|Dangerspouse Rides Again|
Garage - Track
Feb. 14, 2004 - 8:16 a.m.
I saw the first Robin of Spring today!
And I killed him.
I didn't mean to kill him. I was tooling along in the Mighty WRX on my way home when suddenly out of the corner of my eye I caught what looked like a small dog or a fuzzy Slimline telephone dart into the highway. There was no way I could avoid it. I was doing...um, 65 officially...and whatever it was that shot out into the road did so only a few yards from my driver's side bumper. Really, I thought it was a spooked Chihuahua by the size of it.
I don't have any particular compunction against killing Chihuahuas, so truthfully...I didn't even try to swerve.
However, at the last second the Chihuahua pulled up in a WWII wing-over manuver and I saw the flash of red breast. A robin!
What the hell was a Robin Red Breast doing this far north this early in the year? And why was he flying along four inches above the ground into oncoming traffic?
I'm guessing that he was confused, probably from birth. Or just a nerd. A bird nerd.
Picture it: the flock is gathered on the fairway off the 7th tee at Augusta National in Georgia. It's 74 degrees at dawn and the worms are practically flinging themselves into their beaks. A few of the fledglings are having fun diving at freshly hit golf balls, bragging to each other how they could have caught it in flight if they'd really wanted to. The older members don't waste their time with such frivolity. They concentrate on maintaining their strict Atkins regiment so they'll have enough energy for the long trek up 95 to New Jersey in a few weeks.
Suddenly one of them, "Hood", says to no bird in particular, "Well, I guess I'll be going...."
A few of the flock overhear him.
"What? 'Going'? Going where?" they all ask.
He looks up at the trees. "Oh, you know. Back. I should be going back. The ol' nest needs a new coat of droppings, and I think I left a twig out in the yard where a chick might trip over it."
The entire flock is now staring at him. A number of them tweet up. "But, it's February! EARLY February!! You haven't eaten enough yet, and it's still frigid up there. By the time you arrive you won't be able to get more than 10 feet off the ground!"
"Oh, I'll be alright. Besides, that stick really needs to be put up properly...." And with that, Robin Hood lifts off into the azure Peach State sky and follows his inner compass north.
North to Hell.
Ten days later Hood is huddled next to a green steel dumpster on the side of an Exxon station in West Milford NJ, trying to shield himself from the horizontally blowing icicles. His old nest is around here somewhere, but there is so much snow that one tree is indistinguishable from another. He hasn't had a worm in almost a week, and his only source of drinking water is whatever drips out of the cars that pull in for gas.
Suddenly the wind shifts and he is able to peer out from under his wing without being blinded by freezing b-b's. And that's when he spots it.
A gale force wind had momentarily blasted the white cover from a stand of trees, and in that moment Hood could make out the weeping white birch he called home. If he could just make it that last quarter mile, he'd be saved! A few choice worms had been stashed in the basement "just in case" before migrating last Fall, and the jaccuzi would keep him warm until the thaw. Maybe the rest of the flock would be so impressed that he'd have a chance to mate this Spring, for once!
Hood staggered out into the open lot, a fluffed up ball of feathers on twin pipecleaner legs. He faced into the wind, hopped a few feet, then spread his arms wide and leaped. He was airborne!...but just barely. Ice formed on his wings, and he was so low on fuel that he could only throttle to 3/4 power. He struggled to gain altitude.
Within seconds the curb dropped away as he cleared the runway. He didn't care if he had to make the entire trip only 24 inches above terra firma. Once he made it to that birch, he'd be set. He crossed the solid white line seperating the shoulder from the fast lane.....
Ok, so much for the fantasy portion of this particular incident. Let's return to Dangerspouse's perspective:
I'm not sure if you've ever had the honor to be in the presence of a Subaru WRX. These are truly fantastic cars, giving near supercar performance but with a pricetag that even itinerant Traffic Reporters don't convulse at the sight of. And: they have a functional hood scoop! See it right there at the top of the hood, just below the windshield? It's so cool...which is what it does. It feeds air to the intercooler, keeping it...cool.
Anyway, the motley little bird shot out from the Exxon station right at my driver's side bumper. At the last second he saw the Mighty WRX bearing down (at 65 mph, remember) and in desperation pulled up and around, trying to do a U-turn mid-flight.
It didn't work.
