Excerpt from “The Birds” by Frank Baker ~~Swimming~~

picture-Birds-BakerI went nearer to the edge of the bath, but not too near. I did not like to. Lined along one side were little cubicles, each with a cracked mirror advertising some disinfectant. Here, the modest swimmer, could disrobe. Few people, however, except one or two old priests, ever used them. On the other side were sun-scarred benches and pegs where most people undressed. At the deep end was a long spring diving-board covered by coarse matting. There were steps down to the water at various stages along the sides of the bath.
But I did not see any water that morning. From end to end of the bath, the surface of the water was thickly obscured by the birds. They barely moved except to dip their heads and drink. A few chattered and croaked. About half-way along a number of them appeared to be quarrelling over one stray bird who hovered above, attempting to penetrate into the solid thicket of wet feathers below him, and find a place in the water. Some of them seemed to want to make room for this outcast; some seemed to resent him. Suddenly he swooped down angrily, pouncing on the softly swaying shapes and forcing a way through with his beak. There was a frenzied screaming and a fluttering of wet feathers.
‘That’s a proper lady,’ said somebody.
‘You’d better put up a notice, Joe,’ remarked another, ‘saying as how this is bird’s day and no men won’t be admitted.’
There followed a loud guffaw of laughter, since the word ‘bird’ was also colloquially applied to an attractive young woman of easy approach. I did not listen much or join in the conversation. The birds held my attention. I drew nearer to them.
Someone called me. ‘Hey sonny, don’t you fall in! No one’ll ever be able to drag you out of that mess.’
‘Can’t we make them go?’ I asked stupidly. ‘Throw something into the middle of them. . . .’
There was a life-belt hanging on the fence.
‘What about this?’ I suggested.
‘Well, throw it if you like,’ said Joe rather dubiously.
‘Oh no, you don’t!’ A small pale fellow with a waxy moustache came up and pulled the belt from my hand. ‘Suppose you make those birds wild? Have you ever thought what they could do?’
I had often thought what they could do. Yet I wanted to tempt them.
One or two birds rose from the water and flew on to the diving-board where already a long row was assembled. The sudden movement scared me. The little pale man had turned to the door; the others, whistling casually, were drifting slowly in the same direction. Only Joe remained and seemed unmoved.
‘You won’t disturb that old crowd with a life-belt,’ he declared. ‘It’d take a gun to get through that lot, then you’d have the whole bloody bath blown to bits. Throw your belt, sonny; let’s see what they do. It’s my mind they won’t stir, not a bloody inch.’
‘I think you’re right, Joe,’ I said. ‘Not really much use in throwing it, is there?’
More birds had assembled in the sky. I saw indeed that there were a great many flying about which I had not before noticed. Those above cried as though to attract the attention of those below; but they would not move. The birds in the air seemed to want to entice the others away so that they could enter the water themselves. But the birds already in the water dipped their heads and drank almost without ceasing, bringing their heads up again and shaking them with prim regularity. They were big birds, nearly as large as rooks, gleaming green and blue, their feathers glittering with drops of water. The same pretty expression was in their sharp faces; the same bright little eyes. But something more; something mean and cunning.
I drew away from the edge as one or two fluttered out on to the concrete path a yard or so from my foot. I suddenly realized how I dreaded that one of them might touch me. There was a thick, sour smell in the air.
I turned to the door.

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1 Comment

Filed under Fiction, Literature

One response to “Excerpt from “The Birds” by Frank Baker ~~Swimming~~

  1. Frank Baker was born in London, England on 22 May 1908 and died on 6 November 1982, aged 74 years. ‘The Birds’ was published in 1936.
    The short story of the same name by Daphne du Maurier was published in 1952, and was the inspiration for the Hitchcock film, but bears no relationship to this earlier novel.

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