I’m so sick of this bird, this piddling gabshite crow. Every twenty minutes, it lights on the wire beneath my window; every twenty minutes, it waits while I grab my camera. If I don’t, it rattles at me, that throat-clicking thing crows do when they want to be fed. It eggs me on, practically promising a shot. It sits and it poses; it fluffs itself up. It fans out its tail. And the instant I capitulate, the very moment it’s in my crosshairs, it turns to the lens and it brawks in my face, and it’s gone.

Rotten hogpillock airhorn of a bird. Stupid, dirty packbawky.

Y’know, that reminds me…all right, picture this. It’s twenty years ago. I’m in bed with some guy. We’re watching Babylon 5. An extra comes on, and this guy nudges me in the ribs, all “look! A Mustafa!” I ignore him—whatever the reference, I don’t get it. I figure if I hold my tongue, maybe he won’t bother explaining. This guy, see, he’s annoying as hell, but he has three horrible habits, three habits that make me want to throttle him, and they are as follows:

3. He smacks his food. My God, with the smacking—those dreadful, wet plahs—who could eat, next to that?

2. Say something droll, say something clever, and he’ll fix you with this dull, cowish gaze, and go “What’s that from?”—as though all wit must come from Hollywood.

1. The nerd jokes. Holy fuck. He’ll make some obscure reference, some Magic: the Gathering pun—and then, he’ll explain it to you. And that’ll remind him of ten more things you should know about M:tG, and that one time he was playing, and he had this card instead of that card, and it was so funny, and you had to be there…ugh. Sod off, already.

Anyway. Where was I? Babylon 5; some extra; “Mustafa”—and I’m ignoring that. Five minutes later, he tries the same joke, and this time, I cave. “Fine. What’s a Mustafa?”

“Well, he’s black.”

And I’m not sure I heard that right. “So…you’re racist?”

“No! It’s like you, at work, with those Indian guys…?”

—and I’m thinking, what?—

“Y’know…when they’re on their way out, and you’re like, ugh; what an aardbong….”

And I stare at him, and he stares at me, and I think he realises that’s not what aardbong means, but I tell him anyway: “no. Aardbongs are ringworms in human suits—in this case, annoying clients. They get under your skin and itch the bejesus out of you. You think you’ve got rid of them, and they just come right back. Aardbongs.”

So, I stopped using aardbong, after that. The whole Mustafa thing tainted it, rather. Not only did this twit hear a racist joke, but he thought he’d get in on it, double down on the action—which is precisely what made him an aardbong, that ingratiating, spineless lack of character—which is why I told the whole story instead of defining the word, which describes the crow from the beginning of this entry. Hah. Phew. Well. That was a mouthful.

Fucking aardbong crow.

(Nope. Still doesn’t feel right.)

On another note, clocked this today, parked outside the Dollarama. The flags read “OBEY THE HOLY SPIRIT,” “ONLY JESUS SAVES,” “JESUS IS LORD,” CHRIST ❤ YOU,” and “JESUS IS KING,” from left to right. The wee box reads “DONATIONS” along the long side, and “GOD IS REAL” across the back. The number plate says “JESUS IS LORD.”

And He shall reign forever and ever!

12 thoughts on “Aardbongs

  1. In a similar genre, last evening took a photo of two police barriers standing gatelike at the opening of a grimy tunnel with a point of light in the distance. On one of them a tiny white sticker with the words “Trust in God” (only, because it’s Judaism, what the sticker literally says is “Trust in THE”, and you read it as “Trust in the Name”, because it’s a sin to pronounce god’s name, he’s only ever referred to as “The Name”… A terse codename that any Orwellian dictator could envy). A kind of gates of paradise by way of Kafka.

    I’m only describing it because I can’t post it (and probably because the idea is better than the actual photo).

    Crows are all about taunting and mockery, but I bet they wouldn’t make racist jokes. They’d play fair and aim at puncturing your ego. At least, that’s how I’d imagine them to interact if they could talk. So they’re not complete “aardbongs”. Probably.


    1. I don’t know: I could picture a crow making a racist remark against a gull. I always see them fighting, crows and gulls. Then again, there’s so very much to mock about a gull, without reaching for the low-hanging fruit.

