In the animated children’s movie, Madagascar, four spoiled zoo animals are ousted from their comfortable Central Park habitat and forced to live in the wilds of Sri Lanka. Or is it Ceylon? I can’t remember. Places shouldn’t be allowed to change their names after I learn them in second grade. The four animals in the movie: a dolphin, a zorilla, a wallaroo, and a blue-tongued skink, meet up with a band of wacky rhinoceroses who try to teach them how to live in the wild. Nonsense and liberal soap-boxing by the filmmakers ensue, and we all learn a good lesson. Oh, and the dolphin dies after about forty minutes of being on shore. That was kind of sad. She should have put a fishbowl of water around her skin like SpongeBob does when he goes on land to nail Sandy, the poriferaphillic squirrel nymph. The zorilla ends up becoming enslaved by the rhinoceroses and the wallaroo gets addicted to fermented acacia leaves. The most interesting story is that of the blue-tongued skink. After living his entire life in the zoo where he was hand fed and groomed by Chinese masseuse ladies, his dormant predatory instincts begin to emerge as he attempts to conquer the challenges of survival. Once his instincts are unleashed, he is unable to control them and ends up single handedly wiping out four hundred, thirty-nine species of Sri Lankan insects (it’s been a while since I saw this movie, you may want to watch it to check some of my facts).
The exact same thing happened to me. Only my predatory instincts were not spurred by banishment into nature. Rather, nature chose to trespass on my cozy, socio-petrified existence in the form of an audacious mother robin red-breast. This damn bird had the gall to build her nest on the ledge of the fort on my swing set – the swing set I built out of the wood from the trees I personally fell in my neighborhood. She did this without offering to pay rent or even asking for permission. Before I could unbury my trusty broom from the pile of crap I have in my garage to relocate the nest to the roof of my neighbor’s shed with one quick swing, the robin had laid eggs. Or is it “had lain”? Nobody uses “lain”. I would not have any problem evicting a single robin, but I am not so heartless as to send unborn eggs out into the street. Or onto the shed, as it were. Speaking of unborn eggs, they don’t really get born, kind of like a coffin doesn’t really die.
Soon my daughter grew attached to the eggs and looked forward to their hatching and to the upbringing of the robinlings. She would periodically check on the eggs to make sure they were alright. I found myself doing so, too, in her absence. I couldn’t let her down by allowing some stray skink with an instinct boner a free robin egg breakfast.
One day while I was mowing the lawn, I noticed the mother robin sitting in the nest. When I approached with the lawn mower, she fled, leaving her eggs to fend for themselves as she watched from the telephone wire. I turned off the mower and climbed up the slide into the swing set fort to look at the eggs. The mother robin squawked from above. Like I can understand robin speak. “Save your breath, honey,” I thought, “I’m not going to hurt your eggs.” But then, as I examined the eggs, I thought, I could hurt the eggs if I wanted to. What’s the mother going to do to stop me? I can take a robin. Unless she has a stick or something. What kind of mother abandons her eggs when the most successful predatory animal in the history of the world comes nosing around? A mother alligator wouldn’t do that. She would try to bite my head off, and I wouldn’t blame her. But this selfish robin mom thought of her safety first. I should smash her eggs and eat them just to teach her a lesson. But, I couldn’t do it. I realized that I had no predatory instincts. None. Also, I don’t like eggs. That robin is lucky she didn’t lay a few bags of Cheetos. I probably would have mawged on those. Such is the miracle of nature that Cheetos are not bred in the wild by robins.
I flipped-off the mother robin and returned to my mowing. For days afterwards I contemplated my lack of predatory instincts. I had no need for them. I was inured to sucking at the teet of human society. Comfort and leisure had squashed my urge to kill to live. I was no more equipped for survival than the animated helpless blue-tongued skink.
But, something remarkable happened. The more I thought about my predatory instincts, the more they seemed to grow inside of me. Soon I was drooling at the sight of road kill. I began mutilating our food during dinner preparation. “Why are we having ground beef and green paste again, Dad?” What are you talking about, son, that is a T-Bone steak with zesty buttered peas on the side. Shopping at grocery stores became unfulfilling. I bought a crossbow and used it to hunt food. Consequently, I was banned from all grocery stores in my area for destroying their merchandise. It’s all for the best, since Froot Loops get stale pretty quick when there is a giant arrow hole through the box. Eventually, I resorted to hunting live animals.
After all the pets in the neighborhood were gone, I migrated to the local forest preserves. Wild animals are more difficult to kill than dogs and cats trapped in fenced yards. They don’t tell you this kind of stuff on Animal Planet. And people don’t use picnic baskets as much as they did in Yogi Bear’s heyday, so even my scavenging instinct was of no use. Nurture ultimately conquered nature inside of me. Nature is too much of an adversary and a frozen pizza is just too accommodating to ignore. I gave my crossbow to a skunk and went back to my pampered, package-fed human life where I belong.
Since then, the robin eggs have hatched. The robinlings have not yet been weaned and are still squatting on my swing set. I don’t mind. They are kind of cute – too cute to eat. So, I’ve offered them jobs of ridding my estate of mosquitoes this summer. I’m not even sure if robins eat mosquitoes. The baby robins don’t know either. They only know to eat what their mom beaks down their throats. That’s not a bad life. I advised them to stay there. Something tells me their instincts won’t let them.
The other day, I climbed into the fort to thank the mother robin for teaching me a good lesson. She flew to the telephone wire and squawked at me. I placed some chicken bones into her nest just to taunt her. There’s no living with a mother robin with a giant ego, no matter how much I appreciate what she has done for me. I don’t want her getting a big head. She may decide to move inside, leaving me stuck in the nest, and the skunk has my crossbow.