The robin’s beak repeatedly poked into tufts of grass, came up empty. It paused, as if assessing the situation, then hopped a few feet to the right. It’s head flicked to the side. In a flash the yellow beak dove, and emerged with wriggling meat.
Jenny set her coffee mug down on the Formica tabletop and leaned her chin on the back of one hand as she watched through the sliding glass doors. “Look at him. He’s gobbling that worm down.”
Her husband, Rob, took another swig of his black coffee and also set his stoneware mug down with a clunk. He checked his watch. He followed her line of sight, and studied the bird outside as it darted through the grass. “Arrogant little bastard,” he said.
“Oh come on, I love watching birds.”
He nodded towards the window. “He’s watching us.”
The rising sun was beginning to spread into their breakfast nook. Jenny glanced again at their nicely landscaped backyard. The robin appeared to be frozen just beyond the narrow patio area, directly in their line of sight, the side of its head centered on one enormous eye that had them locked in view. “That is kind of creepy,” she said. “What time is it?”
“We have a few minutes,” he replied. He folded his arms. “Look, there’s another robin. Probably its mate.”
“It’s ‘The Birds’…,” she tried to joke.
“That’s a little Velociraptor. The only surviving theropod.”
“A what?” Sometimes she hated being married to a high-school science teacher.
Rob checked his watch again, stared through the glass as the two robins resumed their hunt. “They’ve decided we’re no threat,” he said. “The theropods are a group of bipedal dinosaurs, and include some of the most terrifying, carnivorous predators that ever lived on earth. At some point during the Cretaceous–144 to 65 million years ago–the ancestors of modern birds were running around, preying on other dinosaurs. Where we are now; this part of West Virginia stood on the edge of a boggy swamp. Bird-raptors and Velociraptors, and all kinds of dinosaurs must have swarmed this area.”
Jenny shivered. “It’s time to go.”
“Look,” Rob said, pointing. “Both of them are eyeballing us.” He grinned.
She couldn’t resist; she swung her head around to search the morning-dappled grass once more. There were three robins, now, and various finches and wrens. She suddenly felt stupid. “They’re just little birdies.”
“What’s ‘little’ to a creature that can fly as high as a seven-story building. They spend a lot of their time looking down on us; we’re minuscule pissants to them.”
“Why is he staring at me? Can we go now, please?” But she couldn’t take her eyes off the russet, charcoal and white bird that had fixed her in its glare. She pushed her cereal bowl away.
Rob rose to his feet after draining the last of his coffee. “They survived the asteroid 65 million years ago, because they had bigger brains than the other theropods. Those birdies are the descendants of nasty, meat-eating, two-legged sprinters who developed the ability to fly at some point, either in the Cretaceous or after. That guy out there, and his mate, they aren’t afraid of anything. They remember who they once were.”
She was also on her feet, her back to the glass. She padded to where her purse rested on the kitchen-island counter. “Just drop me off at the office, please.”
He was trying hard not to laugh. He picked up his jacket and shrugged it on, straightened his collar. As he did so, he took one last, quick glance through the sliding doors, into the yard. The damn robins hadn’t moved. As sunlight gleamed off their feathers, they continued to stare at the humans inside the house. “Hmm,” Rob grunted. He felt a chill. “Good thing the car’s in the garage, huh?” he said, trying to turn his own thoughts into a jab aimed at his wife.
She’d slipped on her high-heels, her purse was slung over a shoulder. “Shut up,” she said, her back to him as she headed for the garage door.
He gathered his briefcase, trying to focus on the day ahead. As he passed through the kitchen, on a whim he walked to the double sink and leaned over it. He pushed the pretty, flowery tiers aside and peered out the kitchen window. “Shit!’ he shouted, and dropped his briefcase with a thump and a crack as it fell over. He immediately checked the garage door; Jenny hadn’t heard him. He reached down and picked up his briefcase, his heart pounding. He took a few deep breaths, then peeked through the curtains again. There were four robins now, perched on the deck railing immediately in front of the window, as if they were expecting him.