As a rule, Steven usually leaves the house in the morning an hour before I do. Sometimes he will text me throughout the day, to revel about a project he completed, or to share random insights that he deems too important to wait until we get home—theories about the latest episode of LOST, updates on Nebraska football recruiting, how some crazy lady cut in front of him and then flipped him off when he stopped at the 7-11 to get a Slurpee during his lunch hour. One of the things I love the most about our relationship is the fact that we never run out of things to talk about, and we always seem to be able to find a way to make each other laugh.
Generally, I don’t hear from Steven for several hours after he leaves in the morning, but every once in awhile, he will call me if there is something urgent, like the times he has had to have me search for his wallet after he arrived at work and realized it wasn’t in his pocket. This morning, I was in the middle of making my coffee when my phone started to ring. I answered, already preparing myself to be sent on a scavenger hunt for something he mistakenly left behind.
“Hel—” I said, but Steven cut me off before I had the chance to finish my greeting.
“Oh my God, I am going to hell!” he gushed, breathlessly. “I mean it. I am going straight to hell!”
“Wait. What?” I asked. “What are you talking about? Are you okay? What happened?”
“Oh man,” Steven continued. “Feathers and guts! That’s all I saw, just feathers and guts!”
What the hell is he talking about? I wondered. I could almost hear the squealing of the gears in my brain as they began to turn. I’d barely been out of bed for twenty minutes, and had no caffeine in my system yet. It was taking me a few extra moments to catch on.
“Honey, slow down,” I said. “What are you talking about?”
“Okay,” Steve said. I could hear him taking the deep breath that always preceded his stories. “So, I’m driving past the dairy. You know, the one I pass before I get to the college?”
“Uh huh,” I said, visualizing his maroon Lumina cruising by the McClintock Dairy, Steven behind the wheel, drumming along to whatever song happened to be playing on the radio.
“Okay, so you know how there are always a lot of birds by the dairy? And there are always birds in the road, but they get scared and fly away?”
“Yeah,” I said. I was finally beginning to realize where the story was going.
“Yeah, so one didn’t fly away like it was supposed to. All I hear is this THUD, and then feathers and guts are flying everywhere!”
“Aw, Stevie, that sucks! I’m sorry!” I said, trying to be supportive, but I could feel the giggles beginning to build. I felt bad for the poor bird, and felt bad for Steve hitting it. Yet, imagining Steven’s reaction in my head was enough to make me choke with laughter. Steven’s passionate intensity, his tendency to make seemingly simple situations transform into grandiose, larger than life events, has always been one of the things that I love most about him. The ability to make even the most mundane situations exciting is a rare talent, and I have to say that Steven has damn near perfected his craft.
In my mind, I could see the events as they unfolded. Steven would be driving along drumming on the steering wheel to some AC/DC or Rolling Stones song on the radio, singing along in a loud falsetto, as he drove the long stretch of empty highway. Rounding the corner by the dairy, he would see the birds on the road in the distance. He would keep on cruising, trusting that the birds would fly away in time, as they had a thousand times before. He would be so certain of it, that he wouldn’t even notice the one still sitting there, until the bumper of the car was closing in. But, by then, it would be too late. As the car struck the bird and obliterated it, Steven’s eyes would grow to roughly the size of golf balls, and he would begin to yell.
“Aaahhhh! Jesus! Bird! WHAT THE HELL? Out of the road! You’re supposed to get out of the road! WHY DIDN’T YOU GET OUT OF THE ROAD!?”
Steven’s voice on the phone brought me back to reality.
“I mean he’s just sitting there in the road with his little friend—” he continued.
“Oh no, there were two little birds!” I cried, unable to hold the laughter in any longer.
“Yeah, there were two. And they were both sitting in the road, just minding their own business. His little friend flew away, but the poor sucker I hit just exploded. Seriously babe, I don’t even think there is enough of him left for his little friend to come back and identify him. All I saw was feathers and guts. Just feathers and guts, everywhere! I don’t even want to look at the front of my car!”
“Oh honey,” I choked, but I was laughing so hard that I couldn’t offer any more support. I collapsed on the couch and giggled madly. Electra planted herself at my feet and stared at me quizzically, her head cocked to the side in confusion.
On the other end of the phone, Steven was still talking, but I only caught every few words between my guffaws.
“Damn bird…stupid…feel so bad…freakin’ move…cloud of feathers…”
I took several deep breaths, and finally managed to get myself under control.
“Oh, Stevie. I’m sorry,” I said. “That must have freaked you out. Was that the first animal you ever hit?”
“Yeah! The rest of ‘em always got out of the way!” Steve yelled. “I mean, seriously! What was going on in his little bird brain? He just sat there! He had no chance. I mean, I annihilated him, babe!”
“Aw, Stevie!” I giggled. “At least he didn’t feel anything. It was a quick, painless death.”
“How would you know?” Steve asked? “Have you ever exploded on impact?”
“Well, no,” I admitted. “But I’m pretty sure that exploding guarantees a minimal amount of suffering. I mean, you blew the little guy apart. I think his pain receptors were probably destroyed on impact.”
“Oh, God! I am seriously going to hell,” Steven moaned. “What a way to start a day!”
“I’m sorry, babe.”
“Yeah, it’s okay. I just hope his little friends don’t come after me,” Steven said, beginning to laugh himself.
“Oh man, no way!” I squealed. “I want no part of that Alfred Hitchcock craziness! You better hit the car wash today and get rid of the evidence. If it gets hot, your car is gonna stink.”
“Damn! I didn’t even think of that! Alright, I gotta go. I’ll see you tonight.”
“Okay, Stevie. I love you. And drive safely!”
“I’ll try. Love you too.”
Still chuckling, I hung up the phone. The aroma of freshly brewed coffee began to fill the air, as I headed to the bathroom to shower and get ready for work. Steven was right. It was quite a way to start a day—Steven Romano 1, Birds 0.