A Bird in the Paw

If you were to ask me, Fred, what do you think you’re really good at? I would answer, quick as a flash, being creative and thinking deep thoughts. Other things? Not so much. If you mentioned the word ‘handy’ to me, my response would be to sing, because that’s what I do:

There’s a minister handy
And it sure would be dandy
If we’d let him make a fee
So don’t you linger
Here’s the ring for your finger
Isn’t it a humdinger?
Come along and let the wedding chimes
Bring happy times
For Mandy and me

(In a better world – and boy do we need a better world – if you googled ‘lyrics to Mandy,’ you’d get this version, written by Irving Berlin and performed by the inimitable Eddie Cantor, instead of some drek by Barry Manilow. But I digress.)

The point being, that if something needs to be fixed around our place requiring a tool or implement of some kind, the person to tackle the job would be Barbara. I’ll stay safely in the kitchen, where I belong. Another assignment that I have always left to my wife is Pest Control Officer/Wild Animal Remover. And before you were married, what did you do?

When I lived alone, the only interlopers in my NYC apartment were regulation-sized cockroaches and their larger-than-life cousins, the water bugs. The former I summarily dispatched with copious cans of roach spray. For the latter, I deputized Clyde, my orange tabby, and his sister, Bonnie, a tortoise shell sweetie. I could always rely on them to play handball (or more accurately, pawball) with the invaders.

It wasn’t as if the assignment of responsibilities were part of our wedding vows; somethings just became obvious as time went by. I would mow the lawn and work out on the barbecue grill in our suburban homes – once Barbara assembled the requisite equipment. As far as pest controlling, I think the following incident, which took place in our first house in Caldwell NJ, should make things self-evident. I was about to descend the stairs from our bedroom, when I spied something disturbing down below. Barbara, there’s a dead bird in our living room. (As in, Do something!)  She calmly took matters in hand and resolved the issue. I was, of course, correct. A grilled chicken wing – which one of our felines must have pilfered and deposited next to the couch – is certainly a dead bird.

Our main pest problem in Caldwell was not birds of a feather but bats (not the kind you swing; the kind that flap their wings in the dead of night). Wondrous creatures, better suited to caves or fruit orchards than suburban dwellings. Somehow, they were showing up, uninvited and undesired. (They didn’t like us either.) Finally, Barbara enlisted the aid of a for-real pest control person who spent hours with binoculars peering at our house until he noticed a tiny hole in our attic, through which these flying critters were squeezing in. Until we sealed the entrance, it was Barbara who trapped and escorted them outside. You don’t think I was going to get near them, do you?

In Passaic, we had a problem of a different kind. The field mice that lived on our property had zero interest in joining us inside. It was Sussie and Rosie that made that decision. Don’t you want to see what we found?  Sometimes what we found was dead, sometimes alive. Either way, it was Barbara who had to remove whatever our two hunters had brought in. She also functioned on occasion as a referee. We’d hear a cat-like racket outside, and the two of them were playing pawball with a reluctant rodent. Out would go my wife to rescue the poor thing from a certain doom.

Here we are decades later in the Land – currently one and a half flights up from ground level, not where you’d expect to find lizards. Either they would have to scale the walls or use the stairs to get into our apartment. Yet, during the reign of our previous cats-in-residence, Cookie and Moby, we were constantly finding half-eaten remains of these tiny critters all over the place. I guess the word got out because for the last few years we have been lizard-less, which is a blessing. Whatever species wish to enter have to do it on the wing.  Whenever we see Shekhi careening about, wildly leaping through the air, he’s probably after some form of insect. There is every reason to believe he will catch said bug and promptly eat it. Waste not, want not.

We have also had a few misguided birds wander in from time to time. Barbara has decided that – for once! – I was right to insist we put screens in some of our windows, which does help keep our avian neighbors out of harm’s way. Just not if Shekhi and Lucky are hanging out on the big mirpeset off Natania’s old room.

That must have been what happened the other day during chol hamoed Sukkot. I was in the living room, davening away, clutching my four species, when I heard a ruckus upstairs. Then I heard, Fred, Shekhi’s downstairs with a bird in his mouth. And then she heard me say, I’m not doing anything about it. To prove my point, taking my species, my tallit, and my siddur with me, I hustled out to our sukkah on the mirpeset off our dining room. And closed the door behind me. What else was I supposed to do?

As I was told later, Barbara had found Lucky with a small bird in his mouth, which she pried open. Unfortunately, that left Shekhi to grab the little creature and move with it around the upstairs and then downstairs. While I was praying to the Good Lord, Barbara was ultimately able to rescue the bird from the jaws of its tormenter and bring it back to the mirpeset where the action started. Despite its ordeal, the bird did fly away – which was remarkable, considering it must have shed half of its feathers in our apartment. Is it safe to come in? Yes. Having waved my species and completed my davening, I was free to go to the kitchen and prepare some breakfast.

It may be genetic. I was on the phone last week with my sister-in-law. Abby asked me if we had spoken with Natania recently, the clear implication being that there was something we should know about. She and Frank had just begun their vacation on a secluded island off the coast of Maine. They were walking on a trail through the woods, admiring the view, when Abby tripped on a semi-exposed tree root (who put that there?). She fell to the ground, doing damage to her face and breaking her leg. My brother was sent off to locate some place to make a phone call for help (no cell phone reception on this remote island). Finally, some local first-responders arrived with a stretcher and took my bruised and bloodied sister-in-law to a local facility for appropriate treatment.

Abby described to me how she was lying on the ground, looking up at her husband, with his face drained of blood, probably the same shade mine would have been if it were me in the situation. I explained to her that there was a good reason why neither of Nathaniel and Lucille Casden’s sons became medical practitioners. So don’t blame me – or my dear brother – if we are wimps when it comes to certain matters. It’s not our fault! We can cheerfully point to some distant ancestor for our lack of gumption.

Speaking of matters medical, my procedure has been rescheduled. We have a pre-op meeting tomorrow (Oct. 4), and I am to appear at Hadassah EinKerem with my overnight bag on Wed. Oct. 13. In case you’re interested.

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