Saturday, August 4, 2012

To Amelia from the Back Yard

There were times while living in New York when homesickness would invade and settle in my soul.  A visit from Amy was a breath of Gulf Breeze on a warm spring night, a hot sandy beach on a summer’s day and a Mississippi morning with a hot cup of coffee on a porch swing.  I wrote this a few years after her death.  I think of her often.  I have a picture of her in Australia; arms opened to life; sailing into her future with open arms.  This story is for Amy Stebly with love from a Mississippi back yard. 

To Amelia, From The Back Yard

                                      By F.J. Wilson

In the town of Hattiesburg, in the State of Mississippi, in the southern section of the United States there dwells a small group of animals, birds, reptiles and fish who live out their lives with the same drama and passion as any human in any of the largest cities in the world.  They want the best for their young.  They like to fill their bellies with good food.  They want the best mate. They fear Hurricanes and wild beast. They fear being eaten by the large owl which visits nightly and they fear the humans who live around and among them.  Do not think these creatures dwell on fears and allow the night terrors to rule their lives as we humans; not at all.  They go about their daily lives living their relationships and friendships as happily as can be.  They are cautious, just cautious.  They know when “Big O” the old scarred yellow cat comes around, it’s time to visit themselves elsewhere.  At night when the “whoo, whoo” of the big owl comes from the neighboring yards, it’s time to hit the tree and pull the big magnolia leaves over the nests.  When the big winds come and bend the trees in half, it’s time to go under the eaves of the back porch and wait it out.  The players in this story are real and at this writing are busy preparing for fall.  The little brown squirrels are sitting in the big yard on their little hind legs, tails curling up over their backs; looking all the world like little brown teapots as they gather the acorns given freely and generously by ‘Bill’.  He’s the big Chinquapin Oak who shades the backyard.  A condo as it were, for squirrels and birds to reside. The corn and sunflower seeds I threw to them this morning has already been stored in hidden nests so far up in the trees, only the wind knows where.  I’m the human who lives in the house, who owns the yard in which these wonderful creatures live.  I consider them my friends; they consider me a provider of foods they can’t find in the yard.  I respect them; they tolerate me.   


Bull, Precious and Lil’Bit The Squirrels

Precious would be the death of him one day, he knew it, he hated it, but he couldn’t help it.  He was smitten with her, crazy about her, he thought she was about the cutest thing in the whole yard and the danger she invoked kept him on his mettle and he liked that.    He hoped she was watching. Did she see him, one foot closer to the human, as he stopped now and stared? His heart might explode if he didn’t get a sunflower seed soon, not that he could eat it; the fear tied his soul in knots and his stomach was tangled somewhere inside those knots. He’d get a seed, he’d offer it and she’d take it.  Even if he didn’t offer, he knew from many seeds before, she’d badger and nag him until she got it.

Precious was the devil in a little fur coat, but she was his torment and there was something she had that compelled him to play her games and stick around for the good times. He’d once courted, Lil Bit, the dainty pretty thing with large soft eyes and slim flanks. So demure in his presence, and always ready to be led and loved.  He’d have been a lot better off, but his life would’ve lacked the sauce and spice of the chase that Precious offered.  Once, a long time ago, Lil Bit tried, worked for days building a courage that wasn’t in her.  She’d approached; soft eyes half closed and wanting; trembling in fear and excitement, but Bull  thought she’d gone crazy and ran across the roof and into Cyrill, the tall cypress tree on the other side of the house.  A good thing for Lil Bit; seeing as how Precious was waiting to kill both parties of this silly tete a tete, and would've - easily.  Instead, she used it for days, to goad and make fun of Bull. He got so angry he came close to keeping all of his own sunflower seeds to himself.  Precious, seeing her free meal ticket in danger, calmly stopped the torment and things went back to normal.  Lil Bit would wait, her day would come, she’d be patient, she was good at being patient.  Her mother told her... “Patience means waiting gracefully.”   That was Lil Bit’s true talent.

