HomeSouthern Voice(I’d like) to Kill a Mockingbird

(I’d like) to Kill a Mockingbird

by Ruth J. Hartman

Last June, I traveled with my parents to a family reunion in Mississippi. My husband couldn’t get off work, so I rode the two-day trip from Indiana in my parents’ backseat.

The condo we stayed in was nice, but crowded. There was only one bedroom so I bunked on a scratchy, lumpy couch. It just happened to be six inches too short for anyone taller than a gnome to stretch out on.

Always a light sleeper, I tried to get at least fourteen minutes of shuteye before the next day’s onslaught of loud and affectionate relatives. But I kept hearing a bird that would not quit singing. The silly feathered thing sang all night long right outside the living room window. Were it not for the six inches of plastered wall between us, it would have literally been sitting on my head.

After several hours of lying on the too-short, scratchy couch, listening to the obnoxious bird twitter and chirp, I realized he was singing several different songs. With nothing else to do, I kept track. I counted twenty-one different melodies in his repertoire. He would only stop for a few minutes at a time. I assumed he was taking a break, or a nap, but came to find out the next morning that during those breaks, he had flown over the top of the condo and was sitting outside my parents’ window. Sitting on their heads. They informed me the stupid bird was indeed a mocking bird, and asked if I had any ideas for making it discreetly disappear.

That night, we were exhausted from travel-induced car-lag, family festivities, and the moronic antics of the Mississippi mockingbird. With dark circles under our eyes, we assumed we could fall into a deep sleep from sheer exhaustion. The first half of my couch time was peaceful. Ah, I thought, the bird is tormenting some other poor soul tonight. It was only a slight reprieve. My feathered nemesis started singing again from song number one, and kept right on without taking a breath. I finally drifted off around 2:00 a.m. At 2:17, I heard a noise in the room. I’m usually a chicken when it comes to nighttime noises, but I was so tired my usual defenses were worn down to a nubbin.

It was very dark in the living room, so I had to feel my way to the source of the noise. When I got to the hallway, I could see the front door was open. Someone was breaking into the condo to steal our luggage! My favorite pair of fushia underwear was in there! What else could they possibly want?

As I crept closer to the open door, I could see a tall man standing on the tiny porch. He had his back to me. As I sidled closer, I realized it was my dad. I must have been quiet, because he never heard me or turned around. As I continued watching, I noticed he was holding a shoe in each hand. My sleep-deprived mind assumed he was going to throw a shoe at the mockingbird, thus ending our misery.

The following morning when I told him I saw him on the porch holding two shoes, I asked if the second shoe was just in case the first shoe missed the target. And also, when he threw his shoes, how was he going to find them again in the dark?

He just stared at me. Then he asked if I’d even considered the possibility that he was going to clap the shoes together to make noise to frighten the mockingbird away?

Embarrassed, I admitted the possibility never occurred to me.

Up to this point, my mom hadn’t said anything. After Dad and I straightened out what I thought I saw and what actually happened, my mom had only one question:

“So when your dad was standing outside on the front porch in the dark, holding two shoes, was he wearing any pants?”

”Yes. (Thankfully!) He was.”

Ruth J. Hartman is a published writer of short stories, a memoir and two romance novels, one of which will be published this September and another in February 2011. She lives in rural Indiana with her husband and two very spoiled cats. More information about her published works can be found at www.ruthjhartman.blogspot.com.

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