Mike nodded at me. We looked behind us to Moira and Jill, who shook the brooms we’d borrowed from Don in a warlike manner. Mike used the striker to light the end of the road flare and he threw open the roof door.
I’d fully expected the flare to be bright, but I hadn’t understood that it would be like two thousand sparklers a couple of feet from my face. I couldn’t see, I was disoriented, and I was more than a little afraid that my glasses were going to melt to my face. I’d seen the bird in the instant before Mike lit the flare, and I’d at least had the foresight to point the arrow in that direction. I pulled back the drawstring, adjusted a little higher, praying that I wouldn’t shoot over the bird’s head, but worried by the weight on the flare taped to the arrow. Then, I let fly.
I was too blind to see the result of my shot, immediately. All I saw were brilliant spots. I heard the bird weirdly screaming, and that seemed good, but it could be bad. I shut my eyes, praying my pupils would adjust. When I opened the eyes, I still saw spots, but they were additions to the sightscape instead of all I saw. The scene was lit by the flare, which was burning away in the middle of the bird’s face. That’s why the bird was screaming. I’d shot it in the mouth.
It stood up in its nest, took a step like a drunk who couldn’t judge the distance from the curb to the street, and it pitched out of the satellite dish nest down onto the roof. It staggered around screaming its garbled screams, and my friends sprang into action with Phase Two of our plan. Mike quickly soaked Jill and Moira’s broom heads with lighter fluid and lit them with a Bic. Wasting no time, Jill and Moira raced toward the screaming bird. It was Harpy vs. Harpies.
I don’t know if the bird could even think, maddened by pain and fear, but something, maybe instinct, sent it reeling backwards, away from the burning brooms. Jill and Moira shoved the brooms toward the bird in a motion that mimicked sweeping. It was cleaning day in Hell.
The bird continued to stagger backward as they advanced, and I had a strange flashback to Yukon Cornelius shoving the Abominable Snow Monster off of the cliff to save Rudolph so Rudolph could save Christmas. And, just like the Abominable, the giant bird hit the low railing around the roof and flipped backwards over it, disappearing into the night.
Mike and I joined Jill and Moira in running forward to look over the railing. We saw the monster spread out motionless on the street below. She must not have had time to get her wings open as she fell. She wasn’t moving. It was a heartening sight.
“I’m going down with a gun,” Mike said, “in case we need to finish her off. Our new Dirty Harry pushed off the railing and ran for the door. The rest of us turned to the satellite dish to see what was in it and to see if we could repair it.
There were eggs in the nest, three of them, about the size of basketballs. Like the eggs we’d seen Twit hawking at Sheep Meadow, these were camouflaged to match their nest. So it actually was a natural phenomenon instead of paint, unless some fool had somehow painted the eggs under the bird’s ass while she slept, which I highly doubted. These eggs were colored like their wrinkled white plastic grocery bag nest. Through thin spots in the bag pile, you could see the wire mesh of the satellite dish, and that was mimicked on the eggs in amazing geometric detail.
“What do we do with the eggs?,” Moira asked.
“Let’s take them in,” I said, “I don’t think the old folks have much food left.”
Moira wrinkled her nose, but we grabbed the eggs and hauled them inside, leaving them on the Welcome mat outside of Don’s door. We went back to the roof and cleared the bags out of the satellite dish. “I really think that is all we can do,” Jill said. “It seems to be plugged in. If it works, it works.”
As we entered the building again, we were treated to the sight of Don running out of his apartment. He tripped over the eggs, which he hadn’t been expecting, and fell flat on his face. The eggs didn’t break, and I wondered how hard it would be to crack them open. We rushed to help him, and Don peered up at us. Blood poured from his nose, but he didn’t even notice. “It works!,” he shouted. “My baby is working again!”