Harold’s feathered chest swelled with hatred. His beak twitched. Did his perfect eyes deceive him? No. The monster. The murderer. He was back at the scene of the crime. The beast warmed up his lifetaker on the bright green field below, launching missiles at another player. Harold had dreamed about this moment for a whole year, since professional baseball pitcher Randy Johnson killed his father with a hundred mile per hour fastball. Day and night, Harold waited for this exact moment. But now that it was finally here, Harold felt paralyzed. His claws gripped the rim of his family’s nest, his brain was basically scrambled eggs.
Harold’s wife spoke with a quiet urgency: “Please, ignore him,” Maureen said. “He can’t hurt us up here.” She was referring to their nest—the best in the ballpark—right atop the first base side lights, offering a panoramic view of scenic Tucson.
Harold didn’t hear his beautiful wife. His stare narrowed, slowly zooming in on the coward Randy Johnson. The news. Sports Center. They all reported his father’s murder as if it were a joke. “Bird Hit By Pitch Explodes Into A Million Feathers” was the worst headline. His father’s entire existence, reduced to hyperbole.
“Harold!” Maureen said. She motioned with her beak at the three chicks under her wings. “Think about the kids.”
Harold was a good husband. And even though it was new to him, Harold was a good father. For these reasons, his tone remained emotionless. “The kids are all I think about,” he said. “Everything I do, it’s for the betterment of this family and birds everywhere. Why do you think I started Dove Tactical Force? Why do you think I made peace with the eagles and the falcons? Doves don’t normally nest in the sky, but we needed safety, so I made it happen.”
“I’m not talking about Dove Tactical or our magnificent fortress,” Maureen said. “It’s just that, oh. Is revenge really the answer? Why not leave Randy Johnson alone?”
“When that villain killed Father, he didn’t just make an enemy out of me. He made an enemy out of all birds. Don’t you see? This is war, Maureen, a horrible war. And he’s here to strike again.” A bizarre sensation overcame Harold, almost like explaining things gave him confidence. “I don’t want to do this. I have to do this.”
Maureen fell silent for a moment. She patted the chicks with her wings, smiling at them. When she next spoke, her voice was barely a whisper: “The balls on this Randy Johnson,” she said, voice quivering. “Coming back here, he obviously fears nothing.”
Harold had to side with his wife. The reaper Randy Johnson seemed like the kind of emotionless evil only found in movies.
From across the field, a Dove Tactical commando named Ramirez waved a green flag. The eagle above the press box released a piercing caw. The hawk in right field screeched in agreement. Every bird in the ballpark knew who was pitching today. They were ready.
“Do you trust me?” Harold asked his wife.
“Harold, I hardly think—”
“Maureen. Do you trust me?”
Maureen couldn’t meet her husband’s eyes. “Of course I trust you,” she said.
“Good,” Harold said. “Because the demon Randy Johnson robbed me of a father. And no bird deserves to suffer like that ever again.”
Harold faced the endless blue sky. He sucked in air and cooed like he’d never cooed before. He looked warmly at Maureen, smiling that smart smile she fell in love with last mating season. And then Harold let go of the nest, dive-bombing to the earth below. He corkscrewed and opened his wings, soaring above the bloodthirsty fans, gliding towards the pitcher’s mound. This was it. Harold waited. Waited. Then, at the last second, he pushed hard and felt a clean release. He looked back through his legs and saw a direct hit—a white splat right atop Randy Johnson’s hat. Harold flew up, up, up, surveying the scene below. He watched the hawks swoop in and drop their loads. Followed by the eagles. Then the egrets. The pigeons. The falcons. The wrens. The cardinals. The sparrows. And finally: Dove Tactical Force. The D.T.F. commandos swooped low, delivering a large and precise sheet of white over the target, painting Randy Johnson with a finished coat of shiny shit. Humiliation in front of his beloved fans, that’s what gutless Randy Johnson deserved.
Harold made a victory lap around the stadium, the air ringing with different birdsongs, all celebrating the successful bombing. He landed back in the nest like a fighter jet on an aircraft carrier, Maureen and the chicks tugging at him with happy hugs. Father would be proud, Harold thought.
But the cheerful moment was short-lived. Harold peered over the edge of the nest, and what he saw sent him spinning. The baseball game was paused, and a dripping Randy Johnson stared up at Harold. Directly at him. And on the man’s face was a crooked smile, Randy Johnson nodding like he understood why all this happened. Nodding like he would’ve done the same thing. Randy Johnson extended his left hand—the hand that turned Harold’s father into Thanksgiving dinner—and stuck out a thumb. He mouthed the words “I’m sorry.”
Harold held eyes with Randy Johnson, sizing up the sincerity of the gesture. And the next thing he knew, Harold’s wings felt lighter. The tension in his chest melted away. The ballpark once again exploded with birdsongs. The war, it was over. Just like that. Besting Randy Johnson didn’t bring Harold’s father back. But it brought closure. Relief. Freedom. As if adding an exclamation point, Harold hung his tail off the side of the nest and pushed hard a final time, letting everything go.
“You know,” Maureen said, “Randy Johnson sort of looks like a bird.”
Harold wrapped a wing around his lovely wife. “You know, he sort of does. Doesn’t he?”