                                   Jake The Pine Snake

Jake the Pine Snake thinks he rules this universe; his presence scares the fur off the squirrels, especially the young families.  He's aware of this fact, and wears his pride smugly. However, knowing you’re not the most popular guy on the block tends to be a lonely business and Jake’s is a lonely one.  He likes to watch the sadistic play between Bull and Precious.  He sees them as the parents of his future food.  He has no respect for either; how Bull could be led so easily into danger, and how Precious would encourage it is a mystery to Jake.  One day he’ll make them bond together and fight as a team.  If they’re smart enough to do that; fight as a team, together, they may save their babies one day.  Jake isn’t really worried about that, when that day comes he’ll either make or break them.  For now there are plenty of little field mice and frogs that satisfy and fill an empty belly.

He loves his power over the guest’s of the human.  His very presence sends them screaming into the house.  He loves to wait in the places they like to visit; in the Caladium leaves around the fishpond or just under the porch.  Unsuspecting humans coming to the pond to admire and feed Zelda and Scott – the two goldfish - will trip over each other getting out of his way as he moves silently through the leaves and under the pond, giving a last prissy swish of his tale as he disappears to the sound of their screams.  He loves playing garden hose curled up under the water spigot in the back yard.  It is his greatest joy and is mostly reserved for the men with the loud mowing machines who come to lower the grass above his head.  Jake the Pine Snake is not unaware that he is allowed this universe by the kindness of the human who sits on the porch each morning.  She’s not frightened, and has saved his wiggly ass many times from the wrath of those who are.  He has developed a respect and some kindness for her.  Their mutual respect is delicate though and he avoids direct contact as he's seen her wield a hoe.  Jake likes his home by the creek in the little town in Mississippi.  He has plenty to eat, and he's safe - as long as he stays close to the house of the human and doesn’t go across the creek to other neighborhoods.  There are terrible beasts and humans with shovels who wait to pounce and destroy.  If he has a friend at all, it'd be Amy the one legged Robin, who isn’t afraid of him and will often sit a spell with Jake on a cool afternoon and discuss events of the world outside the yard. 

                                                Amelia Birdheart

Amy, the one legged Robin, had no clue why the Great-spirit-that- flies-on-white-wings-covering-the-sun chose to give her one leg.  It’d been hard on her mama, she didn’t want to let Amy leave home, even after her brothers took flight and were living lives of their own.  Mama Robin would bring worms and wiggly bugs to Amy and coax her to be patient.  But the little Robin knew she’d rather die than stay in this nest as a cripple and watch the world of the backyard pass her by.  Mustering courage in heart and soul, she began to hop and fall around the nest while her mama and brothers were away gathering food and love for her.  In a few days time she could stand without falling on the uneven straw and string that made their home.  A few days more and she could hop up to the rim of the nest and look down on the world she coveted.  The inevitable was happening and her mama knew it.  Amy was keeping the nest too clean, and she was eating twice what mama brought to her.  Mama began to stay away longer periods of time, allowing her beautiful broken girl to find the life that’d be hers or not.  Either way she didn’t want to be there when Amy tried to fly, but she knew she had to.  Red and Speed, Amy’s brothers, offered several times to instruct her on leaving the nest, but they were too protective and too smothering in their caution.  Besides, who else could teach her how to fly; it was a mama’s job and she’d have to do it.  One morning in early summer she returned to find her sweet girl perched and ready.  Oh dear, there’d be no safety net for falling nor for landing, how to teach her to land.

There were hidden tears in her little dark eyes as she gave her daughter the gift of flight.  But Amy was off and sailing into her destiny.  Mama couldn’t watch, she was going to have to land sometime; but Amy didn’t land, she flew and flew and couldn’t get enough. She sailed under the roof of the big porch, and she sailed over the creek that flowed behind the backyard.  Her joy was greater than she ever imagined. Flying meant she could be a part of this world, become a part of the whole, one with the Great-spirit-with-white-wings-covering-the-sun, sister to Red and Speed, lover of rain and sun, scavenger of her own worms and wiggly bugs, she’d seen and become a part of this world.  She flew and flew but fatigue was calling and she must head back home. She wanted to tell mama all she’d seen, but fear began to creep into this euphoria. What if she couldn’t manage the landing, what if she’d been given all of this for the moment and was going to have to give it all back in death?  Her wings were growing heavy, she felt the emptiness where a leg should be, the space, covered by small useless feathers, grew big and heavy -  her one leg began to feel small and light, spindly and unusable.  She was beginning to believe her family was right, she was on a useless and dangerous path and she was surely doomed.  But then she saw home and mama, filled with a pride Amy’d never seen.  Amy knew she couldn’t let her down.  Mama’s soul and song were calling Amy in, letting her know she was there waiting and ready to listen to tales of her first flight and the glory and adventure of it.  Amy began her landing, the one good strong leg was down and ready to balance.  Then the miracle began; she felt leg muscle where there was no leg begin to tighten and stretch, guiding a leg that’d never been.  This was it, this was the answer, believe in the leg, feel it. She was strong and young and she had a world waiting for her and a mama who was proud of her.  It didn’t get any better than this.

