I’ve become a dealer. A lowly enabler of habits, constantly supplying my miserable clientele with the go juice that they are hooked on. I should have known better than to get into this game. Now I’m chained to my own customers. What possessed me to hang up a hummingbird feeder? I don’t know, I was foolish in my youth and occasionally that foolishness rears its head.
I was planting a balcony garden, tomatoes and peppers in buckets mostly, and I had to go to the garden store for some more stuff. While wandering around like a zombie, I found myself in the bird feeder section. My son was with me. “Hey dad, can we get a bird feeder?”
“No,” I said, “we don’t have a yard and I don’t want bird seed all over the place.”
“Pleeeeease? Please, dad? Dad? Dad? Dad? Please? What about a hummingbird feeder? They don’t use seeds!”
He had me there. “Fine, what the heck. Maybe the cats will enjoy watching them,” I said. We grabbed a cheapo feeder and a bottle of hummingbird food concentrate. “Wow, five bucks a bottle??” I said to myself.
An old lady sidled up to me. “You know you can make your own,” she confided in a conspiratorial tone.
I sized her up: gaunt frame, shifty eyes, I made sure my wallet was secure. “Oh, probably,” I replied. “I’m just kind of lazy.”
Her beeper went off. “I have to go, but remember, it’s cheaper to make your own.” She glanced back as she slipped out of the shop.
“Who the hell still has a beeper?” I asked my son.
“What’s a beeper? Can I have one?”
We got home and finished our garden, then I mixed up some food for the birds and hung the feeder from a potted dragon tree we have out on the balcony.
Later that day, the feeder had its first visitor. I heard it buzzing around and peered out the sliding glass doors. Sure enough a tiny bird with a red head was buzzing about the feeder. Success! “Hey cool, check it out! A hummingbird” I said.
“Neat!” My son agreed, sucking on a juice box.
Eventually, “Red Head” brought a lady friend around and all seemed pretty chill. It took them about a week to drain the feeder. Then word must have gotten out that there was a new supplier in town. I had the good shit, and I was cutting out the middle men, just giving it away.
Well the first one’s always free.
Two months later. I have become the Heisenberg of hummingbird food. I cook it up in the kitchen in ever larger and more perfect batches. The little junkies can empty the feeder in two days now. I long ago gave up on buying the mix, the old woman was right. If I ever run into her again, I’m going to get her recipe, one way or another. Nearest I can tell there are at least a dozen of the miserable little things mooching off me.
Turf wars have started. Red Head is harder than he looks, and he tries to defend the block as best he can, but the desperate will get their fix. Now I get woken up by the buzzing of junkie birds outside my window.
I keep my kids inside now. It’s just not safe out on the balcony anymore. I slip out there when I can to water my tomato plant. I have to wait until the birds leave for a minute, then I dart outside. Immediately, they’re on me. Buzzing about, threatening me, making ridiculous promises, anything to get more juice.
“Hey big daddy, why don’t you put up another feeder, man?” A green one asks, his wings are a nervous junkie’s shuffle.
“You better not let it run dry man, I can’t take it if it runs dry.”
“You need a good time? I can get my girl?”
One of them tried to give me a tiny hot Rolex, it’s just getting out of hand.
Well I can’t write anymore today, my beeper is going off.
That flower van across the street. The one that is always there. The one driven by two big guys wearing sun glasses and green khaki shirts with “DNR” emblazoned in gold across the back. They got an eye on you.
Thanks for the first smile of the day and for the memories of my parents who were the neighborhood enablers. Just be careful not to put the feeders to close to the door… you’ll end up housing ants.
SQUEEEEE hummingbirds!!! We have a bird feeder a good distance from the house and we get sulphur crested cockatoos, currawongs, pale headed rosellas and rainbow lorikeets; these are my classier clientele. The less savoury ones include crows, noisy miners (they have tiny pickaxes, do not fuck with them) and bush rats. There’s a rumble outside every time a shipment is delivered, but at least it’s a safe distance away… I don’t have to call the cat …
Oh hell no. I used to work with Aussie birds at a pet store and I can’t imagine feeding the noisy brutes. Shooting them yes, feeding them hell no.
So I have a beeper, so does my wife, and so does yours…