“It had seemed like such a good idea at the time.”
If you’re unfamiliar with this thought or have never had it swim around in your head before rest assured that the global quota of reassessing ones actions in the face of a less than desired outcome is being met and exceeded by the first time parents of toddlers the world over.
Alex for example had met his own personal quota two days ago and had been collecting bonus points left right and centre ever since.
Today’s extra credit activity/genuinely good intention had been bird feeding and/or watching.
An impromptu decision (as they all well intended failures usually are) that took root when his daughter decided to forgo the further consumption of her toast in favour of pointing out the window while saying ‘Birdies birdies birdies’ and seeing just how much toast could be stuffed into the little black hole that forms between the siding and seat cushion of a high chair.
It was half a slice. In case you were curious.
This had resulted in no less than four internal reactions from Alex which are listed as follows:
‘For flips sake why the flip can’t you just eat all your breakfast like a normal flipping person?!’
‘You want to see flipping birdies?! I’ll show you flipping birdies.’
‘Calm down you wanker she’s a two year old she doesn’t know any better.’
And todays exceptionally present:
‘Christ what the heck do I do with her now until nap time?’
The latter being so front of mind because wake-up O’clock had been wound right back to 5am that day.
Fortunately divine inspiration had filled his brain much like the peanut buttery remains of breakfast had taken up every possible micron of space in the gap between cushion and frame of the high chair and Alex started making the necessary moves to take what remained on Maddies plate and break it into small, bird friendly pieces.
‘Tell you what Maddie, why don’t we see if the birds want to eat the rest of your toast, seeing as you’re too good for it?’
Luckily for Alex, Maddie was at that special age where she could understand the fact that things were moving in her favour but also didn’t quite get the subtle, kniving nuances of sarcasm.
A mastery of this art would come many years later when the subconscious lessons of Alex being a dick (read: acting like himself) around her during her early years would result in her putting on a ridiculously genuine performance that she didn’t know who he was which would result in Alex being dragged into the back of a police car wearing nothing but one thong, a soaking wet sock, a pair of boxer shorts and a black
eye at 3 in the morning.
But that’s for another time.
Right now Alex was sitting at the dining room window which overlooked what could be called the ‘side yard’, staring down from his elevated viewing position with his content daughter plonked in his lap, recovering from what should have been a very easy depositing of bread scraps but resulted in an otherworldly misunderstanding on Maddies part.
Apparently ‘Why don’t we see if the birds want to eat the rest of your toast?’ was an offer to crouch approximately four centimetres away from said toast once it had been scattered about and shrilly cry ‘Birdie birdie cheep cheep!’
Which created even louder problems when Alex suggested that they not follow the current course of action and go back upstairs and inside to watch from a distance. Preferably where the sound of her rather insistent ‘bird-calling’ (which unfortunately can’t be translated here due to the obscene nature of the words) could not be heard by the birds themselves. The extra loud problem that this created being a very red faced and teary Maddie standing at the bottom of the patio stairs offering up a terrific impersonation of a jet engine with a spanner throw inside for good measure.
But after some careful shouting and calming words all said inside Alex’s head, she had ended up being upstairs with him, contently and gently tapping her toes on the glass of the window while performing a vampire impersonation on the side of a juice box. (Because straws are for suckers.)
And Alex, as stated, ticked off one more bonus box of “It seemed like such a good idea at the time.”
Alex checked the time on his phone and sighed. 9am. Two hours till down time. He lifted Maddie from his lap and sat her in front of the window alone. ‘You got this if dad gets a coffee mate?’
Somewhere around nodding and juicy gurgling the words ‘Daddygetacawfe?’ could be made out.
As the coffee machine drummed and groaned away, many thoughts raced through Alex’s head but at the forefront was the self reassurance that he was actually doing a good job when you think about it. After all he was managing to keep his daughter entertained without depositing her in front of the idiot box or handing her a zombie creating electronic device.
He turned and looked over the kitchen counter to admire his tiny tornado of terror.
Sure, I really should dial back some of the narky tone in front of her, but shit at least she’s not being exposed to violence or any crap like that.
Besides, look at her, she’s actually just loving sitting there and looking at the big wide world, even if there aren’t any fucking bir-
Alex didn’t actually see it happening but he certainly heard the almighty THUMP.
A sound he had vaguely recalled hearing one morning at the grocery store when after another 5am rising he and Maddie had gone to get the grocery shopping done and had arrived early enough to witness the slaughterhouse truck unloading at the butchers.
He figured it would be good for her to see where meat comes from but when he called out a jovial ‘Morning!’ to one of the men unloading the truck he had surprised them to the point that they dropped their end of the shared load causing an entire beef carcase to literally fall off the back of the truck. (Alex knew this wasn’t the first time Maddie had heard the word ‘Fuck’ but it was certainly the most times she had heard it and the only time it had been directed at her dad with such vigour.) Honestly, it really had seemed like such a good idea at the time.