“Ooof “ breathed her mama as Amy made the final landing and knocked her over and onto the other side of the nest. Both lay laughing and making strange whistling sounds trying to catch their breaths.  No sir, it didn’t get any better than this.  So Amy began her life in the world of the backyard.  Soon she was flying into neighboring yards and down the street and going farther and farther, gathering adventures and tales to please her mama and brothers at night snuggled in their nest. Even her brothers, Speed and Red hadn’t gone as far as she and loved being regaled by her stories. Her reputation became one of fierce determination and strong will and was highly respected by all the members of her world.  Even Jake the Pine Snake backed away from this little bird. Amy couldn’t possibly be good eating with the prickly gristle of bad karma he’d surely have to digest with her in his belly.  But her mama was cautious, always so cautious.  Sometimes mamas are not as brave as their daughters. 



Scott has been in the doldrums lately, mooning around the pond like a love sick perch.  Zelda’s her usual charming self trying to keep bright through the days of rain and wind. But life under water can be harsh and there’ve been arguments lately.  Zelda is tired of his persistent negative self and has been visiting herself elsewhere under the cement wing of the sunken angel covered with algae.   Scott cannot bear it; he thinks she’s stopped loving him and is mighty close to making the suicidal leap onto the warm bank surrounding the pond.

Zelda and Scott are two of three remaining gold fish, the last of twenty, all others carried away by bird or cat when brought home as baby flecks of gold, several years ago.  So much rain has fallen on their lives this summer that they long to sit on a warm rock on the edge of the pond and enjoy the sun reflecting their brilliantly flaming, red gold scales, but for obvious reasons have resisted the urge.

  Why can’t she hear his pain he wonders?  Why can’t he shut the hell up, she ponders?  They are going through a bad time and every one leaves them alone.

Their friends in the backyard have all noticed something wrong in the pond.  No longer do the two fish swim their beautiful dance to entertain their friends, and no longer do they swish and jump making the little pond alive with life and joy.  Lately Zelda has been coming to the surface talking to Precious and Amy about her dilemma.

“Too much water can drive a fish crazy”, Precious says to Bull one morning, as she munches on the last sunflower seed in his little stash.  I know something else that can drive a man crazy thinks Bull as he checks to see if there’s anything left in the whole yard for him to eat, after her morning “snacks”.  Jake the Pine Snake doesn’t give them the time of day.  Amy worries about them and talks to her brothers about her two friends in the water, but doesn’t interfere. 

                             Bill The Great Chinquapin Oak

Bill has nothing to say about the goings on in the backyard.  He watches and turns his leaves to the sun and rain in a gesture of peace and goodwill to all he shades.  He’s been badgered by Hot Head, the red headed woodpecker of late and it’s given him a permanent trunk ache. Of course he’s no spring sapling and has weathered many storms including the horrible Camille of 1969 when he was only a small willowy baby of a tree.  He was planted by a professor of Botany who taught at the university in town and ever since has been on his own course; bothers no one and pretends the ants who invade his bark are guest at his tall bed and breakfast. Bill is the master of the backyard and is respected by all who reside among his branches.  Of course some complain when he undresses in the fall and his leaves fall like idol words in a bad paragraph all over the ground; but most love the extra layer of warmth his soft brown leaves make for nests, or the tasty large acorns that fall among the leaves. The light that plays off his light green leaves in the spring is a joy to the backyard and heralds days of warmth and plenty for all. 

He is most interested now days in the great Owl, Hannibal the Horrible who flies with hideous self confidence into the back yard each evening looking for his dinner among the young and helpless who may’ve strayed too far from a nest.  With a last minute dash to safety, some flights are interrupted by great talons and smelly dragon like breath.  Bill watches all and does what he can, but usually that means letting God’s creatures work out their lives the best they know how.  He’s never liked to see empty nests in his branches especially the ones left tragically littered with the soft down of Hannibal’s menu. 

