The scene is an urban backyard, a home built in the days of outhouses. The peeling house paint there matches an old back door where a large rock serves as a step to the bricked patio enclosure. Two rusty metal lawn chairs act as a reminder that once this outdoor space was serenely coveted.
It is 3 p.m., and the pigeons and sparrows coo and chirp while circling the weathered, one-story house. Rooftops become bleachers for the daily show. The pigeons circle, hover, watch and wait.
One by one the cooing, anticipating birds begin lining the utility lines closest to this house, which belongs to an old man. As more time passes, full flocks settle in to join the early arrivals.
All the birds are finding their places high above the courtyard. The only ground activity is a lone rabbit foraging on an occasional blade of grass emerging between the cracks of the bricks.
At 3:25 p.m., not one of the birds has left. All of the waiting, preening birds are positioned facing west, the direction of the house. I count 73 pigeons and several stray sparrows that have collected on rooftops and neighboring trees.
Some bolder birds land in the courtyard, clearly taunting the rabbit that is invading their revered afternoon territory. How dare any other species infringe?
More and more birds gather close to 4 p.m., all with eyes riveted on the old man's courtyard. Still, there's no movement from the shack of a house. The birds begin a frenzied dance for the best position. The time is getting closer.
A neighbor opens a back door and takes out some trash. The birds are temporarily aflutter, then reposition themselves and resume cooing. Wrong man.
And then, at 4, from the side of the house the birdman walks on the scene like a Santa Claus carrying a large white bag over his left shoulder. He pauses, turns and looks up toward the badly tarred roofline. He mumbles a hello to his friends. Then, and only then, they dive toward him as he moves to a far corner of the yard.
He responds to the cooing and talks softly to the birds while he feeds them. He gently gives them direction and calls them closer while telling others to move back and wait. The birds seem well-organized as they communicate to each other and to him.
By 4:30, the man stands up and walks to the center of the yard. He signals a brief goodbye, then spins the empty feeding bag over his head like a Steelers Terrible Towel at a football rally.
The birds fly to the rooftop, and the birdman watches as he prepares to leave for the day. He rattles a container as a sign of goodbye while dumping some seed that has collected in his shoes.
The nourished birds watch him leave from the rooftops as he mumbles something akin to, "We'll meet again tomorrow, my dears." He pauses once again as he brushes himself off and returns to his life apart from birds, somewhere through the walkway at the side of the house.
And me? Well, I return to my car and clean the bird dirt from my windshield.
Catherine Brunetti of Shadyside, formerly a small business owner, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.