      I’m still miffed about that guy ruining “aardbong.” It’s so satisfying to say, with the “bong” sound on the end. The worst part was the realisation that he thought I was the type of person who WOULD make up my very own racist epithet, which, y’know—you always wonder: “DID I do something to give that impression? Am I treating people shabbily, somehow?”

      Also, I have to wonder who would stick a God sticker on a police barrier. Seems a strange place for one.


      1. Crows have irony and refinement, gulls are the football hooligans of the avian world. Sorry, it’s impossible not to pick a side here… Although gulls do look rather fetching wheeling around high up in the sky, got to give them that. And they do have pluck, moxie… It’s impossible to imagine a gull that has given up (I also have your coinage of mini gulls stuck in my brain now… Which makes them sound unexpectedly endearing).

        You know, people who tell racist jokes in order to fit in (and probably racist people in general, really) aren’t usually terribly astute or perceptive in their judgment of others. So when they expect you to share their views, it’s either done out of pure inertia or at most as a test to see whether you’re “one of them”. So it’s nothing to do with you and everything to do with them… Aardbong souns satisfying to me too, but mostly because the first and obvious association is “aardvark, but weirder”.

        This is the Holy Land. You get god/messiah stickers pretty much everywhere. Cars, random walls, electrical cabinets. They’re like graffiti tags. That particular police barrier just cordoned off a disused area of parking lot, probably for years.

        As for everyday terrors… You just reminded me of every instance I get a bill or a letter from the bank, and the strong reluctance to open and read them (half laziness, half worry about possible overdraft). Also, I am hypocndriac and needlephobic, which resolves into a slow smoldering anxiety at the back of my mind that reaches a crescendo with every (painfully delayed) doctor visit. And I’d be scared of an ex who breaks up over taco coupons too (the solution is to never let people get too emotionally close to begin with, so that things can quietly peter off once you or they move away… So you can add unhealthy coping mechanisms to the list).


        1. “The football hooligans of the avian world”: that does describe them rather nicely. No sense of decorum or refinement, those gulls. This one time, I had a pair of house finches on my balcony, doing a little mating dance, and up flew a gull and landed right between them–talk about oblivious. Another thing about gulls: they’ll stand in the feeder, blocking out the other birds with their humongous arses, and they’ll stay till they’re full. Crows, on the other hand, they’ll grab a morsel and fly off with it, giving everyone else a chance.

          Here, a God sticker is an unusual occurrence. An entire God bike’s practically unheard-of. That’s why I had to take a picture of it. I think there might be some sort of God convention in town: there were several fellows in red flannel shirts hanging about, as well, and when God-bike-man came out of the Dollarama, he stopped to confer with them. Oh, and he had on a red flannel shirt, too. Is that a God thing? Who knows….

          I can definitely be a bit of a hypochondriac, but I don’t mind needles…except when I see how thin they are, how fragile-looking, and I can’t help but wonder if they ever break off under people’s skins. I’d hate to have to sit and watch while a doctor extracted a needle from my arm like a splinter.

          As for the breakup, it went sort of like this: I woke up, and, forgetting I wasn’t alone in bed, I reached for my iPad. I was going through my e-mail, and I saw that Foodora had sent me a coupon for tacos. I guess I must’ve smiled, because I hear this scoff, this “tchah” in my ear, and then “you’re not seriously going to use that, are you?”–and then, she went off on this thing about how I spend too much, how I’m the target audience for every ad, how I let big corporations tell me what to think…I rolled over and went back to sleep, and when I woke up, we were broken up. I mean, it wasn’t exactly a serious relationship. But, damn it, I just wanted tacos.


          1. Curiously enough, despite the proximity of the sea you never see a lot of gulls here. The role of avian bullies is taken by mynas and rose ringed parakeets (both an invasive species). Mynas have that way of strutting around as if they own the place, all the while puffing on an expensive Cuban cigar and discussing serious business. They’re very good at actively chasing other birds from feeders. And the parakeets simply drive off anything else through sheer auditory presence.

            Your breakup reads almost like a Woody Allen scene. You have to admire someone so… judgmental… Ahem, principled. The most recent disagreement about food I had went something like “This shawarmah’s awful”, “But I eat it every day… …you mean Russian shawarmah’s better?”, “Yes, yes it is”, “You owe me a shawarmah in Russia then”. I probably wouldn’t date someone who goes on long rants about “big corporations”, “stupid sheeple” and the like… Because I am judgmental… Er, principled. Anyway, true love bears anything, even people who say “sheeple”.