He knows he’s stronger than most Oaks and has weathered many bad things, but he has the joy of being respected and nurtured by the human and all who live among his homey limbs and so he lives his days shading , waving and watching.


Bomber adjusted her little flight jacket and secured the small peacock colored scarf around her neck.  She’d seen the human fill the Hummingbird feeder only this morning and by now the sun made the sweet nectar a perfect temperature for tiny stomachs.

“Die you Nazi cowards!” she screamed as she dove from above the big Crepe Myrtle down to the eave of the back porch and the red glass feeder shaped like a very fat tulip dripping sweet nectar.

“Good”, she fluttered. “I have out smarted the Nazi ants yet once more.”  She began to drink the red syrup from the feeder keeping a watchful eye on the surrounding country side for the evil bee which could mean her death.  Her world in the backyards of the neighborhood is full of flight and fantasy, but also danger.  Her only weapon of protection is her speed, but that’s marginal and no good if her imagination runs away while she’s eating.  Once while drinking from a large Amaryllis she pretended she was  in a small cottage garden in a little French village just minutes ahead of the German army.  She knew she only had a few moments to get the sustenance that could keep her strong for her mission… when the tip of a huge wing knocked her onto the porch and into a large fern which softly broke her fall.  Hannibal’s snack was saved by the human sitting on the porch swing; broom ready to strike; daring him to enter the porch.  Since then, Bomber's been cautious with all her feeding places.  Her best friend in the yard is Amy Birdheart.  There’s a strong connection between the two.  She and Amy are both very brave.   Once Bomber dove into Justin Bubbles, the big land turtle that lives under the porch, and pooped on his shell for saying very negative things about Amy’s landing methods. 
If you knew Justin Bubbles, you’d  Know ; NO ONE, BUT NO ONE touches his shell.  One little beek print on that brightly polished house he calls home and you’ll face dyer consequences. 
Anyway, Bomber is a wonderful friend to many in the back yard and they love her spark and joy.  They come from all over the neighborhoods on warm summer nights and gather round the big bird bath and listen to her stories and tall tales.  Even Jake the Pine Snake coils around Bill’s roots and secretly listens to yarns about places he can never visit and creatures he’ll never see.

                                      Honey and Moon

There are many animals and birds that make their living and live in the back yard.  To know them all, one would have to sit and watch, quietly, softly with no malice of heart or soul and with no thought of harm to these lovely beings.  Two of the most dear are a couple of morning doves named Honey and Moon.  They are a funny couple and act more like old married folk than honeymooners.   You can hear their soft “whooing” from backyard to backyard through the neighborhood when they’re on their way to feed from the seeds dropped on the ground under the big feeder.  Honey lands first and begins his foraging with Moon directly behind him finding seed he’s missed.  It makes Honey angry and Moon knows it and does it anyway.  She’s always bragged of being the best forager and likes to prove it daily.  Once he let her go first, thinking she’d leave some, but she harvested that seed from the ground as close as a big combine gathering a load of wheat.  So, the others in the yard give them room for their games and try not to come between them.  Moon has often been heard to say…

“That bird’ll be the death of me with his stubborn ways and self importance.  How can he walk right over all this seed and not see it?  I declare he is blind as a bat.”

At which Honey answers…

“There’s a bat around alright and her name should be ‘Crazy as’ and she’s going to be the death of me with her competitive spirit and refusal to give me the respect I deserve.”

You can hear them muttering around the yard all day.  Eating and muttering, eating and muttering. Amy asked Zelda one day…

“How do those two find time to eat their seed with all the jabbering going on?”

Zelda came to the service of the pond, her answer flowing out of a fluorescent bubble…

“They have the disgusting habit of talking with their mouths full.  Try not to watch; it could make you lose your lunch.”

Amy agreed and flew away with a last smile at Zelda’s tail as it splashed back down into the water.

Honey and Moon are a part of the whole that makes up this world and as such, are loved and respected and considered part of a family.

                     The Day Hannibal Got His Come-Uppance

      Scott and Zelda have lived through alot together, finding a way to survive as one by one their families and friends began to disappear. Their escape was nothing short of miraculous, and the story is so touching, it must be told and told again, by all who witnessed.  This day is told again and again so as never to forget, but to remember the bravery and the good heart of a little one legged Robin.  It was the day Amy became a hero and won her place on the mighty Porch Council of Elders.  And the day Hannibal Horrible the great Owl was forced from the ‘hood. 

