There Was a Time When I Never Thought of Birds

A surreal short story

Short story number 4 from my short story collection “Blind Staircase” (Blind trappe) in English and Danish

“Blind Staircase” is a collection af absurdist and slightly surreal short stories in which the world behaves differently from what is commonly the case and where the strangeness of life is enhanced.

En este enlace se puede ver mi cuento en Español:

There Was a Time When I Never Thought of Birds

The removal van, I remember, was parked across from the door, and the three removal men in green overalls began lugging the furniture into the house.

    Our new neighbour was standing with her small potted plant in her hand. I was on my way out, and at the moment she saw me she took a couple of sideways steps, walked backwards towards the door, gave a faint cry, and disappeared running into the stairwell. At the same time there was a slam. One of the removal men had slammed the door to the driver’s seat, and he was pointing his ugly finger up at the gutters.

    “Look at the pigeons,” he cried.

    And then all the removal men were laughing.

Quite a long time passed. And actually I wasn’t thinking of our new neighbour on the ground floor to the left. Maybe I was a little surprised that I never ran into her. But then one day she was walking directly towards me on the pavement.

    “Well, there we have our new neighbour with the potted plant,” I thought and smiled. In my mind’s eye I saw the red flowers that always light up the windowsill.

    But then, just before we would have met, she turned sharply and stepped into the road, which she crossed without looking to the sides.

    A car had to brake hard and two others as well. A couple of cyclists began swearing loudly.

    In the days after this I kept seeing her for my inner eye.

    “Think of what could have happened,” I said to myself. I wondered if I, without more ado, should go down to her and say that she should be careful. “Actually there are still people who care,” I would have said.

    But I never did it.

    Her windows were always hermetically sealed.

Time passed, and she was beginning to disappear from my thoughts, when I saw her again.

    I had just let myself into the stairwell, when she stood before me putting up her new nameplate.

    “Hello,” I said.

    She gave a start, and with a stifled cry she went into her flat and slammed the door shut. And as if this hadn’t been enough, I met her the following day. I was letting myself out of the main entrance. She hadn’t seen me, but when I was suddenly standing there holding the door for her, and she looked up, a nervous twitch ran over her beautiful face, and she hurried past me while she looked down.

    “Hello,” I said, but she didn’t answer.

Eventually indications began piling up, and a pattern appeared. When I saw her walking towards me on the pavement, suddenly she was gone. Next to our block of flats there is a large grey sports centre. One day I saw her at a distance. Quick as lightning I calculated that we would pass each other right outside the sports centre. But before we got that far, she had turned off. And she was even carrying a large shopping bag! Did I forget to mention that she is a short slender woman?

    Another example: in the yard we have a terrace with tables and chairs. A sunny day she was sitting there. I also went down. No sooner had I turned the corner than I saw her back and the door that slammed.

    By the way, it was in connection with this incident that I became aware of the birds. There really were a lot of them. They had gathered in large restless flocks circling over the rooftops.

At long last, I had realised the thing about the birds. Some of my neighbours had also made a hint or two. I began peeping at her from my window. When she was sitting on the terrace enjoying the sun, or she was sweeping, or watering the flowers, all of a sudden she could get this haunted look on her pretty face, and shortly afterwards she had gone. When this happened there were always birds. But when there were dogs nearby it was not like that. Once she was able to put it into words. She was on the white plastic chair, reading, when a pigeon came close to her. First she didn’t see it. But suddenly when she lowered her book, she saw what it was which was pecking around her feet.

    She jumped up, her chair overturned, and she drew back in horror.

    “Go away, stupid bird! Go away! Get lost!” she screamed.

    And shortly afterwards she had taken refuge in her flat.

Soon the window wasn’t enough for me, and I had to continue my peeping from a tree just outside her window. From the swinging branches I had the finest view into her rooms. But there was nothing to be seen. Occasionally a door was opened and quickly closed again. Apart from that, there was only darkness and silence. And when I moved to the small pine tree on the other side of the house, it was the same. The quick opening and closing of doors was the only life that could be seen in her small flat.

    In those days there were birds. Rooks were shrieking, blackbirds were singing, sparrows were twittering, and a single magpie was joining in the chorus. The fluctuating noise was so all-pervading that soon something had to happen. And as if moved by a secret sign, we all began pecking on her windows.

