Picking them up from school, we drove out to the local duck pond. “What are we doing here, Dad?” Child One asked as we pulled in.
“We’ve got too much bread, and these ducks are probably hungry. Let’s solve two problems at once!” I responded, excited at the upcoming magical adventure in animal interaction.
As I pulled into my parking spot, I noticed that there were quite a few geese wandering around the area and pecking at the grass. “Hmm, geese. I wonder what they’re doing here?” I thought to myself. “Plotting”, is what my future self would have answered.
As we got out of the car, I grabbed my bag of buns and we walked into the park. Some of the surrounding geese had turned to watch our progress silently. As we walked into the area where the water ponds are and the ducks hang out, I began to realize a number of vital facts.
1. There weren’t any ducks. Well, there were maybe three or four token ducks, but for the most part, no ducks.
2. There were geese. Possibly hundreds of them.
3. Geese are bigger than ducks.
Finally, as we entered the open area beyond the shielding bushes, I realized one final thing.
4. Geese are tall.
Apparently, we were not the first humans they had seen, and they had grown to understand that humans often produce wonderful bread. The birds began to wander in our direction, so I opened a small tear in the bag and pulled out a pair of hamburger buns to give to the boys. “Tear them into small pieces and throw them”, I instructed. As I pulled out my own bun, I noticed that the birds were wandering a little faster than before, less of a meander and more of a walk.
“Dad,” mentioned Child One, “there sure are a lot of geese”.
“Yes”, I responded jovially, “and they look hungry. I bet they’re going to like this!” I tore off a piece of bread and threw it towards the nearest birds. The ‘walk’ I had noticed gradually transitioned to a light trot, and the birds closed with us even quicker.
One goose walked up to Child Two (who was dutifully trying to tear off a piece of bread to give to it per instructions) and struck. It’s beak flew out and neatly grabbed the lower half of the bun out of his hand.
“Dad!” Child Two squawked. I began to turn towards him when I heard a scream. Child One had suddenly been surrounded by geese and had thrown his bread away. While the geese had turned away from him to go after the bread, he was still surrounded by tall birds and was quite intimidated. “Don’t worry”, I re-assured him, “they just want the bread.” Child One pulled his arms in and smartly tucked his face into his coat, yelling continuously. I needed to act, so I headed towards him.
The birds, however, didn’t care. As I lurched towards the mob, I turned to check on Child Two and discovered that he had disappeared, but as there didn’t appear to be a pile of feeding birds concentrating around an kid-sized lump on the ground, I turned back to Child One who was still yelling. I stepped towards him, and the birds advanced on me. Their heads were higher than my waist, and they stared at me with unblinking avian eyes and opened their large mouths, and I suddenly had a flash of insight. I remembered that after the age of the dinosaurs had passed, the only living remnants of their great monstrous age were animals like Alligators and… the birds. The dirty white birds clustering around me and closing in on me were, I realized, descendants of the Velociraptor, a pack hunting animal of fierce ability.
Also, this pack of Raptor-children knew that I had their food.
Trying to keep my voice steady so Child One wouldn’t be scared any more, I re-assured him again that the birds just wanted the bread, and as I said this, I began to almost desperately tear at the bag in my hands to free the rest of the bread. I was hoping that the birds understood that the bread was in the bag and not buried deep within my abdomen because if I was wrong, this situation might get even uglier.
The birds keep advancing. I step back once, they waddle forward twice.
My casual backwards motion towards Child One started as a casual repositioning, then became a withdrawal and finally Full Retreat. The white feathered Velociraptors (because this is the only way I can see them now) are swarming on us from all locations. The birds despondently picking at the grass by our car have heard the cry of ‘BREAD!’ in gooseltongue and my situation is becoming a cinematic mash-up of the Jurassic Park and the Burly Brawl scene from the second Matrix movie.
Finally, I get the bag open and throw another bun into the crowd. At this point, I learn that geese are not brilliant. The only ones that detect the bread are the ones that are hit in the face by it. The ones I’m worried about (which are standing right in front of me with their cavernous mouths fully open) do not see this and continue to advance. I drop some bread in front of me the way a firefighter deliberately creates firebreaks to stop a raging forest inferno and gradually, the most menacing of the birds drop back to feed on this. I throw the last of my buns into the middle of the mob as I reach Child One. I pull him away from the birds and towards the car.
“Alex!” I yell upwards, knowing that wherever Second Child is, he’ll start coming. I see motion out of the corner of my eye and my stocky five year old comes charging from around the other side of a barrier behind which he had retreated. I glance back and all of the birds are now clustered around the central bread carnage, feeding. Their tailfeathers bob up and down in the air, and the resemblance between them and the creatures of Jurassic Park is unmistakable. These Velociganders surround their prey, and their razor sharp beaks tear at the starchy corpse in front of them with vicious efficiency.
As Child Two runs up, he sees my empty hands and howls with outrage. I later discover that while Marcus and I are locked in a battle for our lives against the hundreds of dinosaur-analogues, Alex’s finely tuned sense of justice has kicked in and he has realized that the geese are bullies and that there must be ducks somewhere else. Running, he finds a small cluster of them milling about far away from The Hoard and has carefully torn up his remaining piece of bread and made sure that each of them gets a piece. He angrilly stomps up to me and yells “But I only got one piece of bread!” Worried that the flock will soon realize their bread supplier has left, I turn the kids towards the car and try to casually urge them into the safety of the car before the second wave attacks.
In the distance, I see one, then two, then hundreds of heads pop up from their feeding frenzy and look around. A few of them begin to wander in our direction, so after re-assuring Child One (who remains quite distraught), I bundle the boys into the car and start the engine.
As we drive out, I find myself glancing in the rearview mirror from time to time. As far as I can tell, they aren’t chasing me, but whenever we drive through a shadow, I check the sky briefly to make sure we’re not being followed.
“Dad”, begins Child One, 6. “That scared the… the HELL out of me.” I can relate, and I re-assure him again that they’re just birds, but deep inside, I can’t quite make myself believe it.
One thing’s for sure, I now know where I will test my net-throwing gun.
Bring it on, dinosaurs.