Today on Reade and Write I have a special guest: author Robert Germaux, who is celebrating the release of his new book, More Grammar Sex, by sharing some essays from the book (I’m told the book is not about sex!). He’s also offering free review copies to anyone interested in reading and (hopefully) reviewing his book. Take it away, Bob!
Robins and Me: The Never-Ending Story by Author Robert Germaux
My wife and I moved into our new home in a suburb of Pittsburgh in June of 1994, and early on we were delighted to see that there was a robin’s nest sitting atop one of the pillars supporting our deck. I thought it was kind of cool having some avian neighbors. Every day I’d go out and kneel down to peer through the wooden slats to keep track of the three light blue eggs that eventually appeared. Cynthia grew up in Kutztown, a semi-rural community in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country, so she saw animals on a fairly regular basis. I, on the other hand, was a city boy through and through, so this was my first up-close-and-personal exposure to actual wildlife, unless you count all the episodes of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom that I watched, which you probably don’t. Anyway, I was pretty excited about my new flock of little friends. And I was especially thrilled the day I saw that the babies were beginning to emerge. Soon after that, we had a nest full of miniature robins, constantly craning their necks up as mom and dad arrived with their daily meals of worms, insects and the occasional berry. It was as though I was tuning in to my own personal episode of Wild Kingdom every day. I even named the robins. Since I had no idea how to determine the gender of a bird, I just went with Harry, Tina and Elliott. Cute, huh?
And then the little suckers learned to fly.
Apparently, newly-fledged robins can’t fly very far, just about five feet, which turns out to be the exact distance from their nest to the top of the railing on our deck. For the next couple of weeks, the three little robins spent most of their time perched on that railing, doing what came naturally after a hefty meal of worms and whatnot. In short, my cute little birdies had been transformed into big-time poop-producing machines, and our beautiful new deck soon became almost unusable. You for sure weren’t going to lean on that railing and admire the sunset.
Let’s back up here a minute. Birds relieve themselves on the windshield of our car all the time, but that’s different. That’s out on the highways and byways, but our deck? I mean, I don’t have to take this crap from no robin. As the guys in the NBA say about opposing teams coming in to try to beat them in their arena, not in my house.
There wasn’t much I could do that first summer. Cynthia and I just had to live with it, spending a lot of time hosing off our deck any time we wanted to enjoy a meal out there. But the following year, I was ready. As soon as I saw the beginnings of a nest, I immediately knocked it off its perch with an old broom handle. My reasoning was that the robins would simply build the nest elsewhere, but I underestimated their affinity for our deck, or their persistence, or their stubbornness, or whatever. Who knows what goes on inside those tiny brains? Instead of building elsewhere, they kept trying to build in the same old location. As soon as I’d knock one nest down, another one would appear.
Apparently, robins can build nests, like, really fast. (When I mentioned this to a friend of mine who was a science teacher, Jack said, “They’re birds, Bob. What else do they have to do?”) The only adjustment they made was to shift to one of the other open spaces right beneath our deck. There were a total of five places suitable for nest-building, and one morning when I checked, there were the beginnings of four new nests. That’s when it got personal. It was time to bring out the big guns. Well, the big jugs of water. A colleague of mine at work had suggested I fill those spaces with containers of water. I discovered that the gallon size did a nice job of blocking access to the areas, and just like that, problem solved.
As I write this, it’s late March, and many years have passed since that summer of ’94. The cast of characters has changed considerably. Obviously, I’m the sole remaining combatant from that initial skirmish, but each spring brings a new flock of potential poop machines, many, if not most, probably descendants of that first wave over two decades ago. There’s a part of me that admires their determination, but there’s a larger part of me that doesn’t want bird crap all over our deck. So I am ever vigilant. Right now, I’m looking out at a small gathering of robins in our back yard. To the untrained eye, they might appear to be simply hopping around out there, but I know better. Slowly but surely, the red-breasted beasts are edging closer to our house, and one of them in particular is definitely eye-balling the deck.
He looks a lot like Elliott.
ABOUT ROBERT GERMAUX
Both my parents were readers. I’m talking stacks-of-books-on-their-nightstands readers. So it’s no surprise that an early age, I, too, became an avid reader. Everything from sports books (especially baseball) to Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, to almost anything about distant and exotic places. I’ve always enjoyed putting words on paper, but the writer in me didn’t fully emerge until I retired after three decades of teaching high school English.
I quickly wrote two books aimed at middle school readers, at which point my wife urged me to try a novel for adults. As is usually the case, my wife Cynthia’s idea was a good one. Over the next few years, I wrote several books about Pittsburgh private eye Jeremy Barnes, including “Hard Court” and the recently released “In the Eye.” I also wrote “Small Talk” and “One by One,” both featuring Pittsburgh police detective Daniel Hayes.
Along the way, I took a brief hiatus from the detective genre to write “The Backup Husband,” the plotline of which came to me one day when I was playing the What-if game.
I then tried my hand at writing humorous essays, which resulted in “Grammar Sex (and other stuff)” and its sequel, “More Grammar Sex.” Coming soon is “Small Bytes,” the first Jeremy Barnes novel, to be followed by two other JB mysteries, “Leaving the LAW” and “Speak Softly.”
Thanks so much for being here today, Bob. I, for one, would love to review your new book. Let me know if you’re interested, and readers, I hope you’ll consider reading and reviewing Bob’s new book, too. Let him know in the comments.
Until next time,