    She didn’t react at all.

It was the following day I got the injunction order. I was under no circumstances allowed to spy on the woman on the ground floor to the left, neither from the trees in the yard, nor from any other possible place. Nor was I allowed to spend time pecking on her windowpanes.

    “Birds are not allowed to peck on the tenants’ windows.”

    That was the message.

    Suddenly the world was so dreary, and the flocks of birds sitting in the trees and on the rooftop with their heads under their wings stayed silent.

    But after some time the restlessness returned: the first sounds of flapping wings were heard, and soon the air was filled with joyful shrieks and whirring wings.

The branch I’m sitting on is swinging up and down, and now her window is wide open.   

    The birds are restless, and the shrieks fill the air.

    What else can I do?

    A single jump and a few flaps of my wings and I’m sitting on her windowsill.

    And there I see her shining brown feathers on the back of the large red armchair.

    In one jump I’m on top of her biting her neck, and that’s it.

    Off course she resists a little, flapping her little wings, and feathers spread in a cloud around her.

    But soon she is calm, and quietly she turns her head backwards towards me, and opens her mouth and kisses me.

    “It took you quite a long time,” she whispers. “Why are you men so slow?”

    “But I have never before been thinking about birds,” I answer.


The same story in Danish/Den samme historie på dansk:

Der var engang, hvor jeg aldrig tænkte på fugle

Flyttevognen, husker jeg, holdt skråt foran døren, og de tre flyttemænd i grønne kedeldragter gav sig til at slæbe møbler ind.

Vores nye beboer stod med en lille potteplante i hånden. Jeg var på vej ud, og i samme øjeblik, hun så mig, tog hun et par sidelæns trin, gik baglæns hen imod døren, hvorefter hun udstødte et lille skrig og forsvandt løbende ind i opgangen. I det samme lød der et smæld. En af flyttemændene havde smækket døren til førersædet i, og han pegede med sin grimme finger op mod tagrenderne.

“Se duerne,” råbte han.

Og så stod alle flyttemændene og lo.

Der gik en rum tid. Og jeg tænkte egentlig ikke på vores nye beboer i stuen til venstre. Måske lurede der en lille undren over, at jeg aldrig stødte på hende. Men så en dag kom hun gående lige imod mig på fortovet.

“Der har vi sørme vores nye nabo med potteplanten,” tænkte jeg og smilede. Jeg så for mig de røde blomster, som altid står og lyser så stærkt i vindueskarmen.

Men så, lige før vi ville mødes, foretog hun et brat sving og trådte ud på gaden, som hun krydsede uden at se sig til siden.

En bil måtte bremse hårdt, og to andre med. Nogle cyklister gav sig til at bande højlydt.

I dagene efter så jeg hende hele tiden for mig. “Hvad kunne der ikke være sket?” spurgte jeg mig selv. Jeg spekulerede på, om jeg sådan uden videre skulle gå ind til hende og sige, at hun skulle passe på. “Der er faktisk stadig mennesker, som bekymrer sig!” ville jeg have sagt.

Men jeg gjorde det ikke.

Hendes vinduer var altid hermetisk tillukkede.

Tiden gik, og hun var ved at forsvinde ud af mine tanker, da jeg så hende igen.

Jeg havde lige låst mig ind i opgangen, da hun stod foran mig og hængte sit nye navneskilt op.

“Hej,” sagde jeg.

Hun foretog et spjæt, og med et halvkvalt udbrud trådte hun ind og smækkede døren i efter sig. Og som om det ikke var nok, dagen efter mødte jeg hende igen. Jeg var ved at lukke mig ud af hovedtrappens dør. Hun havde ikke set mig, men da jeg pludselig stod og holdt døren for hende, og hun så op, gik der ligesom en træk-ning hen over hendes smukke ansigt, og hun løb hastigt forbi mig, mens hun så ned.

“Hej,” sagde jeg, men hun svarede ikke.

Efterhånden hobede indicierne sig op, og et mønster tegnede sig. Når jeg så hende komme imod mig på fortovet, var hun pludselig væk. Ved siden af, hvor vi bor, ligger der en stor, grå sportshal. En dag så jeg hende på lang afstand. Lynhurtigt beregnede jeg, at vi ville passere hinanden lige uden for sportshallen. Men inden det nåede så vidt, var hun drejet af. Og så bar hun endda på et stort indkøbsnet! Glemte jeg at sige, at hun er en lille spinkel kvinde?

