In a hulking, black-clad mass, nearly twenty turkey vultures congregated in Maude’s yard. The 12-gauge shotgun blasts she fired over their heads affected them as if she’d been playing with bubble-wrap, popping away for fun. Maude wouldn’t have killed them. The gun was the loudest noise-maker she had.
She stood a ways off, thinking her observing was unseen, but swore she saw one of them smile and wink at her. She called him “Redneck,” then was sure he did a double-take.
So many cloaked thugs making themselves at home in her flower bed, on her fence, in her trees prompted more comment. “Not enough roadkill to keep y’all busy? You have to have your meetings on my property? I swear, if you didn’t have that disgusting habit of barfing on intruders, I’d crash your secret meeting to find out what you’re up to.”
Response were grunts and hisses. The strangers ignored her.
“What’s dead? Me? I’m just old. And dammit, I’m full of life.”
No sign they planned to leave. Once in a while, the one she’d called redneck glanced her way.
Maude carried the shotgun back into the house. Vultures, she knew, were known to return to the same territory year after year, often to land that had been their home at least a hundred years previously. But why now? What does this visit signify? They weren’t here last year or the year before. Or were they?”
A bit later, when she went back outside, only the one raptor remained.
“Well, go on. Go soar somewhere. Get a life, maybe.”
Did he smile?
He hopped a couple of clumsy steps and flapped loudly in a take-off. She watched him wing through the clearing, up, up, and as if to show off, climb straight to about 200 feet ‘til his giant wingspread caught the current. For such a homely beast he was majestic in flight, enviable in the effortless ease.
“That’s that, then.”
Maude busied herself working in the yard until she tired. All the data she’d read about turkey vultures took center stage in her head, but the phone rang, interrupting her thoughts. It was her sister.
“I had company today, Muriel.”
Her sister’s surprise irritated her: “Ohh. Do tell. How exciting.”
“I’m kidding, really. It was a bunch of birds. Buzzards.” She could hear Muriel’s gasp, and had to remind her that vultures were harmless to human beings.
No way to kindle her sister’s interest now.
Next came the usual “You need to have real company, Maude. You spend too much time alone. Do something, sometime!”
“I keep busy all the time, Muriel. I’m happy. What bothers you so much about that?”
The sister repeated “Do something. You’re lonely. Nothing worse.”
Maude found a way to terminate the conversation, and thought aloud, “I am not lonely. I’m just alone.”
At dusk, a sound at the door, almost a knock, caught her attention. She looked through the small round peephole to see a tall figure hunched there. Its head was pear-shaped,
too small for the large frame it topped. A large appendage she decided must be a nose crooked out from the pale face adjoining the reddish neck. Ornament-like, she thought.
So familiar a countenance.
Two penetrating eyes persuaded her to open the door for a better look.
She swore the creature winked at her before she let it in.