My friend was over. It was to be her last visit before moving across the country. We sat on the floor, watching my son play with trains as we ate Mexican food.
At some point between the laughs, my friend looked through my curtained windows.
"Is that a chicken in your backyard?"
"Probably," I responded. I didn't look over. I didn't get up. I wasn't interested in changing the conversation; I wasn't interested in diverting attention from my best friend, who was about to become my long-distance friend. And chickens weren't exactly new to my backyard. A year or so ago, Animal Control paid a visit to the house of a neighbor who had hoarded hens. She had rescued about two dozen chickens, but a handful escaped. Rumor has it they opened up a roller skating rink in Reno. I'll believe it when I see it.
"It looks pretty big," my friend said, getting up to move the curtains and look outside.
"Tell me about your route," I pleaded. "Are you going through ... Reno or—"
"It's a peacock," my friend said. "You have a peacock in your backyard."
I ran to the window, and there it was — a mother-feathered peacock.
He stood about 4 feet tall. Gorgeous blue. Golden crown. Veil of feathers flowing behind him.
There is something about having a peacock in your backyard that makes you question all of your life's choices. In the presence of aviary royalty, I became very self-conscious about the patches of dead grass in my backyard. And I really should have put that tricycle away. This is so embarrassing. If only I'd known I'd have a visitor, I would have gladly swapped out the mud-covered T-ball set with a place for high tea with crustless cucumber sandwiches. Now the peacock is going to tell all of its friends not to bother visiting our home.
As we scrambled out the backdoor, the peacock stepped closer, unfazed.
"How do you have a peacock in your backyard?"
"I have no idea."
"Should you call Animal Control?"
"I have no idea."
"Is this someone's pet, or are there such things as wild peacocks?"
"I have no idea."
My husband looked up how to get a peacock to puff out his tail feathers. The mating dance, it seemed, is the only surefire time a peacock engages in boastful peacockery.
"Do a mating call," my husband said.
"I don't know how."
"You do great bird calls."
"Yeah," I said, "chicken calls. No peacock-in-heat calls."
But I tried anyway. I stepped back, half-expecting the peacock to be so enamored by my lusty calls that he'd lunge after me, and did my best peahen call.
I trilled again.
He barely looked my direction. I don't think I can express the odd feeling of disappointment that accompanied the peacock's ignoring my calls. It's how I would imagine it would feel if you were set up on a blind date with Brad Pitt and, after the end of an evening of great conversation and laughs, Brad looked deep into your eyes and said, "I'm just not attracted to you." You would want to yell, "How dare you think I'm not good enough for you?!" But secretly, deep down, you would get it. I can't blame the peacock any more than I could blame Brad Pitt.
Shrugging off the pecking insecurity, I told my husband to get his camera ready. I would make this peacock puff out his feathers. I called again. And the peacock reacted.
He took two steps forward onto my patio. And pooped.
My mom always says that getting pooped on by a bird brings good luck. It's possible she just says this because her nestlike locks mean that she's been the frequent recipient of fly-by bird bombs. But I'd like to think it's true. And sure, the peacock technically only relieved himself on my patio, but we're talking royalty here. We can't expect a peacock to mingle with commoners.
"Do you think this is a sign?" my friend asked. "Like an omen?"
"But what does it mean? I'm moving away, and suddenly there is a peacock stuck in your backyard. Should I stay here?"
And with that, the peacock flew onto my fence. Then he went onto the roof of my neighbors' house. And then away he went into the night.
"I didn't know peacocks could fly," my friend said.
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