The day dawned like many others.  The old and weak wondering was this their last, the young strong excited to begin.  All were hungry and ready to get to work finding food. The day passed without consequence until around supper time when the great beast Hannibal Horrible began circling overhead.  His is a world so safe, he forgets to worry.  He’s strong, big and fears nothing in the backyard, except lack of food.  He cares for none of them; this is his cafeteria, his supper, his belly fillers, nothing more.  The sick, the weak, easy to catch but sometimes a little tough and stringy, not as tasty as the fat mouse running under the porch out of reach.  He’s cruel and beautiful, dangerous and exotic. He’ll even stare down the Human with her broom; playing with her until he’s had enough. Then he slowly takes flight on those huge and mighty wings, and sails to other kingdoms, where there are tastier morsels and no broom-wielding witch to interrupt his regal search for dinner.  Amy was keeping an eye on him all afternoon.  Hannibal was the one suspected of grabbing the little fish as they got too close to the top of the water, perhaps looking for tasty mosquitoes or ants half drowning, half swimming from their fall from Bill; his branches covering almost half of the back yard.  The whole yard was in on this mystery since it was causing so much commotion from the house. There were screams and shrieks from the human wielding the broom running after Hannibal Horrible when he got near the pond. The swiftly moving shadow of the big bird overhead was frightful to behold; the big wings making shadows on the surface of the pond. Amy knew Hannibal was about to attack, he was circling lower, toying, tormenting the three fish left in the little pond.  The human chased him off several times the day before, but now, she was nowhere to be seen.  Amy was scared, hadn’t she known fear herself from that slow moving shadow?  She looked from pond to porch, the fish were going deeper under pieces of broken marble and bits of bright blue pottery shards but that was no good, the big bird perched on the upper section of the fountain.  No shadow played on the water; no danger could be seen or sensed from underneath the bits of pink marble in the bottom of the pond.  The mosquitoes and small water spiders were still flitting and playing across the surface of the water, it’d be seconds before one of the fish rose in false security to the top of the pond to feed.  Amy had to act fast.  She flew to the porch, flew to the window, flew helter skelter around the porch, calling for Bull and Precious to come and help. But to her dismay, they’d long since disappeared into nests in branches so close together the big bird couldn’t get them.  Bull felt a little ashamed, but had to calm the bosom heaving quakes and fears of Precious, who was having a massive anxiety attack.  Amy was not giving up, she’d grown quite fond of Scott and Zelda and knew the persecution they were going through these last few days.  She flew to the windows, she flew to the front of the house, she flew to the creek and found Jake the Pine Snake, but Jake was so terrified, he was pretending to be a garden rake and was stretched out so stiff, no bird of prey would ever suspect that he wasn’t just that; left out in the yard by some human.  Amy was about out of her mind, she’d started this rescue mission and by damn she was going through with it.  Just as she was flying over Hannibal Horrible, she saw the gold sliver of fish coming up to taste a little water bug walking on water, “STOP” She screamed at the little fish, to the great annoyance of Hannibal who without malice or menace, dipped his great beak into the water as if taking a cool drink on a hot day, and immerged with Zelda’s last little sister, Sadie; so fast Amy thought she imagined it.  Two great wings opened, and Hannibal rose into the air – blowing Amy twirling head over tail backwards into the giant Azalea bush with the wind from his great wings.  The Great Owl with Sadie only a faint hint of gold tail trailing from the great beak  looked with great angry eyes at Amy as he soured up and away.  Amy was filled with terror.  She perched her one leg on the side of the pond and looked down at the sadness beneath.  Scott and Zelda were close together, in mourning, in grief, in terror.  Amy promised them at that moment, from the bottom of her heart that it was over, she begged them to trust her; she’d not see them parted.  She’d make sure they were safe.  Zelda looked up with watery eyes, a sad hopeful look, maybe Amy could do it, she lived up in the big world of danger; maybe she could save them.  Scott just wanted to stay close to Zelda for as long as they both lived, he knew someday he’d meet his family and friends in the catacombs that was the belly of the big bird, but maybe not today.  Scott thought Amy would probably end there also; she was just too silly to know it.

