I had the house to myself the other night. Since houses are big scary places to be when you’re by yourself, I decided the best thing to do would be to take a walk around the neighborhood. Then, when the time was right, I could return home and find my fiancée back from her night class. In the meantime, I’d be out in the world, visible, safe amongst my fellow man.
Boy was I wrong.
I’d made it maybe five minutes away from my house when it happened. There I was, walking along, minding my own business, finishing up a podcast on dinosaurs when all of a sudden I heard what sounded like honking. That’s odd, I thought to myself. After all, I was on the sidewalk, well out of the way of any traffic. Perhaps it was a bike horn or something. I pulled one earphone from my ear and looked around in an attempt to locate the source of the noise.
And then I saw them. In the backyard of the house immediately to the right of me: two monstrous swans. They were each about the size of one of those toy, battery-powered Jeeps kids used to cruise around the neighborhood back in my youth. Each one probably weighed as much as three morbidly obese cats. Maybe more. Probably more.
Worst of all: one of them was making a beeline directly to me.
Its neck was stretched out perfectly straight in front of it like a lance. It was honking viciously and moving fast. Not like cheetah fast but fast for a large ungainly bird.
Best I can figure, even though they were in the middle of the yard, nowhere near me, the one had felt threatened by my presence. Likely, the ample masculinity I exude had unsettled it. Instead of cowering in fear, it had decided to charge me, setting the stage for a man vs. beast battle for that lonely stretch of sidewalk.
The way I saw it, I had two options. Option A: Run away screaming, crying and wetting myself. Option B: Wheel back and kick that son of a bitch directly in the head. Kick it like a man had never kicked a majestic water fowl before. I didn’t really want to do it, but the swan totally started it.
There was also an Option C. That involved doing nothing and seeing what happened.
It may have been fear or it may have been remarkable level-headedness, but somehow I picked Option C. I turned my head from the charging demon-swan and carried on walking at a normal pace. I reached a major intersection and had to wait at a red light. I steadied myself. I made peace with my gods and waited for the death-bird to fall upon me.
But it didn’t come.
I turned to locate the foul thing, but it was gone. I could still faintly hear it honking, but it must have gone back to sit with its friend in the center of the yard. In its swan-brain, it had won a major victory against a taller, but likely less bulky, opponent.
As for me, well I was just glad I didn’t have to make the choice between running from a swan and engaging one in fisticuffs. I haven’t been in a physical altercation since the middle of grade school and I was not eager to break that streak with something people wrote ballets and children’s stories about.
I continued on with my walk. A little while after, I found myself on the other side of that major intersection, looking across at the road to my house. I’d lingered too long and the sun had set. I knew what could be waiting for me on the other side. I considered taking the long way home, like a kid hoping to avoid a bully. No, I thought. My species didn’t wrestle this planet from nature’s cruel grasp just to take the long way home because of some stinking bird. If I was going to do that, I might as well just chew off my arms and legs and slither back into the sea. No, mankind wasn’t going out like that.
I knew what I had to do: I had to face that swan like a man.
I turned off my iPod. I needed all of my senses heightened and ready. I walked passed the house from earlier and then the backyard, my head and eyes swiveling every which way, trying to pick out the beast in the darkness. But it was gone. They both were. Perhaps they knew not to push their luck following a victory over a person. That even if a swan won the battle, the person would just come back with a gun and shoot it in the beak. Is that instinctual? I feel like it must be.
Whatever the case, I made it home both alive and with my pride intact. Best of all, I didn’t have to kick a bird in the face. So that’s a positive. Another positive is that I one-upped my previous weirdest “menaced by an animal” story. The former title holder was that time I got chased by a small gray cat during an early morning run. I still look around for rocks or grasp my house key extra tight whenever I go through that adorable nightmare’s territory.
You can’t be too careful.