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Unintended Consequences

by Jonathan Beight

Yesterday I watched a bird dart in and out of a bird house. Each time she entered the small wood structure she had a beak full of insects. After a few moments she would leave, beak empty, only to return minutes later with another beak load to feed her hungry babies. It seemed like an endless, exhausting cycle.

For fun I played a recording I found on the internet of this bird’s call, just before my laptop battery died. Immediately the bird emerged from the bird house and landed on a nearby maple tree. The bird called back and waited for a reply, which didn’t come. She called again and nothing. She called again, her head twisting at odd angles as if to improve her hearing, but she heard no response. She flew to a higher branch and called yet again, and still there was only silence. She flew quickly from tree to tree, continuing to call out, but all her calls went unanswered.

She expanded her search into ever widening circles. Her method was the same: land, call, wait, and move on. As she searched further and further from the bird house her calls began to fade in and out until I couldn’t hear or see her any more. I finally realized she wasn’t coming back.
I wondered how I was going to explain this to her children.


Jon Beight lives in Western New York. He has been published in Feathertale, Red Fez, Alfie Dog Limited, Fiction on the Web, and other fine publications.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Unintended Consequences”?

This story was inspired by a bird I watched go from tree to tree and in and out of a bird house. I played a call of this bird from my laptop to see what would happen. She immediately came out of the bird house and tried to find the source, calling from several spots in the yard. I only played the recording once, having felt bad at playing a bit of a mean trick on her. Fortunately, after a few minutes she gave up the search and went back to feeding her young.

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