Bull felt guilty all afternoon, safe in his nest in Bill.  Precious was in one of her moods and he was having a real hard time finding anything to love in her.  He looked down on Amy, standing on her one pitiful little leg talking to Scott and Zelda, probably saying Good-bye, Bull thought.  He raised his tale in an ugly salute to Precious and ran down the tree to the pond.  Jake the Pine Snake limbered up and joined the Robin and fish at the pond, still trying to un-kink parts of his middle and relax.   Bull came up to the five worried parties. 

“We have to do something here.” Amy was saying as Bull entered the group.

“Not I” said Jake, “I obviously value my own life more that you do yours you silly one legged bird. Besides, if Scott and Zelda here are munchies to this great winged horror, I am his meal of choice, and as such have no intention of putting this wonderful creature I call me, in his fine dining schedule”.

Bull looked down at Zelda and thought his heart would break, she was beginning to tarnish, the gold had gone dark and melancholy.  She was one of his most favored confidants when Precious got too much to handle.  He could always come and enjoy the water ballet Zelda would give him to lighten his load and remind him of the world’s beauty.

Bull looked over at Amy…” Okay, Birdheart, what can I do to help, I’m in”.

Bull didn’t miss the look of gratitude and hope crossing Zelda’s face and lifting her spirits.  That alone was worth risking his life, and after all what are friends for?

Jake the Pine Snake looked with disdain from one to the other, didn’t they know there was a natural order of things?  Didn’t they get it?  The big ate the little on down to Scott and Zelda eating the tiny water bugs on the surface of the pond.  Who was the spokes person for those little beings?  The whole scene was beginning to bore him terribly, and he heard the big machines down the road. If he cut through two yards he could scare them just enough to cause a commotion for a few minutes and get back to see the outcome of the drama in his own back yard.

Hannibal Horrible was still angry with that little one legged twit of a bird.  How dare she interfere with his food? How dare she take it upon herself to even question any decision made by his royal self?  He’d go back for the two remaining fish and maybe finish off the bird at the same time.  The more he thought about it, the angrier he became.  Why wait, today was a fine day for paybacks and killing unwanted meddlers. Besides he was still hungry and he felt like more “catch of the day”.. 

Hannibal Horrible lifted from the top of the great pine and headed back to the yard…Ah the catch of the day, fresh and sweet.  Life is good, on this nice summer day.

The human returned home and saw the yard men finishing up two houses down, good they’d be here soon.  She could put away the groceries and straighten the back porch for the evening guests; knowing the yard would be cut and edged, the porch blown clean with the loud smelly blowers.  She started making the martini that was her late afternoon ritual sitting on the porch.

Jake the Pine Snake had given up, he was crawling home, and his heart wasn’t in the prank anymore. He’d lain curled and ready for thirty minutes and the humans had stepped right over him several times without notice.   Besides, he couldn’t get his own back yard troubles out of his mind. Scott and Zelda and their vanishing families were a part of his world, a world he’d chosen many years ago because he liked the inhabitants.  Well, hadn’t they become a part of the whole that made up his world?  Could he really turn and slither away.  Jake loved that word, slither, he loved to slither, he was the only one in the back yard that could slither, and he was proud of that.  He slithered over to the pond just as the humans opened the gates to the backyard and drove their terrible machine through.  The conspirators at the pond disappeared just as Hannibal Horrible came cruising overhead.  The machines didn’t bother him, he had no truck with them, and their worlds were millions of miles apart.

Amy was watching in the dogwood tree as the great Owl returned. She could see the big bird searching the trees looking for her, so she was to be the target along with Scott and Zelda?  Amy made a promise she was sure she couldn’t keep, but she sure as hell was gonna’ try.  She’d given her word and that still stood for something in the back yard.  Bull was under the eave of the roof, watching for any signal from Amy.  A squirrel had to do what a squirrel had to do and if it meant getting killed, well, oh crap, getting killed?  Suddenly he had an urge to bolt back to Bill, and crawl in next to Precious, cuddle up and deal with all of this on another day.  But a loud sharp bark from Precious resounding from the nest, reminded him that the joy of his fantasy was just that lately, a fantasy. Suddenly being a hero seemed safer and a little less challenging than trying to make Precious happy.  He puffed up to twice his size, began to bark an angry bark and prepared himself for battle.  Battle with a bulldozer named Hannibal, right, great odds here.

