The bird appeared every morning as she was making coffee. It floated past the kitchen window and landed on the arm of the metal chair on the deck.
They’d argued about that chair. She wanted to cover it for winter, to protect it so it wouldn’t rust.
It’s older than dirt, he’d said, a little more rust won’t make a difference.
But isn’t rust an erosion, an eating away that will eventually weaken the whole structure of the chair and leave it in a pile of metal splinters on our deck? She was prone to exaggeration, but only to make a point. He wasn’t listening.
She had pulled a piece of plastic over the chair in early November. It was gone the next day—the wind or Warren—could have been either. She hadn’t seen it go and there was no sign of it wound around the railing or caught in a tree beyond the porch. She should have tied it down.
And now there was this bird on the arm of the chair every morning, leaving its prints in the thin film of snow that coated the green metal. She wondered if Warren had hired the bird to come—to prove both the aesthetic and practical worth of an unprotected chair in winter.
The bird performed the same routine every morning: it alit at the end of the arm, walked the length to the chair back, pecked at the vertical slats so diligently that she heard a tick and a ting with each bob of its head. Then it perched on the back of the chair, swiveled its head to see if she was at the window, and flew off.
She began placing single seeds on the chair arm and tucking a couple in the pitted grooves of the chair slats. The bird accepted the unexpected gifts with aplomb. It took the single seed in its beak as it strutted along the arm and pecked at the slats with its usual vigor. She couldn’t tell if it actually swallowed the seeds, but the cavities were empty when she brought new seeds.
So she’d been wrong about the chair.
She began to wonder what else she’d been wrong about:
—painting the bathroom the color of pee—according to Warren;
—locking the door at night—which, Warren said, wouldn’t stop anybody who really wanted to get in;
—humming in the morning as she got dressed—too damn early;
—lighting candles at dinnertime—a pollutant;
—marrying Warren? That one stopped her.
Had she been wrong? Hard to say. A bird settled on the arm of the metal chair every morning because of Warren—but was it enough?
© 2011 Kathleen Coskran