He managed to turn about 90 degrees to the left when Fate, in the form of a 3000 lb. silver suppository, caught up with him. The little Robin clipped the hood just above the radiator and he somersalted towards the windshield. I braced for impact.
But no! Almost miraculously, he disappeared! Did he manage to right himself and shoot off to the side? Did a benevolent bird diety reach a talon down and pluck him to safety at the last second (deus ex flockica? deus ex mockingbird?)? Was he accelerated by the jet stream so quickly that he was propelled into a parallel dimension?
I have no idea - my eyes were closed.
I just know that I heard a muffled "FUH-WOOMF! THUP!", and then...nothing. No smear of blood and feathers on the windshield, no entrial streamers wrapped around the antenna. Nothing.
Well, I counted myself lucky that something had spared me from having to stop at the car wash on the way home, and continued my drive. I gave it no more thought than that.
Ten miles down the road an irritating red light started flashing on my dashboard. What the...? It says my engine is overheating! How can that be - I am obsessive about checking fluid levels, hoses, etc. But there it was. The temp guage was rising rapidly into the danger zone, not something you want to ignore. I pulled over and got out to lift the hood.
As soon as I rounded the front of the car and reached down for the hood latch I saw the problem. The ragged, bloody tip of a bird's wing was sticking out of the scoop. The Mighty WRX had eaten the Robin!
Grimacing, I tugged gently at the wing tip, hoping to pull the carcass out in one piece. No such luck. The wing ended at the shoulder joint. The rest of the bird was nowhere to be seen...until I lifted the hood.
Judging from the ammount of blood coating every surface of my engine bay, you'd think I had just gone mad with a chum bucket. (An interesting side note; it smelled just like the 'Chicken Paillard' I order sometimes from Chez Barque in Warwick. I wonder if the cook there...nah.)
The reason my car was overheating was immediately apparent. The hood scoop feeds air to the turbocharger's intercooler. When 90% of the air is replaced by fowl innards, the temperature rises accordingly.
I didn't have gloves. I didn't have paper towels. It was 26 degrees out and sleeting. I had to get home.
I took my shirt off.
Fortunately I'd invested in a good Columbia jacket, or I would have ended up like Otzi the Iceman within 5 minutes. I mopped up as much as I could with the shirt, then used my fingers to pick out bits of bone from the slats of the intercooler. All in all, a half hour's worth of disgusting work.
But it did the trick. Smeared with crimson, carrying my soaked, reeking work shirt at arms length, I got back in and fired up the Subie. Success! After idling for 10 minutes the temp guage stayed solidly in the Safe Zone, so I eased out into traffic and made it back to DangerHouse with no further excitement.
As soon as I walked in the front door however, I was mobbed by my kids (Casey the Corgi, and Gloria Cat). From the smell of me they probably assumed I'd just returned from a successful kill. Which I had.
NewWifey(tm) appeared in the kitchen doorway. "Hi Honey, how was your...your.... Are you covered in blood??"
"Yup. Do me a favor and wash this, willya? Thanks." and I tossed her my soggy, semi-frozen work shirt. She managed to dodge it at the last second and it plopped to the floor, where the dog and cat immediately began a battle for consumption rights. I didn't say anything else, just headed for the shower.
Twenty minutes later the attar of death was washed from my hair and skin and I sat down to watch Sponge Bob. NewWifey(tm) sat across from me on an ottoman, bolt upright.
"Ok, who did you kill. This time."
"Very funny. Robin Hood. Listen honey, if I have to testify on your behalf again, I need to know the REAL story so I can lie convincingly. You know that. So c'mon - who the hell did you kill? Did someone make fun of that Milkshake song around you again?"
"No, I'm telling you, I killed Robin Hood. Now leave me alone. This is the episode where SpongeBob throws a going away party for Sandy. You know what that means to me."
NewWifey(tm) skulked off to call her mother in Arkansas and get some legal advice. I dozed off in the recliner and dreamt of Mario Battali. Again.
That reminds me, we're having chicken for dinner. mmmmmmmmmm.....
Have a great Valentine's Day everyone! Be nice to your own danger spouses.
ps. I actually have some very splendiferous things planned for NewWifey(tm) today that do not involve bloody garments. But since she reads this here diary - even today's long, boring entry - I don't wanna spill the beans too soon.