The Dead Bird Collection
Our neighbour, Mr. Butterworth, is a kind, elderly man who loves birds. He owns at least fifty birdhouses and just as many birdfeeders and birdbaths. I don't know why we decided to play a joke on Mr. Butterworth, but we did. It was four days into summer vacation and my best friends, Gordon and Paulo, and I were getting a little bored, or maybe we were just restless for some excitement. At any rate, our plan was to collect all the dead birds we could find lying on the side of the road and freeze them. Then, when we had enough dead birds, we would sprinkle them all over Mr. Butterworth's back yard, and he would think his birdseed had poisoned them! This, we thought, would be hilarious.
For days we rode our bikes up and down the local roads searching for unfortunate birds that had been hit by cars. When we got a bag of dead birds, we would ride to Paulo's house and hide the bag in the basement freezer. Our plan almost came to an end when Paulo's mother took out a bag of what she thought was meat and defrosted a big old crow for dinner instead.
When the yelling and shouting was over, we biked our bags of dead birds over to my freezer for safe keeping, and then we planned our attack for the next morning.
First I begged mom to let Paulo and Gordon spend the night.
"I don't know," she said, "Where will you sleep?" "In the basement," I replied. (Near the freezer, I thought). After much begging and pleading, mom caved in.
Next, we set my clock radio for four a.m. We had to get up at the crack of dawn if we wanted to be awake before old Mr. Butterworth, who got up early to watch the birds from his back porch every morning.
The last thing we had to do was defrost the birds. After making sure my parents had gone to bed, we took our bags of dead birds out of the freezer and set them on top to thaw.
* * *
By the cover of dawn the next morning, we tiptoed into Mr. Butterworth's yard and littered his lawn with dead birds. When we were through, it looked like the scene of a horror movie. Dozens of dead birds lay on their backs with their little feet sticking up in the air. Then we crept into the bushes between his property and ours to watch the excitement.
"What time is it?" I asked Paulo.
| "Quarter after four," said Paulo, yawning.|
We hid in the bushes, not moving and talking little for fear we'd be spotted by the old man's eagle-eyes, or worse, by my parents. Nothing happened for a full fifteen minutes and then I guess we fell asleep, because the next thing I knew, my parents, Mr. Butterworth, several neighbours in pyjamas and four police officers were standing over us, gazing down with a mixture of concern, relief and suspicion.
Apparently, Mr. Butterworth had come out of his house at six a.m. to watch the birds, as usual, but what he saw caused his blood to run cold - dozens of dead birds scattered around his yard and three dead bodies half-hidden in the bushes where they had obviously been dragged by some depraved murderer on the loose! Mr. Butterworth had immediately called 911 and the sound of the police sirens had brought my parents and several neighbours over to investigate. Naturally, we boys had some explaining to do.
Our parents and Mr. Butterworth, not to mention the police, did not find our little prank at all amusing. That was the last sleepover Gordon, Paulo and I were allowed to have for a whole month. Our parents also found a solution to our vacation boredom - cutting Mr. Butterworth's lawn (for free!) for the rest of the summer!!
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Book 1 - The Dead Bird Collection
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