Yes, the THUMP was familiar, but the SPLAT that followed a microsecond behind was not.
The squeal of delight from Maddie was a common sound in the house though.
She stood up, nose suction cupped to the window screaming and grinning like a maniac.
‘Fall down! Man fall down!’
Alex turned quickly to look out the kitchen window to see a black, vaguely man shaped lump with a rather wet and splattered outline sitting dead centre of his gated driveway.
Dead centre, he rolled the thought around in his head for what felt like an hour while the blood drained from his face at the same rate it seemed to leak from the poor sod who was casually spreading himself around his driveway in an exceptionally dead fashion.
It wasn’t unit the second body landed on top of the first, spreading the mess out far faster and quite violently (not unlike a pouch of baby-food under a stampeding elephants foot) that Alex snapped back to reality with a window shaking shout of, ‘FUCK ME!’
Maddies reaction was a little more jovial (and if we’re being honest kind of twisted in a sick way) as she jumped, then screamed in laughter and clapped again.
It was raining men in Alexs’ yard, men that seemed to be dressed in full black military grade tactical gear and his kid was having the time of her currently short little life.
He looked at her disapprovingly for a moment then decided that she likely doesn’t have a metric for tragedy and gore that he has gained from decades of media lies combined with a childhood in the 80’s where Stallone and Schwarzenegger were stacking bodies up like they were laying bricks in a house made of corpses. Which you really would have expected to have made him better adjusted to something like this but apparently steadily growing corpse piles made for a much more terrifying morning when they were on the other side of your kitchen window glass rather than your television screens glass.
Alex leapt the bench and collected Maddie before sliding back under the cover of the counter.
‘It’s ok petal, dads got you, its ok.’ His calming and reassuring tone gently made the shaking in his hands slow down, much to Maddies disappointment, who was having a terrific time watching men fall from the sky followed by jiggling tickles by dad.
Hundreds of thoughts vied for importance in Alexs’ brain so we’re not going to list them this time but here’s a few.
He considered running with Maddie to the car and changing their geographical location to somewhere with a more favourable type of rainfall but he didn’t recall owning an umbrella that could deflect anything larger than a bigger than average water droplet let alone an entire cadaver.
Staying indoors seemed smarter but at the velocity those bodies were coming down he didn’t quite think a tin roof, plaster ceiling and melamine bench would cut it as a body-bomb shelter.
And calling the police seemed like it would raise far too many questions that needed answering while trying not to get corpse-slapped.
All these thoughts were put abruptly on hold however the moment he noticed that the ‘rain’ seemed to have stopped at two drops.
It was then that the steady thumping WHOOSH sound began to get louder.
Alex turned to Maddie and told her with as much serious conviction that a two year old could understand to stay under the bench for a moment while daddy checked the window.
Along with the ever increasing sound of that strange WHOOSH-ing, Alex noticed a shadow slowly growing on his driveway in the morning sunlight.
His eyes craned skyward to take in the vision of the single fuck-off-biggest bird looking creature his consciousness would ever allow his to perceive.
Enormous black talons dug into the concrete of his driveway as it made land, a wingspan that scrapped the side of both his and his neighbours houses folded in to a sleek, shining, pitch black feathered body which on longer inspection, shimmered in the daylight with things that bore a striking resemblance to undulating, screaming faces.
Two milky white eyes say up from a long, serrated beak that strangely enough looked to be made from rusted metal.
Alex could both hear and feel his heart beating in his ears and eyeballs, he imagined the poor thing was trying to escape and look for a safer body to live in and who could blame it with something like that waiting just outside the window.
He swallowed hard in a dry throat and watched in fascinated terror as this bird-thing, taller than his 8ft front gate when standing relaxed, turned and twitched its head around with the same speed as the tiny little birds that frequented his yard.
His palms started to sweat as he considered what weapon was close by that he could grab to give himself a fighting chance when he positioned himself between the thing and his daughter once it noticed them. He even considered telling her to run while he tried to get its attention and lead it away.
He was so lost in thought the he didn’t notice it had stopped it’s apparently searching and had locked onto a target.
With its head craned low, the bird-monster slowly opened its rusted, jagged metal beak. The screaming groan of metal on metal accompanied the hinging making Alex grab his ears. A half dozen long flexible metal tendrils uncoiled from the things maw, each one with a tiny little chromed bird beak at its tip. They all undulated and hovered just above the ground as if scanning or exploring before abruptly pausing for a moment.
Then, like so many hens, they all rhythmically began tapping at the concrete. Picking up the little pieces of peanut butter on toast.
Alex stared out the window in stunned silence, vaguely registering the feeling of Maddie pushing her way in front of him.
She pressed her nose and palms against the glass and laughed low and excitedly.
‘HOHOHOHOH!’ Then turned to look up at her pale father.
‘Birdie birdie! Cheep cheep!’
Christ, it had seemed like such a good idea at the time.