The Birdman

This piece appeared in an online market, With Painted Words, in March 2021. With Painted Words publishes work inspired by a photo prompt.

By Jon Moray

The small country town of 80 residents prepared for their neighbor and friend Wes “The Birdman” Lemon, to return home from being wrongly incarcerated for seven months on a double murder charge at a hardware store two towns over. Kitty, Lemon’s wife went to the county jail to bring the lifelong farmer and handyman home to a surprise homecoming feast.

Louise, Kitty’s best friend and confidante, remembered the first time she met the Birdman. Ten years earlier she had just moved in to her ranch home and was welcomed by the Birdman and Kitty with pecan pie and a flower arrangement from their rose garden. The Birdman noticed a loose plank on the front porch and immediately retrieved a hammer and nails from his pickup truck and went to work as Kitty and Louise got better acquainted. Kitty later showed her appreciation by baking an apple custard pie that the Birdman simply fell ga-ga over and left him yearning for more. Kitty and Louise’s friendship grew closer and Louise learned of the Birdman’s countless hours of volunteer service to his neighbors and organizations, on top of his sunrise to sunset toil of the day.

Louise was hard at work mixing the ingredients for her award winning, blue ribbon, custard pie for the Birdman, while reflecting on the many times Kitty told her he remained strong throughout the ordeal and how he kept his faith behind the cold, rusted iron bars. She fondly recalled the reason he was called the Birdman with a gleaming smile. Many kinds of  birds, from bluebirds to swallows, meadowlarks to phoebes, always hung around him. He didn’t mind the birds would use his shoulders as a perch or when they assembled to accompany him on the tractor rides. When he took the long walk to the tool shed, the birds loyally followed, flapping at the pace of his steps and only when he retired for the evening did they retreat to the customized birdhouse he built for them. The Birdman exchanged whistles and hums with the feathered flyers as if they shared their own private language.

Louise methodically lined the 10” deep dish pie plate with custard as she recalled the time Mr. Wilson’s truck broke down and without being asked, the Birdman drove him 150 miles to see his ailing mother at a nursing home. She carefully poured the apple custard mixture into the crust and put it into the oven, while wondering how much the Birdman will enjoy the first bite.

She mused over the rest of the townspeople and what they would bring to the homecoming feast. Ellie Mae will probably bring her tasty potato salad and The Wilson’s always bring a five gallon pot of  green beans. Old Man Niemann has the BBQ wings taken care of and who could forget the Overbay’s delicious sweet potato casserole. She licked her lips at the spread that will await the Birdman as she patiently waited for her dessert to bake.

Louise gathered her oven mitts and pulled the pie out of the oven hoping her treat will be the most desired at the dinner function. She carefully wrapped the top with foil and made herself up for the drive over. When she got there the lawn was littered with the neighbors’ vehicles. The evening affair would start when the Birdman and Kitty got home and she spent the wait catching up with town gossip among the woman folk while the men talked about the potential of a high school football championship team. Hugs were plentiful as they tearfully rejoiced the anticipated return of the Birdman.

The aromas of the of dishes permeated throughout the masses that had the dogs licking their chops and the hens squawking, while the setting sun painted a mustard sky. A giant banner that the children created with rainbow colored markers that read, “Welcome home Birdman, your nest awaits,” swayed gently in the fluttering breeze.

One of the children pointed at the hill off in the distance that lead to the winding road down to the farm. Old Man Niemann confirmed the vehicle belonged to the Birdman, followed by a slew of applause. The chickens parted the gravel driveway as the truck came to a stop.

The Birdman exited the driver’s side and stood awed at the sight of all the folks in attendance. He took a few steps towards his neighbors when suddenly off in the distance, sweet chirping was heard toward the burning sunset. The townspeople turned and saw his beloved birds flapping to him and simultaneously landing on his head and shoulders, affectionately rubbing their beaks against his face.

Louise found Kitty and held her while they watched the Birdman’s reunion with his wonderful winged creatures. As Kitty’s tears smeared Louise’s shoulder she said softly, “Those birds have been gone as long as he has been away.”

“The Birdman is back for good and so are his feathery friends,” said Louise, gently patting her shoulder.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s