I'm being leaned on, and I don't mean by a stinky sleeping fat guy on the bus.
No, I'm talking about The Family. They're leaning on me to keep them fed. Regularly. This morning I was out in the backyard enjoying the sights and sounds of nature, and I realised that the hummingbird feeder was empty. I had filled it yesterday morning, but suddenly it was bone dry, and there were a lot of very muted fluttering and chittering noises coming from the trees surrounding the backyard.
I didn't think much of it, so I went back inside for a bowl of oatmeal. That's when I saw him. Vinnie. Also known as Vinne The Back Breaker, so named because of his habit of cracking grown men over his spindly little leg. He was sitting in my kitchen window, smoking a tiny cigarette, resplendant in his dark green velvet suit and his red silk cravat. Even his grey shirt was pressed to perfection. I had to admire him for just a moment, the sun glinting off his dark glasses before I came to my senses--I was admiring a killer! A beak for hire!
That was what made me realise they were serious, the hummingbirds. Deadly serious. I quickly set about heating a pan of water, 4 cups to be exact, and four more in the big pitcher. Brought it right to boiling, and mixed in just over 2 cups of sugar, since I always like to give The Fellas just that extra little bit, like the barrista giving you an extra half shot of espresso. Mixed it all together under the watchful eye of Vinnie and let it cool a while.
I knew it was going to be bad when I went out there to fill the feeder, but I didn't realise HOW bad.
Little did I know. Vinnie, you see, had put The Word out. "Rough him up a little bit," he had told them, "but not toos much, see?" I had just unhooked the feeder from it's hanger on the house eave and unscrewed the glass jar from it's cheerful red base when they came at me. There must have been six or thirty of them, all impeccably dressed in their red cravats and green suits. My entire life flashed before my eyes, and while I stood there, one hand holding the glass jar, the other arm bent, raising the big green pitcher to fill the feeder, I saw it.
One of the gang pulled a switchblade from out of it's hiding place in his feathers.
Jimmy The Shiv. He was here. He was coming for me. He was thirsty and he meant business.
I started filling as fast as I dared, unwilling to spill a single drop of that precious sugar water. I knew that if I did they'd be on me like a burring hurricane, only with sharper edges. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Jimmy flying straight at me, his wings a blur, his companions pulling out short lengths of chain, Saturday Night Specials and knuckle dusters, ready to work me over but good for shirking my duties to The Family. As fast as I dared I upended the pitcher, letting the still-warm juice flow into the bottle and before I knew it, it was almost full.
That's when it happened.
One of them jostled my elbow.
I don't know who it was, never saw his face. I guess it was one of the junior members, angling for some clout, trying to be the Big Man in front of his fellas. I could hear their tiny, sharp laugher all around as the sugar water gushed out all over my hand, all over the sweet basil growing there against the house. Time seemed to slow to a crawl, and we cut to a slow-motion montage:
Clip: The little gangsters, hovering there, laughing.
Clip: The sugar water splashing all over my work pants and shoes.
Clip: The bright gleam of the morning sun on the glass container.
Clip: Me, as a child, reaching up into the sky to catch the tiny bright bird I saw there.
Clip: Vinnie, sitting there on the window ledge, smirking around his cigarette.
Clip: My fifth-grade Home Economics teacher telling me I had failed Cooking.
I knew it was over. I took my beating like a man, didn't even whimper. Much. And I won't forget this time, I promise. I won't ever let that feeder get empty, ever again.
I can't survive another hummingbird blanket party.