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So, twelve-hundred birds died that night.

Cardinals. Starlings. Doves and blackbirds. Red-shouldered hawks, too.

All dead.

All, having snapped themselves against the museum windows.


Three minutes before the bird-dying started: the security guard was playing poker on his cellphone, leaning against a diorama that showed the different stages of the mumification process. He was in the wing of the museum that housed a tomb belonging to the 5th dynasty pharaoh, Unis. 

The windows faced north.

Towards the lake.

With its the tugboats and party cruises.

Which looked like campfires, to the security guard.

Right then: he was smiling.

Pocket eights. 

And––oh yes, he was whistling too when it started.

Loud smacks against the glass.

Dun. Dun. Dun.

Alarmed, of course, he dropped his phone and ducked below a display case that held the pharaoh’s scepter. To the security guard: the smacking sounded like cheeseburgers being flung against a Volvo. Which was a sound he knew. Because long before he was a security guard, he was a collegiate wrestler. And before he was a collegiate wrestler, he was high school wrestler. And when he was a high school wrestler, as a little joke, him and the other wrestlers would pool their cash––their landscaping money, caddying tips, and lifeguarding wages––to buy as many cheeseburgers as they could. Then: during free period they’d sneak into the teacher’s lot and cheeseburger their coach’s Volvo. Until their arms grew tired. Or the art teacher ran out with a fire extinguisher and everyone scattered.

So, the security guard thought maybe the museum was being cheeseburgered.

As he hid: he could not imagine the birds, nor their flight into the glass.


He could only imagine wrestlers and cheeseburgers.

Why would they be doing this?

He wondered.  

The smacking grew louder.

Grew faster.

Like thunder behind thunder.

Like a bunch alley-cats sorting it all out.

It scared him.

Not the thought of thunder or alley-cats.

But of organized young men attacking in harmony. 

With his eyes closed he could see them: fast-balling patties as the snowdrift moved over the waterfront; their cheeks growing red; their Marion High sweatshirts tucked bravely into their jogging pants; as the night wind took the empty burger bags high above the spitting lake; and the one with glasses yelled, “More! More! More!” and then lit a cigarette even though he’d lost both uncles and a grandfather to lung cancer.

Why now?

He couldn’t explain.

Was it a protest?

A cruel joke?




Something broke wide open.

One of the windows.

And a heron came down.

Right through the case which held Ramses II’s matching earrings.


Another crash.

And another.

Like war planes being abandoned above the ruins, they dropped.

And there were little chirps.

And little wings sputtering against the carpet.

Then a few cries.

And a moan.  

Then there wasn’t anything.


Only a winter cold drifting through the broken panes.

And the heavy breaths of the security guard.

As he rose to his feet.

And realized that something much sadder than cheeseburgers had filled in around him.


A few weeks later the security guard is in bed with his lover.

Recounting the whole ordeal.

“The FBI interviewed me,” he says. “They said our enemies have weapons that can change a bird’s brain. Powerful magnets. Powerful.”

“Scary,” says his lover, putting his hand on the security guard’s chest, tracing his heart.

“Yes––but now they’re thinking it’s a rogue migration. Which I guess sometimes happens around open waters. The Gulf Stream––and whatnot.”

“That makes more sense,” says his lover.

Then there’s quiet.

Real quiet.

As both men consider different disasters.



Doesn’t matter who’s imagining what.

Just that they’re both lying quietly.

For a time.


“I lied to the FBI.”

“Oh?” says his lover.

“They asked if I’d touched any of the birds and I said I didn’t. But. Actually, I went outside and picked up as many as I could. I took them to garden.”


“Well not the garden-garden. The wildflower patch where the tour guides take their smoke breaks.”


“Yeah. I buried like twelve of them.”



“You’ve been to a lot of funerals this year,” says his lover.

“Yeah,” says the security guard, his voice breaking in the smallest way as he covers his eyes with the blanket. “But it felt good to dig the holes myself.”

“I bet,” says his lover.

“It felt okay.”

“I bet.”

“It hurts.”

“I know baby boy. I know it.”