The Deranged Grackle
For a couple days there were a lot of Common Grackles on the big tree outside our building. The shiny purple-headed, yellow-eyed blackbirds were on every branch making their typical cacophony of squeaky gate sounding calls. It was migration season, and soon they all vanished… except the deranged one.
The Deranged Grackle had one red eye and was always on the ground. It seemed easily agitated and would make a particularly loud “squeakygate” noise. It stayed close to our door, and we figured it wanted to come inside.
“What an adorable anomaly!” we said and let it in.
“Squeakygate,” it said and made itself at home.
We viewed ourselves as little deranged sometimes and figured we’d be able to relate with the creature. But it didn’t take long before its “squeakygate” did not sound good to our ears. It got in the way of things we’d rather listen to like music and the rain and our thoughts.
When we tried to ignore it, it flew in front of our face. When we tried to chase it out, it flew just out of reach. Eventually it said “squeakygate” enough that peace seemed hopeless.
“Fukkinbird!” it made us say.
But saying that just made The Deranged Grackle “squeakygate” even more.
“Alright, let’s reason this out...” we eventually hadta tell it. “Your species is not supposta be inside an apartment, is not supposta stay in the region this time of year, not supposta make this much noise, nor have a single red eye. It’s unacceptable to us, and you need to change.”
“Squeakygate!” it answered, “squeakygate!”
But it didn’t try to change and seemed to not be listening at all, and that made us feel helpless, and that made us feel angry. And feeling angry made us want to get as close to its red eye as possible and scream things at it like, “CHANGE CRAZY BIRD, CHANGE CRAZY BIRD, DON’T BE DERANGED ANY MORE!”
But it only screamed back, “SQUEAKYGATE, SQUEAKYGATE, SQUEAKYGATE!” all night long.
The script repeated almost every day, except sometimes we’d scream louder and longer and use different scream-words, but the bird would always scream “SQUEAKYGATE” just as loud and long. It was a real stalemate, you could say.
Then one time these psychologists came to my job at the college to tell all the teachers how to deal with deranged students.
“Whenever they seem to be living in The Other Universe,” they said, “just use this.” Then they handed each of us a stuffed Koala Bear wearing an undersized T-shirt that said “mental health.”
The Koala Bear had such a cute pudge-belly. It had such a cute, oversized black nose. It had such cute, little circle-ears. Why not use this at home, we thought.
So we put it in front of the Deranged Grackle, and the bird was screaming “SQUEAKYGATE” like usual, but the Koala didn’t scream back or cover its ears. It just took it with a permanent-stitched smile the whole time. In fact, its plush exterior seemed to absorb the sound, each scream becoming quieter and quieter until it there was silence. Finally, the Deranged Grackle went over and wing-nuzzled the Bear, and everything was alright.
“New strategy,” we said, “always use Koala.”
And when we did it helped us Love the Grackle and realize it couldn’t be anything but its Deranged self, and we felt hope.
Although for whatever reason we couldn’t always remember where we put the doll, or what it looked like, or even where the continent of Australia was. And we’d end up screaming again even tho it didn’t work.
“FUCKING CRAZY WRONG BROKEN BIRD FIX YOURSELF NOT FAIR FIX YOURSELF BE NORMAL EVIL AWFUL THING YOU ARE SUPPOSTA BE NORMAL BAD BAD BAD IM NOT THE PROBLEM YOU ARE YOU CRAZY DERANGED FUCKING GRACKLE!”
“SQUEAKYGATE, SQUEAKYGATE, SQUEAKYGATE, SQUEAKYGATE, SQUEAKYGATE, SQUEAKYGATE, SQUEAKYGATE, SQUEAKYGATE, SQUEAKYGATE!” the Deranged Grackle predictably responded.
Sometimes strangely in the middle of it all we’d suddenly remember where the Koala was, but before giving it to the bird we’d hafta first smush it firmly against our own faces and scream our own repetitive cries deep into the soft stuffing until we calmed down enough to say, “We’re sorry. We promise to do better next time.”
Jonathan 'Bluebird' Montgomery was born in 1980 in Akron, Ohio. He's a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and Naropa University's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. His books include Taxis & Shit, Pizzas and Mermaid, and new novel The Reality Traveler. He lives in Boulder, Colorado.
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