The Birders of Maine
by R.J. Patteson
There they are, in the easternmost blind of the conservation on the easternmost side of the easternmost state of America. Zoom in to that spot. In fact, if you were to type it into Google Maps and scroll your mouse wheel enough, you just might see the very blind on satellite.
Zoom in close to the Mitsubishi Outlander that’s parked just outside the blind. Yes, the one with all-terrain tires. Close in on the Ziploc bag of trail mix that’s roasting on the dashboard under the pine tree freshener. If you should block out the glare by pressing your face to the windshield and cupping your temples with your hands, you will see that there are, in fact, knitted doilies on each of the car’s headrests.
Circle around the model of fuel-efficient Japanese engineering until you’re at the door of this hickory shed. That’s what this blind is, really, it’s just a shed. Notice the mosaic of a loon burnt into the wood of the door. Notice the warning that birders who are caught smoking will have their memberships revoked.
Shimmy yourself ever so quietly through the door and you’ll find The Birders in their natural habitat. First, there’s a man. First, there is Larry. Look at this man, Larry, as he stands in place like a wax statue, peering through his Bushnell Legend Ultra HD binoculars, peering through the slit of the blind. He rests his weight on one leg and there’s a canteen clipped to the belt-loop of his khakis.
He calls to the woman looking over his shoulder. He calls, “I think it’s a black-necked stilt, Linda.”
She is Linda.
Focus on Linda as she reaches into the deep pockets of her cargo shorts. Squint one eye and make a viewfinder with your hands as she thumbs an almond, unsalted, into her mouth. She thumbs an almond—unsalted and cracked by hand—and brings her jaw to a close, softly, softly.
Watch her as she softly, softly, raises her binoculars. Better yet, put on your reading glasses and get within smelling distance as she tracks a laser over Larry’s shoulder and through the slit of the blind and through a thicket of tamarack and to the cracked limb of a fallen log that is not actually a bird of any kind.
Get close to the powder of Linda’s makeup, her pink lipstick, her tongue under her lip as she sucks almond bits from the gaps in her teeth. Watch her as she calls back in a whisper, “I don’t see it.”
About R.J. Patteson
R.J. Patteson is an author/screenwriter from Toronto, Canada, and finalist for the Academy Nicholl Fellowship. He’s currently writing a book with the emotional support of his three-year-old Chiweenie dog, Tula. He Tweets @rjpatteson.