A Bird in These Woods

By Steve Siciliano



Luther’s only streetlight had flickered on as Harry Winston was parking his pickup at the curb in front of Delaney’s Irish Tavern. While Harry sat on the tailgate and scraped the mud off the soles of his boots with a flat head screwdriver I pulled a heavy wool sweater over my red flannel shirt.

“Think we should lock the birds in the truck with the guns?” I asked Harry.

“They’ll be okay in the bed.”

“It’s getting cold.”

“A couple of scotches will warm you up.”

Inside the tavern two old men wearing bib overalls were sitting at a table drinking PBR’s out of long neck bottles and another old man wearing a red tie and a red sweater vest under a grey tweed jacket was sitting in a booth reading a book. He looked up from the book and swirled his brandy snifter when we walked past him.

“What’ll it be fellas,” the bartender asked when we sat down at the worn wooden bar.

“We heard you have some nice single malts,” Harry said.

“You heard right,” the bartender said and stepped aside so we could see the row of bottles sitting on the top shelf of the back bar.

“Pretty impressive selection for a small town bar in northern Michigan,” I said.

“Mr. Delaney likes his scotch,” said the bartender.

“I’ll take a Dalmore 18,” Harry said after scanning the bottles for a few moments.

“Make mine the Old Pulteney,” I said.

“How do you want them?”

“Couple of ice cubes, water on the side,” I told the bartender.

“Same here,” said Harry.

“What you fellas been up to?” the bartender asked after setting the drinks on the bar.

“Bird hunting down by Kings Corners,” Harry said.

“Do any good?”

“Seven between us,” I said. “We would have limited out but we couldn’t find three more after we knocked them down.”

“You don’t hunt with dogs?”

“No dogs,” said Harry.

“Too much cover this time of year to be hunting without dogs.” The bartender looked over to the well-dressed man sitting at the booth. “Ain’t that right, professor?”

The man got up and walked the bar. “I’ll take another one, Hank. He’s right, boys. You shouldn’t be hunting birds this time of year without dogs.”

“We still did okay,” I said.

“Sir, you miss the point.” The man watched while the bartender poured him another glass of cognac. “Don’t be stingy with that, Hank.” He cupped his hands around the full glass and stared down into the amber liquid. “Maybe a poem will help.”

“Help what?” Harry asked.

“Help get the point across,” and while staring into the snifter of cognac he recited a poem:

There’s a bird in these woods, It’s bones by now, to the South of that stand of dead trees. I shot it this fall when the ferns were still tall And ‘fore the oaks began dropping their leaves. My young brother was there, You know him I’d guess, no The older one’s Mark. The fields were still light when it burst into flight But these woods see a premature dark. We never found it you know, Though we saw where it fell, And we looked all the way to that rill. Oh, I know it’s just game but more than bones should remain When a young boy is taught how to kill.

After the man was done reciting the poem he picked up his drink, walked back to the table and went back to reading his book. Harry looked at me, then he looked at the bartender and then he turned in the bar stool and looked at the man.

“Mister,” Harry said after a few moments, “I’d sure like to buy you that drink.”

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