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    Emma Straub

    37. Marjorie and the Birds

    By Emma Straub

    After her husband died, Marjorie took up hobbies, lots of them, just to see what stuck. She went on a cruise for widows and widowers, which was awful for everyone except the people who hadn’t really loved their spouses to begin with. She took up knitting, which made her fingers hurt, and modern dance for seniors, which made the rest of her body hurt, too. Most of all, Marjorie enjoyed birding, which didn’t seem like a hobby at all, but like agreeing to be more observant. She’d always been good at paying attention.

    She signed up for an introductory course at the Museum of Natural History, sending her check in the mail with a slip of paper wrapped around it. It was the sort of thing that her children made fun of her for, but Marjorie had her ways. The class met twice a week at seven in the morning, always gathering on the Naturalist’s Bridge just past the entrance to the park at 77th Street. Marjorie liked that, the consistency. Even on days when she was late—all year, it had only happened twice, and she’d been mortified both times—Marjorie knew just where to find the group, as they always wound around the park on the same path, moving at a snail’s pace, a birder’s pace, their eyes up in the trees and their hands loosely holding onto the binoculars around their necks.

    Dr. Lawrence was in charge. He was a small man, smaller than Marjorie, who stood five foot seven in her walking shoes. His hair was thin but not gone, pale but not white. To Marjorie, he seemed a youthful spirit, though he must have been in his late fifties. Dr. Lawrence had another job at the museum, unrelated to birds. Marjorie could never remember exactly what it was. He arranged bones, or pinned butterfly wings, or dusted off the dinosaurs with a toothbrush. She was too embarrassed to keep asking. But the birds were his real love, that was clear. . . . Read More.


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