I don’t know what Grandma thought I was going to do. Was there something in my genes only she was privy to? Did she think I was a nascent exhibitionist? Whatever the motivation, the threat was one I’ve never forgotten.
The Magpie is a very intelligent bird. It is reported to be able to recognize itself in a mirror. And so when my Grandmother told me that if my zipper was ever down a Magpie would see it, I believed her.
“It’ll be on you in a flash,” she said
“It has a long sharp beak,” she said.
“Mark my words,” she said.
I think she was fibbing about the beak being long, but I had no doubt that it was sharp.
I wasn’t going to take any chances. I knew I’d rather wet my pants than pee outside, and skinny dipping and streaking were out too. Streaking is a loser’s game. Who thinks they can run faster than a magpie can fly?
Years later, I’d overcome the fear, but I still kept an eye out for magpies. I was also leary of crows— they’re close relatives of the magpies. You never no what information they might share at their family reunions.
It’s a father’s duty to protect his children, to pass on important knowledge, and so I’ve recounted the story of the Magpie to my two boys. But, I think I’ve told it too many times.
“Oh no, not the Magpie story again,” they say.
“It’s important,” I say, “wisdom for the ages.”
“Just zip it.”