Amy was watching Hannibal Cannibal circle, keeping an eye on Bull at the same time.  When they moved it’d have to be very fast, and very sure.

Jake the Pine Snake suddenly saw an opportunity to help; one of the humans was walking toward the pond with a clean filter for the fountain.  The Human was sitting on the porch holding the small, weird little glass birdbath with the two green orbs she held every evening.  Good, it was still full, she’d not be too calm to care what was going on, she’d help; he knew it.  He positioned himself between Bull and Amy just under the edge of the porch.  Amy acknowledged his presence and was more than glad for whatever help Jake could give.  Then Lil Bit, trembling and scared came up beside Bull, she was little, but she was wiry with strong teeth.

“Go home Lil Bit, this isn’t for you…” Bull barked in his meanest voice.

“I won’t leave you, Bull, so don’t ask me, I can help”.  Bull was totally bumfuggled, how was he ever going to save himself and her in the bargain.  Amy looked down at Lil Bit, oh crap, would she get in the way?

Hannibal Horrible couldn’t see Amy, but the fish were swimming around lost and confused by the noise of the big machine.  He’d come back for the bird later, there was too much going on here, he’d just grab a little morsel and come back later. 

The whole thing lasted less than thirty seconds but in the numerous telling; it takes on monstrous proportions.  One old Blue Jay passing through on his way to the coast tells it like this.

Bomber comes from nowhere and flies so close to his big head, he’s dazed for a second.  “Die, Hitler, die.”

Lil Bit, in a fit of bravery jumps and half flies in the way of the big bird as he lowers over the porch toward the pond, causing him to have a momentary sway, enough for Bull to jump for his back, but he lands to the side and rolls off.  Amy Birdheart moves fast, and flies after the big Owl, grabbing tail feathers and tiny bits of down.  Bull, runs up to a top branch of the Crepe Myrtle and again jumps toward the back of the big killer, who is now circling the pond.  Bull over estimates his distance and lands on Jake, startling him into running onto the porch causing the human to spill her birdbath, making her so angry at Jake, she grabs the hoe and runs after him into the yard.  The human working at the pond sees Jake the Pine Snake running towards him and throws the hatchet attached to his belt, missing Jake, but hitting Hannibal Cannibal in his arrogant head and sending him crashing onto the roof of the porch.  Amy reaches the big Owl first then Bomber and thinking him dead, gives the all clear.  Gingerly they both appear in unison, creeping up to and looking at the felled prey.  Bull and Lil Bit reach Amy right as the big bird starts to move.  There are gasps as the four brave creatures back up as one.  But Hannibal Horrible is all in.  He shakes to clear his head.

“Has the world gone crazy, what the hell just happened?”  Suddenly the shadow of another big owl swoops down and grabs feathers out of Hannibal’s head.

“Get up you, idiot.  Don’t you see that big yellow cat approaching your sorry self?” Hannibal Horrible takes wing and soars overhead crying his sorrow following the shadow of his mate's wings. 

“He’ll not be sleeping in the nest tonight; the Mrs. is mad.”  Says Bull.

Amy, Bull and Lil Bit go down to the pond.  Jake the Pine Snake is hiding from the ‘ho with the hoe and won’t be out for a few days.  Scott and Zelda are recuperating under the wing of the cement angel covered in algae.  Bull looks over at Lil Bit; wow, she’s something else; he really under estimated her.  He wonders how far he could go before Precious killed them both.  Ah, a guy sure can mess up his life by falling for the wrong squirrel.  Well, there’d be other days and other ways to see to this love dilemma.  Lil Bit was glad she could help Bull, he is after all, the love of her life.  Precious was waiting in the tree, she’s glad Bull is all right; after all he is the love of her life.  She’d treat him well for a few days, and remind him how much he loved her, that’d take his mind off miss goody ‘Lil Butt’.

Amy Birdheart became a hero that day, not that she did it alone, but because she knew it had to be done and would’ve done it alone.

So life goes on in the back yard.  A little safer for the moment, but friends have been established and boundaries made and kept.  Love is allowed to grow between beings who’ve found a way to live together in friendships.  Hannibal Horrible stops by and perches on the little gazebo overlooking the pond on occasions when his Mrs. is in a rage.  Not to eat, just to enjoy the calm.

                                                THE END

Amy, you’re still loved and missed.

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