Harold the House Finch
Margaret S. Hamilton
Margaret S. Hamilton
One dark and frigid December night, a neighbor dropped off a plate of luscious, fresh-from-the-pan potato latkes. As I opened the front door, a male house finch left his snug confines in the balsam wreath, and flew inside.
We heard a chirp, looked everywhere, and finally found Harold clinging to the chandelier in the two-story entrance hall, staring down at us. I quickly shut the bedroom doors. Brandishing a ceiling fan duster on a telescoping pole, I attempted to drive the finch down to the open front door. My standard poodles assisted, snapping and lunging when Harold perched on the bannister within their reach.
Harold refused to fly downwards. Postponing another try until morning, we ate the latkes and left him perched on the window frame over the front door.
“Chir-up! Chir-up!” Harold was a late riser, only fluttering to life around nine in the morning. He spent the next day zooming around the hall, steadfastly refusing to fly out the front door.
By the second night, Harold was tired, not having consumed seed or water for over twenty-four hours. I watched him fly laps around the hall, growing slower with each circuit. He perched on a picture frame at the top of the stairs, puffed out his feathers, and sank into slumber. I herded the dogs into the bedroom and shut the door, sure that Harold would succumb overnight.
The next morning, Harold revived and returned to flying laps. My scientist husband and I devised a new scenario: lacking a butterfly or bird net, we would corner Harold in the upstairs hall bathroom. With no window, we would have to trap him in a container before transporting him outside.
Using the telescoping fan cleaner, we chased Harold down the hall and into the bathroom. He was very pleased with his new digs, the bathroom easily ten degrees warmer than the hall, with a convenient perch on the lighting fixture over the sink. A countertop that could accommodate bowls of seed and water, should we decide to feed him.
We nudged Harold into a cardboard box, and slapped down the lid. My husband scurried downstairs and out the front door to a nearby pine tree. When he lifted the lid, Harold was gone.
“Chir-up! Chir-up!” Harold had managed to climb back out of the box and was still in the bathroom, admiring himself in the mirror.
We gave it another try, prying Harold’s feet off the edge of the box, one toe at a time, and dumping him inside. Another trip outside to the pine tree, where Harold emerged from the box, cheeped appreciatively, and immediately flew to the backyard feeder, where he stayed for twenty minutes, stuffing his beak with sunflower seeds.
Harold is still around the yard, chirping at me when I go out to refill the bird feeders. He and the missus will build a nest and lay eggs by March, getting an early start on the two or three clutches house finches produce every year. I’m sure he hasn’t forgotten the warm, dry front hall.
Excitement over, I returned to contemplating my writing goals for 2017. Am I too much like Harold, mired in my usual close third person point of view, writing about the same characters, never straying from the present to explore other time periods? Am I flying high in aimless circles, instead of zooming down and out the door?
When will I take a chance, seize the opportunity, fly into a bathroom, and discover what happens next?
Readers, have you had a close encounter with a wild animal in your home? Did you learn something about your life or writing?