She didn’t see it when the bird flew in her window. One moment she was driving her little coupe down the boulevard and wondering where her daughter might be this time, and the next there was a flutter and a thump at her passenger’s side door. She’d just passed a group of teenaged boys, three of them out walking together, one pushing another, all laughing, and then there was this flutter-thump!
Those little brats threw something at me! she thought, and she glanced over, looking for a crack or a smear. There was nothing, just a crumpled-up bag on the passenger seat, no doubt left behind by her daughter. Then the bag gave a little shake and started flapping around the interior of the car.
It’s a bird, Agnes thought. She didn’t scream or wave her hands or swerve. She wasn’t given to drama — that’s why she was so frustrated right now with her daughter. Her daughter had left the house screaming and slamming doors last night and still wasn’t home this morning.
She’d pull over and open the doors as soon as she could. The street was an urban artery, four-lanes at a 35 speed limit. She rolled down the passenger window. The sudden wind seemed to excite the bird who flew around the back seat and ponked itself against another window. It went quiet. God, it didn’t die, did it?
Then it fluttered up and hit her in the back of the head. Oh, this wasn’t going to do at all!
She pulled into a parking lot — some payday loan crackhole with a bright yellow sign and red letters — and got out of the car. She looked into the back window.
She didn’t know birds. It was just some brown little thing with a smear of red feathers around the edges and an orange beak. It had a sort-of cardinal-shaped head. Maybe it was a female cardinal. Wasn’t it the males who were bright red? She didn’t know birds.
“Get out of my car!” Agnes told the little bird through the window. The bird quivered on the back seat and didn’t move.
Agnes left the driver’s side door open and went around to the other side and opened the passenger door.
“Move!” she said. She flipped the passenger seat down so it wouldn’t bump into it. Nothing. She could see it, breathing hard, puffing and blowing. It almost looked like it was vibrating.
She went around to the driver’s side and flipped that seat down, too.
And that was when a woman, bundled up in a big coat, walked over, leaned into the passenger side, reset the seat, and got into Agnes’s car.
“What do you think you’re doing?” said Agnes through the driver-side door.
The woman looked at her and pouted her lip.
“Ain’tchoo the one come to gimme a ride?” the woman asked.
“Well, can ya? Just to the hospital?”
“Get out of my car!”
“But my baby’s having a baby!” the woman said.
Oh, for chrissakes!
“There’s a bird in the car,” Agnes said — at the same time the woman slammed the passenger door.
The bird fluttered up.
It wasn’t quite a hummingbird, but it was small and had some control in the air. Trying to find its way out, the bird aimed first for the front windshield. It explored the barrier it met in the air, and fluttered, back and forth and back and forth, for a moment.
The woman, sitting like a stack of pillows in the passenger seat, started waving and screaming.
Agnes went around and opened the passenger door.
The woman jumped from the car and backed off, waving and flailing her hands over her head. “What-is-it-what-is-it-what-is-it?” she said.
“It’s a bird,” Agnes said, and shut the door. “Jesus. Relax.”
“What the hell you gotta bird in your car for?” the woman asked.
“She works for me,” Agnes said.
“She guards the car.”
The woman dropped her hands to her sides. “You ain’t the one come to give me a ride?”
“Well, can ya? Just to the hospital?”
Agnes stared at the woman for a long moment, and then went around to the driver’s side and got back in her car. She slammed the door, hit the locks, and fired up the engine.
The woman stood in the parking lot, staring at her. The bird rose up into the air for a moment; Agnes could feel it at her shoulder, could hear the solid, fluttering wings, like a vibration against her eardrum. The woman flailed backward.
“Calm your shit,” Agnes told the bird. It did.
She drove around the block and headed back to where the bird flew into her window. Agnes paralleled and rolled down the passenger window.
“You must have a nest or something around here, right?” Agnes told the bird. “So.”
Agnes heard its fluttery take-off from the back seat. It was learning how to navigate inside the car, coming up over her shoulder and pausing for a moment, as if getting a sense of familiar air. Then it flew out the window.
Agnes rolled the window back up, turned on the radio, and found a song she knew. She sang all the way to work.
She’ll call her daughter when she gets to her worksite. She’ll leave a message if she has to. “A bird flew in the window of my car this morning,” she’ll tell her daughter. “What the hell?”
And maybe when her daughter calls her later, she will already be laughing.
Mike Moran is a writer, director, performer, and schoolteacher with an M.Ed in Curriculum and Instruction from Loyola University Chicago. Currently an MFA candidate at Hollins University, Moran was co-director of the children’s educational program, Odyssey Theatre, in Mt Vernon, Iowa for twenty years, was producer of The Goatsinger Show for twelve years, has had plays produced in Iowa and Chicago and has seen his work published by Bitter Oleander, Whale Road Review, and great weather for MEDIA. He lives in Roanoke, Virginia.