he whole place was filled with birds."
What? What kinds of birds?
"What do I look like? Birds. That's what kind. Bird birds."
What were you on?
"Fuck you, though, there were birds, thousands. Ask Jennie. She was there
too, with me. And don't bring up the UFO, that was six years ago."
Two years ago. Two.
"Whatever. Listen, though. Jennie saw them, and I don't think she was on
anything. What's funny?"
I'm trying not to bring up the UFO.
"Forget it, then."
No, no. Go on. You broke into a shoe store, and there were birds. So
what? And you never answered me about why you were in there in the first
"I said: Boots."
What boots? You can't just say "boots."
"Boots. Jennie saw these boots in there like last Saturday. They had suede
fringe and all. She wanted to steal these boots."
She couldn't wait until morning? She couldn't buy the boots? You had to
break into a shoe store in the middle of the night because she saw these
"I don't know. Yes. That's not even important."
OK, what's important? There were thousands of birds in there. Then what?
"Well, then what was we had to decide what to do."
Why? You couldn't just get the boots and leave?
"Did you ever walk into a shoe store full of birds? If you ever did, you
wouldn't feel like just leaving. I mean, you wouldn't just get the boots
What would I do?
"I don't know. You'd probably call the Audubon Society."
I donít even know what that means. You're losing me.
"Sorry, fine, just don't be like that."
Like what? OK, don't pout; let's hear it. You had to decide what to do.
"So Jennie, being Jennie, decides she wants to let all the birds out of the
shoe store. I mean, they weren't just sitting there, they were flying
around and everything, flying into walls, bumping against the ceiling."
What did they look like? Were they little, big? Black, brown, paisley?
Crows, doves, what?
"They were all kinds. I mean, there were brown ones and black ones and
there were very tiny little ones. It was hard to see. It was night and
everything, and they weren't sitting still. They weren't sitting for a
portrait. They were flying, right? Like birds."
Fine. What next?
"So Jennie holds the door open and starts like whooshing out the air with
her hands, like she's trying to get a bad smell out of the place. She's
ushering these birds, right? I'm watching her and I go, What are you doing?
'I'm trying to get the birds out,' she says. I said, Well you're doing a
pretty great job. 'Better idea?' she says. I said, Maybe we shouldn't be
messing with these birds. Maybe they're here for a reason. 'Right,' she
says. 'This is a bird prison. These birds are doing time.' I said, Well
maybe they belong to the store owner or something. I mean, how did they all
get in there? What are they doing in there? They didn't all fly down the
The shoe store has a chimney?
"No, it doesn't have a chimney. I don't know. That's not the point."
What's the point? Tell me.
"What other point do you need? Think about this. Think slowly. This is
like. I don't even know what it's like."
I just don't see where you're going with this. What happened? What did you
"Well, we got in an argument. Jennie wants to get the birds out of the
place, rescue the birds. I want to leave them alone. I would be content to
sit there. I mean, just sit and look at them. Think about it. If you find
birds in a shoe store, you'd want to look at them for a minute, right? I
mean, you'd at least not try to get them out. Not mess it all up. Right?"
I have no idea.
"You know what it's like? Being in there and all? It was like I was filled
with birds, too. I mean, like I was the shoe store and I was the one filled
with these birds."
Oh yeah? And what does something like that feel like? What does it feel
like to be filled up with birds?
"Like everything. It feels like everything all at once. Like the birds are
everything and you're full of them, so youíre full of everything."
I donít know what that means.
So whatíd you do?
"I left. Jennie decided to stay and help the birds."
What, you left her there?
"What else was I gonna do? I wasn't gonna help her get these birds out when
it was pretty clear that we shouldn't be messing around with them. And she
wasn't going to leave. She barely even noticed I was there anymore. What
could I do? Stand around and wait for the police to get there? So fuck it,
I left her there."
Well, then what? Have you talked to her?
"I haven't seen her today. No."
So...what, she could be in jail or something.
"Sheídíve called me if she went to jail. No, I don't know. I'm sure she
gave up eventually and left. I'm sure she gave up and went home.
Eventually. It was pretty clear to me that those birds didn't want to go
"I donít know. I canít explain. Itís just a feeling. You had to be in my
shoes. You had to be in that shoe store, and then youíd know how you felt."
You think so?
Brendan McKennedy is a 25-year-old student in Nashville, Tennessee. His
stories have appeared in McSweeney's, Conversely, and The Story Garden.
You can find these links and his e-mail address
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story copyright by author 2002 all rights reserved