Russell Richardson

Bird in the Works

A small sparrow, ruffled and skittish, had entered the office overnight. I came into work and found this quivering featherball on the floor below my open window with the torn screen. After someone saw me squatting and whispering, the whole staff gathered to see.

The secretary wanted maintenance to remove the bird. We ignored her. She paced a circle, fretting about the boss’s imminent arrival.

The skinny programmer said it might be hurt, or diseased.

The sales guy said, “Let’s grill it.” He preened for approval from the normally cute, now grimace-faced woman beside him. She went to her desk and fluidly sat, legs-crossed, and shook her hair, parting it without using her white-boned hands.

Our network administrator swept at the bird with a broom and wastebasket, but more rattled noise than gained on quarry. The bird scampered under my desk, vibrating in shadow, safe from its attacker’s swinging silhouette.

I, too, contemplated this before.

The graphic designer proposed that we leave the door open, wait for the bird to fly away. He wore giant-ringed plugs in his earlobes. Without the plugs, he looked like a disappointed elephant.

Skinny, now crowding me, chewed a fingernail. Pointing his frames northward of his nose, he asked if birds carried rabies.

“Sure,” I said. “Like bats.”

What do I know? It chirped like a cricket to me.

He mumbled around his finger something like, “ . . . and fleas on the carpet,” which cracked me up.

He suggested that we lure it out with birdseed, did anyone have any.

We stood and drank coffee, thinking about the bird but doing nothing.

The front door opened. My co-workers slyly withdrew from me.

Upon his arrival, the boss received full appraisal from the secretary. He winced at her, then cast around, asking, “Where did a bird come from?”

All present stayed silent but looked sideways to me. Skinny finally said, “There’s a hole in Russell’s screen,” and everyone feigned alarm.

The boss approached me at a leaning angle and asked, “Did you leave your window open last night?”

I said, “Yes,” and this commenced a tirade on the prevalence of neighborhood crime and the office equipment’s value—dear reader, be spared.

Done with me, the boss summoned sales guy to his elbow for instruction. The latter took his jacket from the closet and stood by the desk. Opposite him, the boss gripped the desktop with both hands. They nodded to their count: One, two.

Heaved up went my computer monitor, telephone, planner, files, pens, and desk itself, and out rocketed the bird, around the diving sales guy, bolting across the room and into the far-wall window. There sounded a thud, gasps, and the creature dropped to the carpet.

The staff, like an amoeba, moved to that side of the room.

When sales guy lifted it by a wing, its head swung from its body. He released it into a wastebasket, knotted the plastic bag insert, and carried it out to the dumpster. He came back, dusting his hands.

The boss, satisfied, gave me another lecture for the group’s benefit. Then everyone returned to their normal routines.

I retreated to my area and closed the window. I righted all the things that were disturbed, and then sat with knitted fingers, imagining the bird’s journey to a nest in the sky. I wished for more sky and more birds, a bevy of birds in the heavens forever. An irrational thing in me had been unsettled. After a week of being unable to shake the idea of the office as creeping death, I called in and quit.

Russell Richardson is a jack-­of-­all-­trades who lives in Binghamton, New York, with his wife and sons. Writing is his daily passion.