Phoebes by Terry Wilson

“Look!” I say to Mark four weeks ago, pointing to various birds in our back garden dive bombing our old lounge chair, plucking out beakfuls of stuffing. “Aren’t they cute?”
“They’re not cute!” he yells. “That was an expensive chair!”
I take his hand.  
“We can get new pillows for it,” I say. “The birds have work to do.”
A week later, almost instantaneously, the most grand nest appears above our porch light sconce: deeper than usual, so we can’t see the eggs inside. But Mama bird sits atop her throne which is woven with soft white tufts, her long black tail sticking out. My husband is now gone on a four week work trip to Australia and New Zealand so I decide Mama Bird will be my new companion.
But each time I open the front door a crack, she turns her head and fixes me with one beady eye, forbidding me to walk any further. So much for our sisterly pact!
I no longer leave through the front door. I don’t let Sylvester, our old cat, out that way either. Instead of driving my car to the front, I now lug my groceries through the packed, hot, and messy garage to the kitchen. I clean the birdbath in back and fill it so Mama can take a dip; I also place a cereal bowl full of water near the nest in case she needs to quench her thirst. But because of her, I can’t sun myself on the bench in front; now I sit in the bug-infested back, a blanket on the desiccated chaise where no-see-ums feast on me. The next day, huge red welts appear on my arms and back. Damn bird! At Alanon meetings, I discuss my codependent relationship with her.  I have now found out she is a phoebe, and this makes her even more cool. Still I check on her each day; still she fixes her beady gaze on me, but at least now she doesn’t fly away.
Then yesterday, glorious day! Four small brown heads appear above the top of the nest. Tiny yellow beaks stretch toward the sky, crying for food. Mama is busy now, alternately perched on a nearby branch where she nabs bugs for dinner, then flies back to her waiting family with her prize.
I’m staying in now more because of the wind and smoke from nearby fires, but it seems two of the baby birds are wearing little hats of white cotton which is oddly becoming. Now that I’m obsessed with birds, each time Mark calls on Skype, I greet him with a huge stuffed crow that emits a loud caw. Unfortunately, this makes him put me on “mute.”
Still, the no see ums don’t bother me as much now that I’m using DEET, though they’ve bitten poor Sylvester on his stomach and left a big red sore. He’s willing to take one for the team though, and we both hang out with the lizards and my nine tomato plants in back, our new friends. Who cares if I’ve turned into a shut-in? I’m supporting a family! 
Terry Wilson is teaching “Exploring Creative Writing” beginning end of August (fall semester). This English 120 class needs your stories! Beginners welcome. Email Terry at for more info. CRN is 21163.

14 thoughts on “Phoebes by Terry Wilson

  1. This is why we all love you – you tell us the best stories in the most amusing way.
    Keep up the good work!

  2. What a charming little story. I love it! Have had a similar experience with a bird who made nest in an empty hanging pot by my front door and wouldn’t let me come or go thru that door. I relented and also used the back door…….not happily. Was relieved when mother and kids left. So happy to be getting these from you. Feel like I have missed a lot. Jay Rosenbaum

  3. We were scheduled to have some over-grown bushes cut back at the corner of our front porch. Only hours before the “surgery” was to begin, we noticed a bird’s nest with three tiny pale blue eggs nestled within the branches. For several days we were able to view the nest and we feared the birds had abandoned it because of too much surrounding activity. When we received a proper scolding from the protective parents we realized that we had become “parents” of 3 baby robins! We have
    3 indoor cats, the eldest is named Robin.
    Vera Weissman

  4. Thanks so much, everyone, for your comments! I’m on the road here with Mark, but our baby phoebes have fledged after coming back to the nest a few times after flying away. Apparently they were codependent with us, too!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s