            The sad truth about fear is that even justified fear is dumb. It’s a useless emotion that spoils your life and eats up mental resources and turns you into an asshole (if you happen to fear people). With ridiculous fears, you at least realise their groundlessness, so they don’t have as much hold on you as serious ones. Oh, and milk is gross.


            1. I only wish we got mynas or parakeets here. Gulls are many things, but attractive isn’t one of them. They’re great goofy-looking birds, daft and bulky, with empty eyes. I’m always envious of my Australian friends: they may have massive spiders round every corner, but they also have the best birds.

              To be fair, she never said “sheeple,” at least in my presence. But she does look down on anyone who, hmm…anyone who goes along without thinking, which is what she thinks I’m doing when I buy an expensive camera just for fun, or eat tacos when I get a coupon. I wouldn’t characterise it that way, of course—in my mind, I’m spending as much time as possible doing the things I enjoy, as time is a limited resource, and you never know when your own might run out. If I want to take pictures, if I want to eat tacos, why shouldn’t I? But it was an argument we’d had on a number of occasions, and I suspect we’d both had enough of it.

              People are what I fear above all else, unfortunately—but I recognise the foolishness of shying away from everyone because some people are dangerous. Hopefully, that mitigates whatever arseholery I’ve developed.


  2. We also have kingfishers (rare) and bee-eaters (allegedly). Just so you’d envy us too (we have awful politics, and awful economy, and weather… But the nature is alright).

    I think I can imagine how (and why) she feels that way. It’s like that annoyance you get with someone who walks too slowly ahead of you, or takes too much time to decide on their order at a diner… With time the annoyance becomes an automated response, every bit of hesitancy or slowness anyone shows triggers a wave of irrational anger… And one day you find yourself as the cranky old person loudly ranting in a line at the supermarket about the outrageous price of pickled tomatoes, because THAT’s what’s wrong with the world. If you feed your pet peeves too much, they go feral.

    You know, you’re “people” too. So you must be at least as scary. Or in other words, anything that you can imagine is something you have in yourself, and thus something you can successfully confront and put a handle on in others.


    1. Kingfishers! Bee-eaters! Oh, I’m positively green. I miss kingfishers terribly. We had them back home. (Probably, we have them here, too, but I’ve never seen one. Wouldn’t know where to look.) As for politics, the economy, seems the whole world’s in a downward spiral, these days. In the absence of a haven without turmoil or poverty, following the birds seems as good a plan as any. (Don’t worry. That wasn’t a serious remark–not entirely, at any rate.)

      You’re right, yeah: especially when you’re around someone a lot, it’s easy to let their flaws become all you can see. And it’s not like she was wrong, exactly: I DO overspend, once in a while. I DO enjoy my creature comforts. I totally buy crap I don’t need, because I saw it and thought it looked enticing. I can’t deny any of that, nor am I willing to change it. For my quality of life, my ability to seize the good where I can get it is a feature, not a bug. If it’d been my hatred for pathogenic bacteria she’d taken issue with, or any of my other fixations or bad habits, I’d have made an effort to improve. But I can’t deny myself my little distractions.

      What I’m really afraid of is other people’s capacity for violence (and I’m certainly capable of that, though I prefer to avoid it). It’s not even violence from strangers that worries me–your mass shooters, your road-ragers–it’s when you let someone close to you, and out of nowhere, they get you with a slap, a kick, something you’d never have foreseen. It’s so disappointing. It’s like…oh, I hate those letdowns, when you’re expecting something good, and what you get is rotten. Like in that movie (Goodfellas, was it?), where that mob guy thinks he’s getting made, and he gets whacked. And he knows he’s getting whacked, in the instant before it happens, and that look of utter disappointment on his face, that’s what I’m really afraid of. That moment when the bottom drops out. I hate that.


      1. I understand her only so far though. For my part, laziness and decadence are something I can get behind. Partly because they’re my flaws as well, but mostly because lazy people are more likely to be genuinely good. That saying about an idle mind being the devil’s workshop…? It’s not true. It’s the plotters and schemers of the world who are responsible for most of its misery, the people on a mission who view everything in starkly utilitarian terms. At the very best, they’re meddlesome and nosy, at worst they want to get rid of someone to further their agenda. Lazy people at their worst just want to be left alone and be comfortable. Sign me up.

