The Ornithologist
by Eric Suhem



“Robin’s invited us over this afternoon to celebrate my birthday, and she wants us to meet the new young man in her life,” said Mrs. Finch, reading her daughter’s email as Mr. Finch tended to his birdwatching equipment.


“I had intended to spend the afternoon observing the spotted blue warbler,” said Mr. Finch grumpily, while cleaning the lenses of his binoculars.


“He’s an ornithologist,” said Mrs. Finch, “Perhaps you two can talk about the blue warbler, and your grackle observations.”


Since she’d been a child, Robin had always been drawn to birds, observing the hummingbirds fluttering speedily in the backyard, and the blackbirds in the nearby trees. Her interest in birds had led to an internship as the ornithologist’s lab assistant, and on her first day he advised her to pay heed to the parrot sitting in the lab’s window. “We must listen to the parrot,” said the ornithologist with great seriousness as the parrot squawked gibberish.


Robin didn’t mind the ornithologist’s eccentricities, and eventually became romantically involved with him.  She found excitement in his bizarre experiments. Earlier in the day, she was on the roof of the lab building, completely covered by wrens, a willing vehicle in the ornithologist’s latest tests. “I love participating in science!” yelled Robin lustily, as the ornithologist looked on, scribbling notes.


Birds flew about the observatory as Robin reminded the ornithologist of her parents’ impending visit. “You know, Ken, my parents are really looking forward to meeting you.”


The ornithologist felt disturbed by this intrusion into his current project involving birds’ sexual practices, but said, “All right, if you wish. We will salve the bird orifices with creams and jellies, then lotions later.”


As the hour of the visit approached, the ornithologist looked to the parrot in the window, flashing green, blue, red, and purple, advocating diplomacy on the part of the ornithologist in the area of interpersonal relations. In fact, the parrot went on to advocate severe restraint in the areas of global diplomacy and societal communications. As the parrot glowed orange, the ornithologist knew that it recommended personal policies of harmonious hygiene on all physical and emotional levels. When the ornithologist updated Robin on this development, she looked at him, knowing he’d be a challenging project.


The Finches met Robin and the ornithologist at the lake, Robin having arranged a duck pedal boat ride, which she hoped would bring everyone together. “Hello Ken, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” said Mrs. Finch, extending her hand. The ornithologist mumbled something about the importance of the parrot, as he half-heartedly smeared bird droppings off of his palm, and shook hands with Mrs. Finch, who looked at the excrement dubiously.


“Daddy, Ken has been involved in exciting wren experiments,” said Robin anxiously, as Mr. Finch stared into his smartphone, grumbling and looking at pictures of blue warblers.


Mrs. Finch looked at her husband and recalled that he had been reading a birdwatching magazine distractedly during much of their first date over 30 years ago, which also happened to be on Mrs. Finch’s birthday.


On the lake, in the duck pedal boat, Robin opened a box containing her mother’s birthday cake. She stuffed candles into the frosting and lit them, intoning, “Happy Birthday, Mom!  Now make a wish!” Mrs. Finch looked at her husband and the ornithologist, then blew out the candles.


It was then that the clouds parted and a flock of birds arrived amidst dazzling rays of sunlight and the word ‘Hallelujah!’ echoing through the sky. Mrs. Finch smiled as the birds’ talons lifted Mr. Finch and the ornithologist up into the air, taking them far, far away.



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