s children
A small group of deluded farmers live in Long Island, devoted to the myth of birds. They host a summer camp, and read to children about things with crystal eyes and blue, red, and yellow feathers. As the campers grow older, they are exposed to more and more bird stories. Propaganda. By 15 years old, they start to read about grey, beady eyed birds called pigeons. Pigeon birds roam around big cities and only eat bread and rats, apparently. These farmers are ranked among the most dangerous organizations in the United States, but loopholes in the law allow them to continue preaching. The thing is our laws are not very good, or very specific at all. Lots of things go on that should be stopped, and lots of things can’t go on that should be started. Including bird education camps like the one in Long Island – this should never be allowed in the first place, yet it grows bigger every year. Granted, most local politicians are elected on the basis of who can shoot the most clay pigeons tossed into the air in 3 minutes.
Once a few pals and I started a bread baking organization. We made pastries that people could purchase and send as gifts. The gift would come with our anti-bird pamphlets, which most people seemed to enjoy. We had to warn customers about leaving pieces of bread outdoors, in case they would attract unwanted creatures like pigeons. Even though there are no birds. We have our principles, what are we without them? Anyway, after a year or so we were shut down by a detective, because the laws are very strict when it comes to food allergies. This can be traced back to a simple typo in the massive Dorito Recall case in 2019. It was meant to be a big step forward in preventing unnecessary food-related deaths, but it wound up changing the way we live altogether. It read: “No persons or organizations shall make food capable of harming anyone.” Of course, it should have said “with intent” rather than “capable”. This new law introduced a comprehensive ban on cooking or baking, as there exist serious allergies to almost all ingredients you can think of. Since then, we can only buy frozen meals and pastries from the store and reheat them. My favorites are from the 7/11 – there are these delectable mini hamburgers, and the nice cashier who gives me cigarettes and drinks Jägermeister on his breaks. Still, we’ve got to trust the system. And some scholars have pointed out a silver lining – with no pieces of bread lying on the street, there’s no chance in hell a bird could soar down from the sky, find a meal waiting for him, and mistake us for welcoming them with open arms. All it takes is one bird, my uncle would say.
One of my former business partners would tell me that, if birds were to descend on the Earth, they would have no idea and simply sing and defecate at all hours. Imagine the horror. The only thing separating us from badgers, mice, and tadpoles is our ability to sing our way out of all sorts of situations and depressions. Singing is all we’ve got, and we can’t start sharing it. I pity the ignorant bird of the future, who arrives with a happy song to sing. A logistical nightmare.
Tonight at 6pm, like every Monday, we’ll all get together as a community and boo birds. Sometimes we cheer the absence of birds, but mostly boo the idea of them. People just love to make noise. It really brings us closer, gives us a reason to be. Raison d’être, as I like to say. Some people think I’m saying “raisin catcher” but I tell them it’s French and has a much deeper meaning. Philosophical, maybe even metaphysical. I caught a drink with the 7/11 guy, George, on his break the other day. I asked what his raison d’être was and he took a long swig of Jäger. The New York Mets, he said, and my beautiful family. As he turned to me, his eyes glimmered in such a way that I thought he might weep – but he grinned ruefully. I told him I’d like to go fishing with him at the East River some day, and for a second I thought I might weep. We decided we’d do that in the summer, and that we’d meet every Monday at 6pm to make noise and drink, read books and whatnot.