"Can you watch my things?"

Today at the beach, there was a mother next to us with four kids. She absolutely never shut up. I told Bernie she’s the sort of person who has children just so there’s a captive audience to listen to her non-stop stream of trivia. When she gathered the family to go for a hike, I was relieved. Until she asked me to watch her things.

She smiled fetchingly. As far as she was concerned, this was a formality.

We could be leaving as soon as twenty minutes from now, I replied flatly.

That’s all right, she said, clearly confused that my response wasn’t unconditional. She wasn’t really worried about people, she emphasized: it’s the birds that try to get into everything.

Was she asking me to fight off birds?

I’m not beating away birds, I told her firmly. I’d be happy to yell at people, I added, but only because she’d already indicated that wouldn’t be necessary.

She flashed a knowing smile. Of course common courtesy dictated I’d step in at the first sign of trouble.

She went away. I returned to my book. And the birds went to work.

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