        And also, if you really liked somebody, would you prefer seeing them spiral into an austere self denial of Scroogelike misery or comfortably lounging in a chair, drinking tea and enjoying life (and tacos)? I know which I’d choose.

        Betrayal is scary. But do you ever meet people that you’re fully sure are dependable and good (for lack of a better term) though? They will be few, and not always necessary close friends, but you just know who they are. A sort of shared understanding of purpose that you can sense in them. You may not even like them very much for any sort of fairly superficial reasons, but when the things get difficult or fall apart, you know they’d do the right thing. Sometimes it may be just an author of a book you read, but you know they “get it” at a deep level.


        1. That’s true, I think, about laziness. It’s not conducive to plotting or cruelty. Besides, I’m not THAT lazy. In my free time, sure, I love to lounge about with a book or a game, sipping a cold drink and letting time slip through my fingers. But I work hard. I earn my laziness, or I’d like to think I do.

          If I really like someone, I don’t try to change them. I mean, if I don’t like them enough to embrace their flaws, what am I doing with them? It doesn’t seem right to be with someone you can’t stand on some level, simply to stave off your loneliness. I tried that when I was younger. It never worked out. And, yes, of course…anyone I’m with, it gives me real pleasure to see them happy, even if they’re doing something that doesn’t interest me one bit. Why I keep dating people who don’t feel the same, I’m not sure. Maybe because I don’t notice it till a routine’s been established. It can be gradual, you know…a few jokes at your expense, and then, slowly, the humour goes out of them, till it’s just a lot of criticism.

          Let me see…people I’m sure are dependable and good. Yes. I’d say so. I know a few people like that. My cleaning lady, for one: she’s kind. A couple of friends. My mother. Quite a number of people in the illustration community—maybe because it’s easy to see myself in them. I mean, I’m not afraid of ALL people, of humanity as a whole. Just some people, and I’m never certain which ones. I’m not always the best judge of character, though I’d say I’m getting better at it. Even if I do occasionally get dumped over tacos.


          1. I suspect the problem is that most of us are not good at sharing a space for long periods of time. And there is also that thing when you meet someone, and for a while the conversation flows and the mood is great, but once all novel topics have been exhausted you fall back on your “default” mode or even withdraw back a bit. It happens even with people you’ve known for ages. Something like that happens with relationships too, and it’s much more difficult to predict how that default/low effort stage would feel. In a way that’s the moment where you really see the flaws or things that might not work. Sometimes the way to maintain a relationship over time is not to get too close.

            The situation where you have only a handful of people with whom there is a real connection might be the best scenario there is. I’d say that what you’re describing is not so much fear of people as common sense. But really, as long as there’s at least one person that you can wholly trust, you’re pretty good.

            By the way, I have a silly tendency to overstate and “glorify” flaws because I grew up in a quiet Russian family where fastidiousness and mild puritanism were the order of the day. I didn’t mean to imply that your laziness were excessive, or unearned.


            1. That’s true. I’m terrible at sharing a space. Haven’t lived with anyone in ages. I mean, if I’m seeing someone, I don’t mind the occasional overnight, but having someone around all the time, especially in such a small flat, would be too much. I’ve met a couple of people, over the years, whom I think I’d have got on well with, in that default mode, but one died, and the other is in his nineties, now, far too old for me. Not that I have anything against the elderly, but I don’t want to love someone who will probably die before I do. Selfishness is another of my less endearing qualities.

              You’re probably right about the distinction between fear of people and common sense. There are certainly times when I feel uncomfortable, even frightened, when someone’s around—but I think that’s usually my common sense telling me I have reason to worry. If I think about it, there’s always something I can put my finger on, some sort of red flag.

              It’s funny, because I grew up in a way that was probably somewhat similar: in a quiet Scottish family, with similar tendencies towards fastidiousness, and, of course, financial responsibility. Well, cheapness. We ARE Scottish. I like a bargain, which was why I was so pleased to get that taco coupon. I saw it and realised I could have lunch for $10, after tip and delivery fee. Without the coupon, I’d have gone with the Greek place I usually favour, which would’ve set me back $25.

              Don’t worry. I didn’t think you were calling me a sloth. Ha, ha. I often miss insults that ARE implied. It’d be rare for me to see one where there wasn’t any.


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