It still seems like a wacky early morning Manhattan dream.
It was before six, I had brewed some coffee and was making my way through The Times.
Then, to my left, from behind the sofa, a large bird arose and began flapping wildly, bouncing off the walls and ceiling in a manic display of pique and fear. The wingspan of the creature was startling. To my adrenaline-soaked brain it seemed like a teenage condor.
Unknowingly, I had cried out, breaking Jane’s sleep chain, which is saying something, and she hustled out.
She thought, cheekily, that I had fallen and couldn’t get back up. (There was one time when this was technically correct because I had knocked myself unconscious and it took me a short while to return to a normal state.) So there we were, side-by-side in our serene living room.
No bird in sight. I can declare that there is no more irreducible rationale for the institution of marriage than to have a spouse at the ready to join you in a hunt for a wild bird in your city apartment.
Bizarre as it seems, I had had a previous experience getting a bird out of an apartment in Philadelphia, so knew to get a bathroom towel ready for the final encounter with the winged intruder.
We cautiously surveyed the living room. Jane was the first to spot it, back behind the sofa on the radiator cover from whence it had come. The “condor” had reduced itself to a rather cute dove, and as I approached with the towel, it took off on another crazed wall-bashing mission.
This time it made the poor decision to alight on one of our floor lamps. I said, “He won’t be staying there long,” for he was sitting on an exposed halogen bulb, which has the temperature not unlike the sun’s surface.
But for several seconds, which seemed like an eternity, the dove stared at us, motionless, unfazed. Then we saw the wisps of smoke from the dove’s tail section as it calmly roasted itself in our living room. I couldn’t stand it. I screamed and clapped to get the bird off the lamp and it made an excellent decision: It flew down the hall and sat placidly in front of the door.
I slowly approached with my red towel, looking like a mad toreador. I gently draped the towel over the dove and carefully wrapped him up. Previous bird encounters have told me that once in the towel, they nearly go limp with happy resignation.
A couple of years ago, I gave Jane a long black-and red-checked flannel night shirt from Vermont, which she favors in the winter months. And sure enough, I was in a matching set of flannel pants and an Island hoodie from Bliss’s.
In short, we looked ridiculous, as most bedclothes make you look. But there was something irresistible about setting out for the building lobby in this garb. My favorite doorman, Victor, who is the overnight guy, would be waiting and get a kick out of our bird story. On the elevator ride down, I noticed a small chunk of the fawn-colored dove poking out of the towel.
I felt in charge of precious cargo.
“We brought you a bird, Victor!” I bellowed.
He took it in stride with his typical dazzling smile. And being a doorman, he opened the door as I carried our singed dove to the sidewalk. I rustled the towel a little bit and the bird popped out and looked around. I thought for a second that it was not going to be able to fly.
Then it shot off into the morning darkness. Jane says she detected something of a hitch in the dove’s flight path, but I didn’t see it.
It was time to clean up the apartment. The dove had for its own curious reasons traveled down four floors of sooty chimney pipe and entered our apartment through our open flue. It had disturbed the ashes in the fire box and left sooty splotches everywhere it hit the walls and ceiling.
Miraculously, we found only one dime-sized dab of poop.
I ran into the building’s superintendent about an hour later and asked him if in his quarter-century tenure such a bird invasion had ever happened before. Ours was the first and probably the only one that will happen in the future, he said. But, he said, get a life and close the damn flue.