Jenny was terrified of birds. No reason, just an irrational fear. She spent her summers on her grandparents’ farm, tending chickens. It wasn’t until she had her own children that the fears surfaced.
Growing up, Jenny always heard stories about Uncle Roy losing an ear to a parrot he brought off the merchant ship where he served. The stories did not have any effect until her best friend bought a cockatiel.
One day, Cindy the cockatiel crawled up her sleeve. At the feel of that feathery head rubbing about her neck and ear, Jenny had a sudden flash to her uncle being minus an aural appendage.
Ever since, Jenny was deathly afraid of anything avian, unless it was properly dressed and in a bucket from Popeye’s. She knew it was a groundless fear, but phobias are. She never mentioned it to anyone, though. Her own mother didn’t know about it until Jenny met the wild turkey face to face.
Jenny lived out in the country, so far the bus wouldn’t take the four children all the way from home to school. So Jenny drove two miles twice daily to meet the bus. It was no problem, and gave her a chance to talk to them about their day, before they ran inside and got to the television and started homework.
Living in the country, one comes across all sorts of flora and fauna. A herd of deer crossing the highway, possum and raccoons and groundhogs with death wishes: they were all just facts of life. The worst offender had to be the wild turkey.
A wild turkey is not a small bird. They’re tall and rangy, and can look into the driver’s window of a car as they pass. They don’t fly unless absolutely necessary, and when they do, it’s an effort.
Just before sundown, Jenny was bringing the four children home from the bus when she came to the roadblock. Not anything set up by the county road crew, but a line of wild turkeys intent on crossing from one side of the road to the other, a feathery freight train. She lost count at thirty.
Normally, there was little or no traffic on the road she traveled. Not today. Cars began backing up behind her. The last three toms were coming out of the brush to cross when a man in an SUV behind her blew his horn to hurry them along.
The remaining birds took flight. The road was clear and Jenny stepped on the gas. She was still in second gear when something thumped hard on the roof.
The day was warm for November, so the sunroof was open. Automatically, Jenny looked up to see what had hit the roof. Her Geo Prism swerved to the right when she saw a pair of beady eyes looking back at her.
There was no place to go. The road had no shoulder, and the idiot in the SUV was riding her bumper, blowing the horn to make her speed up. Of course, all that commotion did not endear the driver to Jenny or the turkey. The bird kept gobbling and flogging the roof with his wings.
Poor Jenny had no idea what to do. The girls were screaming just as loudly as their mother was. The boys kept yelling that mama should catch it.
Finally, there was an intersection Jenny could pull into. She managed to get the car stopped without putting them in a ditch: no mean feat, as there was neither shoulder nor guardrail.
As soon as Jenny got the car stopped, she tried to wind the sunroof closed. It wouldn’t go. She looked up and saw six turkey toes wrapped firmly around the rubber gasket, and keeping the window from closing. Drat safety devices anyway.
Jenny tried thumping on the roof. The turkey gobbled at her. She tried blowing the horn. She could feel the car vibrate as he shook out his feathers in disdain. It was time for desperate measures.
On her count of three, they all opened their car doors and began yelling and pounding on the car. That was finally enough to get the turkey to take flight. Naturally, he could not vacate to the right, but had to fly straight at Jenny, who screamed, ducked and covered.
That evening, Jenny handed her keys to her husband and ordered he trade her car in. She didn’t care what he brought home, so long as the roof was turkey proof.