My dead grandfather visited me as a bird once. I ignored him at first. I’m not so used to bird callers, much less a dead grandparent posing as a bird, that just made a weird thing even weirder. Even before I knew it was my gramps, there was a strange intelligence about this bird. I was hastily brushing my teeth as I often force myself to do and this bird with fine head of plumage and a scraggly beak pecked and pecked and pecked at my window. I put my toothbrush down and walked over. It stopped when I got closer. We stared each other down. It had small piercing black eyes; I thought it was looking at my soul. Still, it was a nuisance and I needed to brush my teeth in peace and head off to work. I waved my arms in a big display of dominance. The bird cocked its head and, as if it were possible, stared harder. Now I was determined.
I opened the window, screen and all, and yelled, “Get off the window, you stupid bird.”
And in a most old, dignified and bird-like voice it spoke, “Is that any way to talk to your grandfather?”
I fell head over ass backwards right into my bathtub, screaming.
When I finally found my bearings, I looked up, and the bird was sitting calmly on top of the toilet.
“Before you say anything else,” he said “Yes, I am your grandfather. Yes, I have been to heaven but I am here to tell you something, so I came back in one of the few ways that I’m allowed.”
I’m embarrassed to admit, I screamed again, tried to thrash at it, the bird, him.
My grandpa, the bird, pecked at my head, “Get a hold of yourself.”
I palmed my head, “Okay, okay. I’ll stop screaming. Please stop pecking me.” I took the longest pause before I let the word curdle out of my mouth, “Grandpa.”
“What did you come all this way to tell me? From the dead?”
“Well, I admit I wanted to see you. I had only just met you before I died, but the main thing you should know is marry Geneva, she’ll lead to the best life, the best timeline, and lots of good things. She’s a gift to you.”
“You came back to advise me who to marry?”
He preened his feathers for a quiet moment as I slowly crawled out of the tub, running my hands through my short, thick curls.
“I married your grandmother, didn’t I? As it turned out that was my second best timeline and we had a great life together. So, when I saw the chance for one of my grandchildren, to have their best timeline, well, I thought I would let you know.”
“Okay, Grandpa,” I said staring down at my brown toes. “Sure, I’ll marry her, maybe.”
He flew up and pecked me on the ear. “There are many timelines, but we only get one life and one timeline, I’ve seen them for you. While some are fine, some are terrible, and marrying Geneva protects you from many of the worst outcomes. Take it from an old bird.”
His strange voice laughed at that, though it was like a hacking tweet tossed in with the sound of pebbles dropping. I can only call it a laugh because his beady birdie eyes seemed joyful.
“But I can’t marry Geneva. Nobody really,” I paused searching for the right word, “liked us together. It was a short time; I don’t think she would want me. Again.”
“Ronnie,” startling me with my childhood nickname. “Now times are different, and folks don’t always understand, but I promise you. Geneva is the one for you.”
“What happens in my best timeline?”
“I can’t really tell you that.” He hopped from the toilet to the windowsill again, back to the toilet, “But what I can tell you is that you’re finally happy. I know you haven’t had the easiest time in this world. My daughter means well by you even if she doesn’t always show it.”
I shifted uncomfortably at the mention of my mother, a person I only engaged with a few times a year. “Can you tell me about heaven then?”
“Well, I want you to take your time to get there, but a lot of the things we imagined about it are true. It has so much of the best stuff of life and you never have miserable days like we do here on earth. But speaking of heaven, I should really get going.” He looked down at his wing, as if there might be a watch there.
“Already? Well, is there anything else I should know?”
“I’m proud of you.” He lifted his glorious dark wings, stretched them almost sheer across my bathroom, one side to the other. He gave me a nod and then almost as abruptly as he had shown up, off he flew away. I wrapped my arms around my chest, gave myself a hug, and stared at the empty place my grandpa had just filled. I closed the window, “Geneva” I mumbled to myself, and went back to brushing my teeth.