by Maureen O'Hara Pesta

Karen kicked snow chunks from her boots at the front door and fumbled in the dim porch light for her key. Roger stamped his feet on the mat.

It had been a long day. Ahh, good to be home. She pressed the latch and nudged the door open with her shoulder, brushing against the big, evergreen Christmas wreath hanging there. Setting her purse and keys on the table, she flicked the light switch.

Then it began, the flapping.

Karen and Roger froze at the sight: A panicky bird circling in the living room. Flap, flap flap, swish, thump. Into the lampshade. Against the wall.

Following his initial shock, the bird landed on a cedar paneled wall. His feet dug in, tail twitched up and down. Glaring, taking stock.

Karen psyched herself up for the effort that loomed ahead. Robe, slippers, TV: the anticipated scenario was fading fast. She recalled something brushing her sleeve as she entered. Now she realized, it had been a little brown wren.

“Roger, I bet that bird was in the wreath. Of course! I bet he was roosting in there.”

Karen and Roger enjoyed birdwatching, filling their feeders and suet bags and watching through binoculars, calling one another to the window to observe every new visitor. But this wren had crossed the cuteness barrier by invading human personal space. Cute no more, he had to leave.

Karen knew what to do. Still in her puffy winter coat, she zoomed to the linen closet and grabbed some sheets. Unfurling them over the sofa, she took note of several greenish splats on the wall. None too soon. Roger thundered down the basement stairs in search of a ladder and laundry baskets.

Karen wondered if the bird would retreat to its native habitat, the Christmas tree. She shivered at the prospect of her prized glass ornaments rattling and crashing to the floor during the coming bird safari. However, the wren bypassed the Christmas tree as, perhaps, being not tall enough for its purposes. Instead it flapped upward, to the uppermost branch, so to speak, of the entire house. That would be a 12-foot-high segment of cedar paneled wall, far out of reach, at the very point where the roof of the house peaked.

Roger set up the ladder, but the wren remained well out of reach. So, wobbling on the ladder, he tried to scare the bird into flying somewhere else. "Boo!" he said, which didn't work. But pounding on the wall did work. The startled wren flapped over to the balcony landing. Game over -- there Karen was poised, with a laundry basket, ready to trap the bird against the wall.

But the wren was too quick. Back and forth he flew, back and forth, back and forth. After a time, the two humans and the bird all became overwhelmed with this Hurculean effort to establish order. Karen, still wearing her puffy winter coat, had worked up a sweat. Roger called out the plays from atop his ladder. The wren, when he landed, fluffed out his feathers in misguided hope of looking bigger, more intimidating.

And then, it happened. The bird hesitated a millisecond too long. Over his head clomped the laundry basket. But there was just one problem. It was a poorly chosen laundry basket. It had holes big enough for the bird to wiggle through.

“Roger, he’s going to get away!” Karen yelled. The bird poked its head out first here, then there. Karen frantically tried to block the openings with her free hand. “Help!”

Only a few seconds passed, but it seemed like a bird eternity. Time slowed down: Bird head pokes out. Hand blocks bird. Bird head pokes out somewhere else. Karen's puffy jacket hissed and crackled as she moved faster and faster in a battle of wits with an increasingly frantic bird.

“Hold on. Hold on! I have a plan!” Roger said.

Clomp, clomp clomp, down to the basement he went. Karen heard him rifling through a storage closet. He pounded up the steps with a big, flat piece of cardboard.

"What are you gonna do with that, swat him?" Karen said incredulously.

"Of course not! Take off your coat--but don't let him get away! But hurry! But don't ..."

Aha, the plan snapped into focus. She shed her puffy coat and held it over the basket, creating a more perfect bird prison.

Roger then carefully slid the cardboard underneath the basket, then gently pulled the whole thing off the wall.

Okay, done.

Step two involved conveying their makeshift bird contraption -- basket, cardboard, puffy coat, bird --safely down the steps and out the back door. Karen swept away her puffy coat like a magician's cape, and lifted away the laundry basket with a flourish. The bird took off like a shot. No looking back.

Back inside the house, Karen watched for the wren. Now that he was liberated, she worried for his welfare. Would he ever come back? Or flee as far as possible to escape the nightmare of "Boos," wall-bangings and puffy-coat entrapment. But eventually, and to her delight, she spotted him surprisingly close, calmly perched on a snowy bench and illuminated by an outdoor light.

The bird had regained his composure.

“Roger, guess what? The wren is okay.”

"Unflappable," Roger said. He ripped open a bag of pretzels.

“I bet he was living in the Christmas wreath on the front door," Karen said. "Guess he figured out that was a bad idea. Cute little bird. I hope he makes it through the winter.”

By this time, Roger was in his favorite chair, clicking TV channels with the remote.

That night in bed, Karen thought about people and animals and their houses. She remembered how yellow jackets had once chased Roger all the way back to the house from the far meadow. He had run a lawnmower over their house, which so happened to be a hole in the ground. Homes are sacred, she thought, not to be invaded, whether you're a bee or a human.

Well, the wren had learned a lesson. The wreath looked exactly like a bush, so it’s no surprise that the bird was confused. Too bad he had to be traumatized by the laundry basket and all that.

Roger certainly had been punished with multiple stings for disturbing the yellow jackets' house. Those bees had been furious. After that, Roger became a lot more cautious when mowing in the meadow.

The next evening, coming home from work, Karen stepped up on to the front porch. Ahh, home, she thought, reaching for the latch. And, then from deep within the wreath came a sudden, sharp, rustling. The motion set a little Christmas-bell ornament to jingling ... tink a tink tink.

A wren head emerged and gave Karen a quizzical look, as if to say, “You rang? Welcome home."