Warmth across her wings, waves of salty sea beneath, stretches of sandy beaches. She flew, drifting upon a drain of current, swirling down, merry-go-round. Sweet freedom.

Then, the piercing whistle of a jet’s propeller blades, a vacuum pull as she flapped her wings against the velocity, the burn in her muscles intensifying, feathers plucked and sucked into the man-made flying machine – inhaling her to a pulverizing death.

 Robin woke, sheets twisted and knotted around her, the memory of flying dissolved.

Only a dream … a terrible dream.She heard early bird Bob, bustling about in the kitchen, whistling. The characteristic that made her fall in love with him, also drove her crazy. She slipped on her housecoat and stumbled into the day.

“Oh, hello, my love.” He handed her coffee.

“Up catchin’ worms?”


Bob wasn’t hard of hearing. His “hmms” were a habit. Robin refused to repeat herself. She was not a parrot. She’d wait a second and Bob would answer, as if he heard her after all.

“Never mind. How are my beauties?” She strode to the balcony window, streaked with bird poop. Flocks of fowl swarmed around feeders off the deck. Endless appetites, fighting for free food. Rotating turns, hovering in surrounding trees, like passengers waiting to board a plane.

Was he there? Yes!

A red cardinal perched on the railing, peering at her through the window.

Hello, my friend,” she cooed.


“Whaa?” Did the cardinal just speak? She peered at the bird. Her pet – well, if you could call a wild bird a pet. He had loyally returned to her feeder for many years.

“Hmm?” Bob asked. “Did you say something?”

She paused, an idea taking hold. “Did you ever think about going south?” she asked. Walking barefoot in the kitchen, a collection of crumbs stuck to the bottom of her foot, so she opened the bin, lifted her leg, and swiped crumbs into the trash.

“Hmm? South?” Bob leaned over oatmeal – a stork, hunched over water, searching for food.

“For the winter.” The dread of another brutal winter in Syracuse consumed her. “Maybe Florida?”

“You won’t fly. That’s a long drive.”

“I know, but …” Boarding a plane was out of the question.  Ever since the Cessna her dad piloted, barreled out of the sky, plunged into the arctic tundra, leaving both of her parents as meals for scavengers. “What about the train?” she suggested. “There’s a station in the city.”

“Hmm?” He paused. “Where would we stay? Hotels are expensive. Not in the budget.”

 Budget Bob. Carefully calculating the coins necessary to survive retirement. She felt like a parakeet in a cage, trapped; forty years in the same bird-sized house, same scenery, same spouse – it was enough to drive one looney. 

Bob, sensing her foul mood, chirped up. “Hey, how ‘bout this one?” He whistled. “Pee-a-wee!” slurring down, then up. And again, “Pee-urrrr!” slurring down.

“Too easy. Eastern wood-peewee.” A one-sided game they created, him trying to stump her with bird calls. She first laid eyes on him as a judge for Syracuse’s annual bird whistling contest. His rendition of an olive-sided flycatcher won first place and a piece of her heart.

She always was impressed with a whistler – her breath incapable of blowing anything more than a pitiful whirr across earthworm lips. In grade school, a fifth-grade boy snuck up behind her, reached around, caught her itty, bitty, tit between his thumb and index finger and gave it a twist. “Whistle or you’ll lose it!” he commanded. Despite pain, no amount of lip puckering brought forth a whistle. He released her. “Now, you are Robin Red-breast!” he cried.

 The home phone rang.


“Hmm?” Bob had moved on to his daily crossword. He would chew his pencil in earnest, scribble in clues, erase mistakes all morning until giving a satisfied “hrmp” and setting it aside.

“Telephone.” She paused. “Bob?” It kept ringing. “Are you gonna?” Robin stomped across the room. “Hello? Wren residence.” She covered the mouthpiece. “It’s Frank from The Mercantile.”

“Hmm?” “Okay, good. I’ll have Bob swing by.” She leaned over. “Bob. The birdseed order is in.”

“Who?” Bob glanced up from the paper, removed his glasses, and gently wiped them with his shirt. “Who was that, hon?”

She rolled her eyes and tossed a handful of nuts into her mouth.


 Robin sat at the kitchen table, entertained by the feeding frenzy at the feeders. Her passion for birds began at a young age – after her parent’s deaths. Despondency and depression diminished with each hour she spent, head atop hands on the bedroom windowsill, observing feeders in her aunt’s backyard.

“South! South! South!” her pets chanted.

“I know, I know my sweeties,” she answered. “I wish I could come with you.”

Now noon, she wished Bob would hurry back from The Mercantile with the birdseed. She should have gone with him. He tended to dilly dally. She began to record in her journal:

1 veery. 5 yellowthroats. 1 ovenbird.

What was that? 

She pulled out her Peterson’s. Began fanning through the dog-eared pages. Paused, finger on page. A Kirkland’s warbler?It was rare.

Someone banged at the front door.

Who the hell?  

She cinched her robe, glanced in the mirror to see if she was presentable.

 Frank, from The Mercantile, stood on her porch.

“Mrs. Wren?” he asked.

“Frank, you silly! Call me Robin.”

“Yes…Robin. Sorry. Can I come in?”

“Of course.” Robin directed Frank into the hallway, past a glass case of ceramic birds. She turned. “Where’s Bob? Where’s my birdfeed?”

Frank hesitated. “I’m sorry. He came in… paid. I asked to help carry it to his car. I woulda helped him. Stupid of me.” He sobbed, shoulders shaking – glanced at Robin, gathered courage. “I saw him fall. Ran out. Too late…too late… We called 911, they tried to help…but…”

“He’s dead?”