Et andet eksempel: I gården har vi en terrasse med borde og stole. En solskinsdag havde hun sat sig derned. Jeg fulgte efter. Ikke så snart var jeg drejet om hjørnet, før jeg så ryggen af hende og døren, der smækkede i.

Det var i øvrigt ved samme lejlighed, at jeg bemærkede fuglene. Der var rigtig mange af dem. De havde samlet sig i store urolige flokke, som kredsede oppe over husets tag.

Omsider var jeg blevet klar over det med fuglene. Nogle af mine medbeboere havde i øvrigt også antydet et og andet. Jeg begyndte at belure hende fra mit vindue. Når hun sad nede på terrassen og slikkede solskin eller fejede og vandede blomster, kunne hun pludselig få dette jagede udtryk i sit kønne ansigt , og kort efter var hun forsvundet. Ved de lejligheder var der altid fugle. Men når der var hunde i nærheden, var det ikke sådan. En enkelt gang kom hun selv til at formulere sig. Hun sad dernede på den hvide plasticstol og læste, da en due var på vej hen imod hende. Først opdagede hun den ikke. Men med ét sænkede hun bogen og kom i det samme til at se, hvad det var, der gik og pikkede rundt om hendes fødder.

Hun rejste sig med et sæt, stolen væltede bagover, og hun veg baglæns.

“Væk med dig, dumme fugl! Væk med dig! Kan du så forsvinde!” råbte hun.

Og kort efter var hun flygtet ind i sin lejlighed.

Snart var vinduet ikke nok for mig, og jeg måtte fortsætte beluringen fra et træ, der stod lige uden for hendes vindue. Fra de duvende grene, havde jeg den fineste udsigt ind i hendes stuer. Men der var intet at se. Enkelte gange blev en dør åbnet for hastigt at blive lukket igen. Ellers var der kun mørke og stilhed. Og når jeg satte mig i det lille fyrretræ på den anden side af huset var det det samme. Hastigt åbnede og lukkede døre var det eneste liv, der kunne spores i hendes lille lejlighed.

I de dage var der fugle. Råger skreg, solsorte fløjtede, spurve kvidrede, og en enkelt skade blandede sig i koret. Den bølgende støj var så altgennemtrængende, at der snart måtte ske noget. Og som ved et hemmeligt tegn begyndte vi alle at pikke på hendes vinduer.

Hun reagerede slet ikke.

Det var dagen efter, at jeg fik polititilholdet. Jeg måtte ikke under nogen omstændigheder fra gårdens træer, eller fra andre steder i øvrigt, belure kvinden i stuen til venstre. Ej heller måtte jeg give mig af med at pikke på hendes ruder.

“Fugle må ikke pikke på lejernes ruder!”

Sådan var beskeden.

Verden blev med ét så trist, og fugleflokkene, der havde sat sig i træerne og på tagrygningen med hovederne under deres vinger, forholdt sig tavse.

Men efter nogen tid kom uroen igen: De første lyde af baskende vinger lod sig høre, og snart fyldtes luften af frydefulde skrig og vingesus.

Grenen, jeg sidder på, gynger op og ned, og nu står hendes vindue på vid gab.

Fuglene er i uro, og skrigene fylder luften.

Hvad kan jeg andet?

Et enkelt hop og et par vingebask, og jeg sidder i hendes vindueskarm.

Og dér ser jeg hendes glinsende brune fjer på ryggen af den store røde lænestol.

Med ét er jeg over hende, et bid i nakken, og hun er leveret.

Hun giver sig godt nok lidt, basker med de små vinger, og fjerene står i en sky omkring hende.

Men snart bliver hun rolig, og hun drejer lige så stille sit hoved bagover og om imod mig og åbner sin mund og kysser mig.

“Det var du længe om,” hvisker hun. “Hvorfor er I mænd så tungnemme?”

“Jamen, jeg har aldrig før tænkt på fugle,” svarer jeg.

Mere om novellesamlingen “Blind trappe”:

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