The following story was written about true events which were told to me first hand. I may have taken a slight degree of artistic freedom —but only a bit.
“Snare and Release”
A Short Story by Susanne Perry
Rikki hated birds. All birds. It wasn’t so much the birds themselves, or the way they preened, or
even the sounds they make. It’s the wings she can’t stand, how they flutter and sputter with
frantic spasms of insanity. It made no sense how the feathered creatures could sit quietly and
patiently one minute then startle with frenetic motion the next. The agitated activity made her
heart feel like it was going to explode. It hadn’t always been this way. At one time Rikki had
enjoyed mornings filled with birdsong, cooing doves, or the sounds of evening trills. But that
enjoyment was no more.
She didn’t like dead birds either, to be honest. Butchered and cooked wasn’t any better. A
dinner of fried chicken didn’t appeal to her at all. Roast turkey over the holidays didn’t entice
her because the bird on the platter still looked like what it was—just a big dead bird. Rikki could
picture it alive and flapping those huge wings even if it could not fly. It was still a damned bird
after all. She spent many holidays with potatoes, green bean casserole, and an olive or two on
her plate. Easter was not a celebratory occasion for dyeing eggs. They reminded her of her
avian enemies, and Rikki was disgusted by them. Hard boiled eggs were malformed, slimy,
white super balls with chalky, yellow insides. Yuck.
One spring evening, Rikki was heading down the highway after work. She was late collecting the
boy from baseball practice, but it could not be helped. She had a business to run and clients
that needed her time and attention. Rikki hadn’t closed the salon until after six and was flying
down the road.
The desert palette presented a dusky pink mixed artfully with deep blue, yellow and bronze on
the expansive canvass of sky. The breeze kept the air moving and it was warm. The windows
were down and Chili Peppers were blaring. Rikki savored the beautiful evening and forgot about
At the intersection, she hit the gas when the light changed to green and when Rikki accelerated,
something hit the side of the driver’s door. If fact, something careened off the side of her face
and whatever it was, it bounced off her shoulder and was now in her backseat.
Rikki could hear flapping that sounded like a tomcat stuck in a burlap bag except it wasn’t
screeching and clawing. It was worse than that. Much worse. It was flustered and carrying on
like a banshee. She was sure it was a stinking damn bird. Behind her. In the car. With her.
Turning around to see where it landed wasn’t possible because she was driving in traffic. Rikki
knew that any second, the demon was going to jump on top of her head and the very thought
caused the hair on the back of her neck to stand on end. Her skin crawled. Rikki didn’t want to
touch the creepy thing. Thinking about it made her dizzy and Rikki felt her chest constrict—but
she wanted it out of her car.
Reluctantly Rikki reached around with her right arm to see if she could smack it out the
passenger side window but had no luck. Traffic was heavy and the flow didn’t allow for a slow
down in the left lane. Her heart was thumping wildly. She had to do something. Fast. Forcing
herself to get a grip, Rikki pulled over into the right lane.
There was a grocery store a couple of blocks ahead on the right. Rikki pulled into the parking lot without signaling, pissing off the guy behind her. He hit the horn. She flipped him off.
Pulling into a parking spot to the side of the store, Rikki threw the transmission into park and
jumped out. She opened both back doors and searched without getting too close. Rikki could
not see a thing and the backseat of the car was now eerily quiet. But the wild thing was there.
She knew it.
This was fucking ridiculous. She reached in and turned the engine off. Rikki needed something
to use as a prod—a stick, a palm frond, anything, but there was nothing remotely useful in the
empty parking lot. No, I had to stop in the only clean lot in town, Rikki swore to herself, shaking
her head. What now? She wondered.
A man approached in her direction as he stepped from the exit of the grocery store. Rikki
flagged him down. When he heard her call out, he slowed his gait instead of walking faster.
“Hey, can you help me?” Rikki called to the man in obvious panic. “There’s a bird in my car!”
The man ambled over, unsure of what to make of her panicked state of emergency. He frowned, appeared to wonder if he had heard her correctly. “There’s a what?” he asked with a skeptical tone, his brow twisted into a frown.
“A bird. It flew into my car. It freaked me out! I thought I was going to pass out.”
“A bird? How’d it get in your car?”
“It flew in the window when I was at the light.” Rikki repeated, pointing down the street.
“How you gonna pass out from a bird? It ain’t gonna hurt you.”
“They sound so manic all the time, like they’re mad—and it hit me in my damned face!”
The man looked at her like she was a nut and Rikki probably sounded like one. “No,” he said
shaking his head. “It’s just lost. Funny time of evening for them,” he said looking up at the
dusky sky. “It’s navigation musta failed it. It’s more scared of you than you are of it.”
Rikki sincerely doubted the truth of that assessment but wasn’t going to argue. Besides, she needed the guy’s help. “Can you get it out of my car? Please?”
He sighed as he looked toward her car. He saw the open back doors and looked back at her.
“Backseat?” he asked.
Rikki nodded, relieved that she might not have to abandon the car and call an Uber. She had
seriously considered doing that very thing before she had noticed the guy coming from the
The man walked over to the car. He bent over into the backseat, crouched down with his knees
on the pavement to look on the floor behind the front seat. He stayed in that position long
enough that Rikki wondered what the hell was happening. Then she saw him back out of the car
carefully holding something gently in both hands.
“I think it’s a phoebe,” he said of the bird in his hands.
“Is it dead?” Rikki asked.
“No, Ma’am, just disoriented. It is starting to calm down.” Rikki watched as the man stroked the
bird’s feathers with one finger. He puckered his lips and placed his mouth so close to the bird
that Rikki couldn’t tell if he kissed it, blew tiny puffs of air at it, or spoke softly to the bird.
Slowly, it started to rouse, becoming more active, but the bird seemed content to sit on the
man’s palm. It looked to her as if the bird took comfort from the stroke of the man’s finger and
the warmth of his breath.
“See?” he said to her. “It’s coming around nicely. Do you want to say hello?” Rikki stepped
closer and touched the bird gingerly just behind its head. It didn’t seem to mind her touch. The
feathers were very soft. She felt life energy emanate from the tiny thing and Rikki was hit with surprise and excitement, but after a moment she backed away.
A cinder block wall surrounded the perimeter of the parking lot. The man placed the bird on its
little feet atop the wall. He was careful, ensuring that it was on its feet and balanced before he
took his hands away from the bird as it perched there. The bird walked around, taking a few
steps on its stick-like feet.
The phoebe faced them. It stood there for a solid minute as it looked at the pair with curiosity
or with gratitude or maybe it was with amusement—who could tell? Then they watched it fly off.
“So long, bird,” said the man.” He turned to her and with a slight, forward nod said, “You have a
nice evening too now.”
“Thank you,” Rikki told him, as she felt her panic subside. “I appreciated the help.” She reached
into her bag and pulled out a twenty. “Let me pay you for your time.”
The man frowned, looked at the bill in her hand. “Oh, no. Not necessary,” he said as he put his
hands out between himself and the offered money. “Good night, Ma’am.” Rikki watched him
“Thank you,” Rikki called after him one last time. He waved with one hand without turning
around, merely offering a side glance in her direction.
The bird hadn’t died. She had watched it fly away. Rikki thought of how she had stroked the
bird’s feathers while it sat on the man’s hand and the slight vibration of life she had felt under
her finger. Rikki recalled how the man had placed his mouth close to the small being as a
kinship was shared between them. She had witnessed something special.
Rikki was no longer worried about being late. Bigger things, cosmic things — were happening. She climbed into the car and started the engine. Rikki pulled slowly into traffic and headed to the ballpark.