Magness Lake, in Heber Springs, is a magnet for swans
The Observer had the bright idea recently to take our beloved to a popular local eatery for a "let someone else cook" night out. After a longer than usual wait, we were seated at a table in clear view of a large, attractive fish tank filled with colorful tropical fish.
We ordered, then waited, and waited, and waited. Eventually, our young and enthusiastic waiter came back to the table, apparently even embarrassed himself at the length of our time in Slow Kitchen Purgatory, and began to make small talk. In an attempt to help the lengthy wait for our food pass quickly, our dutiful waiter offered, jokingly, to fry up the fish of our choice from the tank for an appetizer, to our squeamish partner's polite refusal. It's important to note here that The Observer's lovely bride can be grossed out to the point of not being able to eat by a steak that's a little pink.
The offer of a tropical fish fry turned down, our waiter — a native of coastal Mexico — soon launched into reminiscence about one of the delicacies of his homeland: the black iguana. He was not talking about the green ones that people make pets out of, mind you. No, sir! He made great pains to help us understand that. No, he was referring to the BLACK iguana, which apparently makes a lovely soup. First, though, you have to cut the head off the beast and hold the body over a glass to catch the blood, which must be immediately drunk while still warm. It's good for your eyesight, you know.
It's funny that he mentioned eyesight, because staring across the table at our steadily-more-green bride was like watching a terrible and bloody accident unfold before our eyes. Eventually, thank God, our food came. Do we have to explain why the filled to-go containers are still in the fridge?
The Observer was sitting in the back room of our little house on Maple Street the other day, the sunny room where we keep the computer, when we heard a tapping. It was raining outside, one of the damp-wool-overcoat days we seem to have had a lot of recently, in lieu of an actual winter. Because we'd do nothing but look out the window all day if the computer faced the backyard, it's instead situated to face a blank wall.
Tap, tap, tap.
We paused for a second, decided we'd imagined it, then continued on with our own tapping at the keyboard.
Tap, tap, tap.
We turned, and looked for the source of the tapping, this rapping at our chamber window. Only then did we see the little brown bird on the sill outside. He had a bit of green in his beak, and seemed to be staring at us intently — or with, at least, as much intent as his tiny bird brain could muster. As we watched, he cocked his head and pecked at the glass again:
Tap, tap, tap.
We rose from our chair and then stood there staring at him. Having suitably caught our attention, he fluttered away. The Observer is not one to believe in omens — we've tried to leave behind the superstitions of our hillbilly and flatland forebears as much as we dare. Still, all those candlelit, pre-penicillin fears came flooding back and manifested as a weight in the pit of our stomach: a bird, trying to get in the house. Where we're from, that ain't good. It ain't the worst, but it's close.
No believer in hoodoo is we, but we must admit that we texted Spouse then, inquiring after her, imploring her to be careful in the rain. After she had given us proof of life with a response, we sat there with the phone in hand, smiling and ashamed at our stupid dread.
We are all slaves to the soup of fears poured into our heads from birth — all of us waiting for the other shoe to drop, all of us looking for the omen that will let us know when the world is going to turn upside down. Eventually, it's bound to, but The Observer learned a long time ago that you can't live with one ear always cocked to the wind. Birds do as birds will, and there's not a damn thing you can do to change that. Best not to dwell on it, and hope for the best.
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