I unpack my briefcase. I place a Dictaphone on the small, knee height table in front of me. I retrieve my pad and pen, and arrange them neatly next to the bottled water I had already set down.
There is an empty bowl across from me. I grab a packet of seeds from my bag, and fill the bowl with red seeds only. Red seeds only. That was one of the more difficult criteria on the rider. His agent, a portly, balding gentleman named Andre had insisted upon the seeds.
I was somewhat taken about by the directness of the request. I mean, the rumours that he had been doing seeds had been bandied about for months now, but for his agent to be so direct about it? It came as something of a surprise.
My phone rings. I glance at it and see Andre’s name sprawled across the screen. I answer, preparing for the worst, and, yes, that’s the message I receive.
He’s not coming.
[THREE WEEKS LATER]
Yesterday I received a phone call from Andre. His client wants to conduct the interview today. I was tempted to say no, but this is the opportunity of a lifetime. I cautiously agreed, and now here I am.
This time I’m in a bar. The AC whirs overhead, but it does nothing to stop the beads of sweat running down my head. The barman brings over a bottle of whiskey, a glass, and a bird bath. I tell him I just wanted water; he just laughs and returns to his post behind the bar.
After 25 minutes I begin to get anxious. Clearly, he’s not coming again. I begin to pack my things, returning the Dictaphone to my pack. As I put my hand on the neck of the whiskey bottle, I hear a voice:
“Where do you think you’re taking that?”
I glance up, and he’s arrived. The bird is here. The interview can begin.
ME: I’m glad you could finally join me. Do you mind if I ask you what happened last time?
BIRD: Are you gonna pour that or not?
ME: Oh. Yeah. Sure. Sorry.
[I pause to pour myself a small glass of whiskey, and fill the birdbath to the brim. The Bird climbs into the bath and pecks at the liquor]
ME: So, what happened last time?
BIRD: Man. This is some fine drink.
ME: Yeah, I mean, it’s ok.
BIRD: So yeah, last time, I was just, uh, pecking the ground, eating some seeds. Bird things mostly.
ME: I wanted to ask about your seed use. If that’s ok? You’ve had a lot of criticism for your apparent seed use, and the way it may influence young birds. What do you have to say about that?
[The bird begins to peck at the ground and I wait for a response. He continues to pick for a full four minutes. I begin to suspect he does not wish to answer my question.]
ME: Let’s try a gentler start. You are obviously known as being a bird from the internet. I think something my readers would be particularly interested to know is: what is that like? What is it like to be a bird online, particularly, of course, in the modern day?
BIRD: I’m gonna be honest with you, Tim
ME: My name is Tom, but go ahead
BIRD: Can I be honest, Tim?
ME: Tom, but yeah. Sure.
BIRD: Well, Tim, it is frightening.
ME: Being a bird online is frightening?
BIRD: It is frightening, and I am frightened most of the time.
ME: I’m sorry to hear that, but would you say that good things happen for birds online, or is it just frightening?
BIRD: I don’t know.
[The Bird hears a sound outside and stares at the window for a brief while]
BIRD: How can I, a bird, tell if something is good? I am still trying to learn about human interactions. Most of the time, I just do tweets with my beak and hope they are good. Sometimes people will try to respond to my tweets, and I’m afraid of them. Because, you know, as I said previously, they are frightening to me.
ME: I never knew you used your beak to type.
BIRD: Well, now you know.
ME: It’s sad to me that you are frightened a lot.
BIRD: I’m just a bird, after all
ME: You say you get frightened, which makes me wonder: would you say birds feel emotions in the same way as humans, or is it different?
BIRD: I don’t know how humans experience emotions, but they seem to be angry a lot of the time. I’m a happy bird.
ME: I’m pleased that you are happy.
BIRD: Thank you.
ME: Another question I would like to ask, is what is it like to be a bird that also is a scientist?
BIRD: I’m actually a student. I’m studying physics – and, to be honest, can I be honest Tim?
