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Food for naught

Lurking in the shade, they grip onto branches of the great maple with their tiny brown talons, staring down upon passersby and sending a hungry vibe.

They hunch down, pointing their necks to the ground, allowing their round feathery bellies to budge over their feet. They are far from starving but have little else to do in Riverfront Park on a Wednesday. The Garland Theater’s Dollar Wednesday popcorn special is too far away so they spend their time eating gluttonously for entertainment.

They single out their targets, the picnickers with flatbread and hummus, and stare intently, waiting for even the tiniest bread crumb to fall into their reach.

She fidgets to avoid touching the grass, knowing the slightest unwanted caress will result in an unpleasant rash on her exposed legs. Her flower print dress blows softly in the warm summer breeze, not unlike a cluster of real flowers swaggering in the wind.

She avoids the awkward conversation among near strangers sitting cross-legged in a circle. With a graceful flick of her little wrist, the bread is released from pale white fingers. Without delay, the sound of confetti falling out of the sky fills the July air as she raises a momentarily loyal army of tiny tubby sparrows dressed in feathery gray suits and black fluffy bibs that shield their freshly pressed dinner suits from becoming stained.

They play hopscotch in the shade of the great maple tree, the winner greedily devouring the crumbs off the earthy plate. After a few short minutes of their game, a riot breaks out as the plump and prim birds fight over a scrap. Miniature fists fly and short legs kick but make no progress as another swoops in and steals the victory. The sparrows are out for blood and crumbs.

She flails her arms and discourages her tiny soldiers, bringing short-lived peace with another handful of doughy bribery. She relaxes and watches the scene, but in under a minute she finds herself on the sideline of another brawl.

She sits and gazes at the birds, blonde hair swirling calmly around her face as her cheeks begin to turn rosy. Flustered, she jumps up from the blanket and runs straight through the growing crowd of dapper birds, sending all of them into a panic. They simultaneously take flight, diving to the left and then jerking back up to the right, returning to the great maple tree with their backs to the girl as she returns to her picnic.

They instantly forget their fear as their beady little eyes zero in on the nearest person, a small child eating a piece of watermelon. With full bellies, they begin their next unnecessary mission, which will be far from the last one of the day.

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