“Must have been his heart…”

She swooned, colliding with the glass case of ceramic birds, knocking them off of their platforms, shattering them to the floor.


 Robin sat on the bedside. It felt like yesterday, but a month had passed. On the dresser, condolence cards lined up, like tombstones in a graveyard. So quiet without his whistling.

 Now free – to take wing, untethered from the restraints of their relationship. Yet, the solitude of choices rendered her incapable of decisions.

Oh, Bob.

She sighed. Sweet Bob, whom she had taken for granted for so many years. His glasses lay next to a crossword on his side table. A corner of paper stuck out of his bureau drawer. She tugged it open and pulled out an envelope. Across the front scrolled: To My Favorite Robin. She tore it open. Happy Anniversary! Opening the card, one-hundred dollar bills fluttered to the floor.

What the-?

Inside read: Happy Anniversary to my favorite tweety bird! Let’s fly away south together (or ride the train!) Let the red, red, Robin keep bob, bob bobbin’ along with Bob! J

Tears swelled. All this time, Budget Bob had big plans for them. South. Warm beaches, soaking in the sun. In paradise with her bird friends.

 She should go. Now or never. Start packing today. Call a cab to take her to the station.

Yes, I can do this.

One had to push upwind, against the force of strong gusts, to be able to land backward into the nest.


 All a disaster. The gabby cabbie, who dodged in and out of traffic, like a rabbit being chased by a sled dog team. The extravagant hotel room, where she collapsed across the bedcovers, fully clothed, shutting her eyes and sleeping fitfully, between incessant sirens screaming through the New York City’s night. Then morning – the dread as she realized she would never be able to summon up enough courage to purchase a train ticket, board it, and travel to a strange place without Bob to guide her through her fears.

How to go forward, face the future, alone in a god forsaken freezer box?

Stop feeling sorry for yourself, ya old bitty.

She pushed herself out of bed, patted her hair, brushed her teeth, and exited the safety of the room. The hotel’s concierge nodded good morning and opened the door, releasing her into the bowels of New York City.

Perched on a cold cement bench, she tossed croissant peelings to a paparazzi of pigeons. The sidewalks retained a sheen of trampled dog feces, unknown molds, and sticky soda pop. 

 Binoculars atop her parakeet colored suit jacket rose and fell to the swift palpitations of her hummingbird heart.

The day might not be a complete failure. The possibility of spotting warblers, waxwings, starlings, or kinglets, using this flyway on their way south, encouraged her.

Massive towers of city banks cast cool shadows. Her head darted back and forth – alert to the pulse of pedestrians, tourists, and businessmen swarming in a single migration. They hustled and bustled, carrying umbrellas – although showers were not forecast. 

The morning sun rose and the glass-clad structures, their great heights spanning upward, began to reflect light, creating mirrored prisms with rays from the heavens. The city’s epicenter swelled with song. Birds sang praise for the day. Their notes rung collectively, like crystal glasses rubbed with a finger.

Robin clutched her heart, rose, glanced skyward in appreciation. “My beauties, my sweet beauties,” she cheered.

 A sudden urgency overcame the New Yorkers. Mothers grabbed school-aged children by their tiny forearms and began to trot, jog, and sprint – dragging them inside doorways, under awnings and down cellar steps. Those still about, popped open their umbrellas, and ducked under, bracing for a certain deluge.

Robin, blinked – puzzled at the commotion. From a café doorway, a homeless woman yanked a tarp from her overloaded shopping cart, draped it over her shoulders and huddled underneath. 

 Thuds, slams, and window rattles came from skyscrapers overhead, and a rain of bodies dropped broken and tumbling down; feathers floated as corpses of birds ricocheted off awnings, piled in gutters, stacked on sidewalks and stairs. The tarp of the homeless woman, now a drum, as falling bodies beat a death march with haunting, pulsating rhythms. Citizens hopped over the dead and dying, frantically shaking umbrellas that were tearing and ripping against the heavy weighted missiles. Foxes darted out, mouths grabbing sparrows, and disappearing under dumpsters.

Then, eerily, silence.

The homeless woman, swinging a butterfly net, scooped up as many as a dozen dead birds. Cackling, she grinned at Robin. “Lunch for me!” She dumped her treasures into a crinkled, paper bag. “Every mornin’, same time. They hit them towers.”

“Dear God,” Robin whimpered. “Sweet Jesus.”

In the street, a red cardinal lay, wings flapping in distress.

Could it be? Was it her friend?

Robin dashed out. “It’s okay, my love,” she cooed, as she gently lifted the cardinal. She brushed its bruised body tenderly with two fingers, offering comfort.

A cab, windshield wipers flicking off tiny cadavers that clouded the driver’s vision, barreled blindly ahead. It struck Robin, flipping her into the air. She soared up and above it,

Flying! I’m flying!

and was deposited onto the street behind. She lay still, skirt flipped, busted binoculars entwined about her neck, arm stretched out. Her face pointed up, eyes gaping heavenward, with a stunned gaze.

A crowd gathered.

“Is she dead, Mommy?” questioned a toddler in glasses, crushing his mother’s hand.

The sky blackened as a swarm of birds swallowed the morning sun. Warblers, skylarks, sparrows, finches, waxwings, hawks, and a red cardinal swooped down, landing on Robin. Their talons clasped her suit fabric and they lifted off, hoisting her away, heading south.

The people looked to the skies and then to each other. “Did you see that?” they questioned. “Can you believe that?”

Robin, dazed but conscious, twisted her head downward. Below, people dragged their broken umbrellas, children, and briefcases – hurried off about their daily business. She smiled.

South. I’m going south.