But then something unexpected happened. Emmanuel Adebayor, who scored Tottenham’s early goal, made a reckless senseless midfield tackle on Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla and was ejected from the game. The narrative of the game had changed. Playing a man down, Tottenham totally fell apart. Arsenal dominated possession from then on and went on to easily win the game, 5-2.
We were happy, Sebastian and I. Nay, we were elated. Football is like a drug, filling the diehard fan with either ecstasy or despair depending on the state of his favorite team.
Still, thinking about that Adebayor tackle now, I just have to wonder what game Adebayor thought he was playing in—until that moment, Arsenal’s attack was toothless. They could barely string together a couple of passes, let alone mount a serious challenge on Hugo Lloris, Tottenham’s goalkeeper. Nothing in the game indicated that Adebayor’s reckless challenge was necessary. Until that moment, Tottenham appeared in all likelihood en route to an easy victory. So why did Adebayor think it necessary to mount such a reckless challenge?
I’ve been working on a story again. It’s actually something I started a few years ago and abandoned, only to rediscover again recently while weeding through some files. The story is kinda wonderful but kinda icky. Icky, as in, it’s just not performing the way that I want it to perform because the story’s protagonist keeps making butt-headed moves that are totally inexplicable given what is going on around him.
Last night, I read a David Foster Wallace essay, “The Nature of Fun,” that’s now online at The Guardian. In it, Wallace labels a story-in-progress as “a cruel and repellent caricature of the perfection of its conception.” Which I guess pretty much describes this particular thing I’m working on.
But anyways, after watching the game, I was back to work on my repellent caricature when I became aware of a commotion in the house.
Sebastian was in a huff. He was sitting in the living room watching television when he heard a car drive by our house. Moments later, he was startled by a loud whack on our front window, which now sported several glossy reddish-orange splotches about the diameter of a silver dollar. Instantly, he surmised what happened: SOMEONE HAD EGGED OUR HOUSE. Which he proceeded to scream as he ran around the house, outraged.
I've never lived in a house that had been egged before so I was, frankly, shocked. Halloween, the season in which I imagine most eggings occur, has long since passed. And I couldn't imagine anyone we had offended so grossly as to provoke an egging. But still my mind raced. Stephen, my 13-year-old who's got a very flimsy grasp on social awareness, is always ranting about some real or perceived slight he's suffered at school. And of course, being social awkward, he's rubbed a few feathers in the wrong way himself.
But still... Stephen is a 13-year-old boy. If the narrative of a drive-by egging were to hold up, it would require that whomever Stephen offended have access to a car. Which I thought was questionable. Not that Sebastian was able to ID the make and model number of said automobile, but by this time it had become an essential part of his story--someone drove by and hurled an egg at us! He hadn’t so much as looked outside to investigate, yet already he was prepared to call the police so they’d nab the perp.
There was something glorious in Sebastian’s outrage. He had been unjustly wronged! Which gave him the right to a sense of indignation that all worldly martyrs must feel.
But there was a problem. Once we looked outside, we saw no egg shells or egg yolks. What we saw was a mass of red feathers on the ground below the window. When we investigated further, the feathers turned out to be affixed to a very startled female cardinal. For reasons unknown, the bird had flung itself at our window. The bird must have thought she was flying into open space. She never saw the window. Sad, isn’t it? How something could be so unaware of the reality around them, that they could fling themselves into an optical illusion.
Needless to say, assertions of an egging diminished upon seeing evidence of the bird.
My children huddled around the woozy bird. Already they were hatching plans of its rescue.
“Don’t kill it,” my wife whispered to me.
Don’t kill it?
For all my faults, I am not one to snuff out the life of a feathery if woozled creature. Even just suggesting such at thing went against the reality I was experiencing.
Still, the bird seemed injured. So we called Virginia Tech’s Emergency Veterinary Services, which suggested bringing the bird into their facility for care. Yet when I tried to gently usher the bird into an old shoebox to transport it, the cardinal hopped away. My children were watching and I did not want to harm the bird, so I was being extra-special gentle. Every time I tried to capture it, it hopped further into the bushes.
If I were trying to write this into a piece of fiction, I’d change the narrative into a tragedy. The protagonist would become frustrated. Perhaps he would worry that, in front of his children, he was being outsmarted by a bird. The children would laugh at how foolish he looked crawling through the bushes with his paltry shoebox. He would become more rash, more reckless in pursuit of this cardinal that’s making a mockery out of him. Out of frustration, I would have the protagonist slam the box over the bird, injuring if not maiming the bird. The children would look up at him in revulsion as he yanked the bloodied bird by its wings.
“Why, Daddy?” they’d blubber.
Wallace talks of nascent stories being like deformed children, “hideously defective, hydrocephalic and noseless and flipper-armed and incontinent.”
But this blog post is not a short story. It is real.
After a few gentle attempts to nudge the bird into the shoebox, the bird flew away.
And my wife? The woman who feared I’d kill the bird? She went off and made cupcakes with the children. I hope they give me one.