ME: I hope you will be
BIRD: What even is science anyway? They won’t tell us because it’s against the law
ME: Is it against bird law? Or people law?
BIRD: I… I’ve said too much. Scratch that.
ME: Your beak?
BIRD: No, scratch that answer from the record
ME: I mean, I’d rather use it, if that’s ok
BIRD: Just ask the question again.
ME: What’s it like to be a bird that also is a scientist?
BIRD: It’s good.
ME: I mean, the first answer would be more interesting to our readers. Are you sure we can’t use it?
BIRD: I have consumed alcohol.
ME: I can see. That birdbath is almost empty.
BIRD: Yeah maybe you should do something about that?
[I top the birdbath back to the brim with whiskey. The bird pecks at the liquid.]
ME: Is whiskey your drink of choice, typically speaking?
BIRD: Today I’m having whiskey, but usually I have beer.
ME: Do you ha-
BIRD: And whiskey.
ME: Oh o-
BIRD: And seeds.
ME: Here’s a question for you. How do you do seeds? Do you peck them?
BIRD: We pretty much just vape seeds.
ME: What is that?
BIRD: It’s where you put one seed inside a vape, and then you go on to vape it.
ME: Wow, I’d not heard of that.
BIRD: It’s pretty much for birds.
ME: I just want to go back to something you mentioned earlier
BIRD: Yes, I am a bird.
ME: No, it wasn’t that. I mean, I can see you’re a bird.
BIRD: Because I am, of course.
ME: Yeah, I mean, I’m not doubting it.
ME: So tell me about why you need to learn about humans? What is it you are trying to understand?
BIRD: Can I be honest, Tim?
ME: Yes, please do.
BIRD: Well, Tim, can I call you Tim?
ME: I mean, my name is Tom, so I’d prefe-
BIRD: Well, Tim, I don’t necessarily “need” to learn about humans
[Editor’s Note: The Bird flapped his wings to illustrate air quotes]
BIRD: But they are so unusual and inefficient in their ways that they effortlessly lend themselves to the discovery process that is the scientific method.
ME: I… I kind of understand?
ME: Are you learning about humans for scientific purposes? Or just for your own interest?
BIRD: Well, to be honest, I don’t know much about humans. But I’ll tell you this, it seems like the humans know a lot about me, a bird.
ME: I guess that brings us back to twitter, where you have quite a following.
ME: Speaking as a bird, what do you think about twitter? Has it brought you good or bad times.
BIRD: Well, I like to do twitter because the twitter logo is a bird and, in my opinion, twitter is a website for birds.
ME: I mean, a lot of humans use the website too.
BIRD: Twitter is a website for birds.
ME: I… ok… You, erm, you have a very recognisable brand when tweeting. Is this a feature of bird life? Was it a conscious decision?
BIRD: Twitter is a website for birds.
[At this point I sense The Bird is becoming agitated with my line of questioning]
ME: So, back to the science – sorry I’m getting a little off track with these questions.
BIRD: It is ok.
ME: What kind of science are you trying to discover? Is it about birds or humans?
BIRD: Well, I did already say I was studying physics, so neither.
ME: Oh. I mean, I don’t really have a scientific mind so I don’t know the different between the kinds of science.
BIRD: Tweet tweet tweet.
ME: Are you, are you speaking in bird language?
ME: Would you teach me some bird language?
BIRD: What do you want to know?
ME: Maybe just how to say hello and to say my name?
BIRD: tweet, tweat
ME: tweet, tweet
BIRD: No. tweet, tweat
ME: tweat, tweet
BIRD: Are you listening or not? tweet, tweat
ME: tweet, tweat
ME: Wonderful. Can you teach me anything else?
BIRD: No. I think we’re done here.
Before I can speak another word, the Bird has flown from the bar. He has left me at the table alone. I drink the remainder of my drink, and go to leave.
“Hey, you gonna settle your tab?”, the barman calls to me.
Typical, the Bird didn’t pay.
I settle my order, and walk out of the bar, into the blazing sun.