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The Clapper
By Felisa Finn

She is clapping again. I am bowing in the bathroom. This is ridiculous.

The clapping began last winter with a few routine slaps at twilight. Clap, smack, as the crow flies then lands for a last repose on the high voltage wire. This is where they gather for happy hour. The black-to-black lineup on cable. I call it crow time, when I used to take the dog out before cancer stole her from me.

Yesterday, I counted twenty but only one sits on the top spot, where the thick wire winds around a regulator knob, causing the enforcer to begin the clap. Humidity and heat are suddenly thick as summer reinvents itself. I drag burning air from my beloved Canadian cigarette. The clapper warned me to quit and I'm scared that I don't. She has emphysema and got addicted to her oxygen tank. It was around this time the clapping business started.

She is clapping in her robe. She claps in sweaters. The crow looks down and cocks his head. I meet his eye from my backyard and pat the air indicating he should just stay put. Don't try to understand the claptrap I try to tell him.

I live ten feet away from an old woman who's clapping all day and she's picking up the pace. This is how I know she's still alive. I can tell by the essence of the clap if she's spry or wilted. I've concluded this is her main exercise, this incendiary heckling, because she does nothing else but polish brass, water flowers and watch C-Span. Her daughter visits once a week, the oxygen man delivers monthly. She has plumbing problems too.

The crows come and the clapping is steadily increasing my annoyance level. It's long ceased to amuse me.

We used to be cordial and sit on the stoop talking about geraniums while she gave the dog treats, but she rarely leaves her house now. She's become more fearful and persnickified, often oddly accusatory and unsatisfied with gestures of good will. It makes people turn away. We used to like each other.

Junior crows and doves in training are busy too. I buy more birdseed. They linger longer with the advent of all the fledglings, (and, yes, I know because the mighty clapper makes the announcements).

She isn't missing a beat, three maybe four or even five or more times a day now. The rhythm is commanding and deliberate like communists at a party meeting: slapdash and harsh. It's nothing like applause.

She's afraid a bird will somehow spark an electrical outage. And. Pop, sizzle, kaboom. She must be highly concerned. Highly concerned. Did she see this on TV?

To clap is to gesture approval. What she doesn't know about it! I have never approved. From the first time it made me bristle because birds are all I have right now. I need them here. I'm not alone when they're poking and flittering and having bumbling sex and singing. I feel I must defend the territory against this pesky, clap-happy invasion.

But, how to quell the action? Attempt some Pavlovian diversion tactic? Throw lemons over the fence; dare to join in for clap-a-long? I'm afraid for our mental health. I don't want to battle dementia AND obsession. It's stressful enough, the incessant delivery so deft by a tiny bird-woman attached to an oxygen tube.

Can't we all admit the clap is of no consequence for the crows? She'd have to agree.

"Is it a good time to talk, ah, about the constant clapping, I mean, is it working for you?"

Or. I could get a BB gun and fire warning shots.

And I worry it'll get worse before it gets better for both our sakes. It does seem to be getting worse. The days are longer and the clap extends until the final crow fades to black. What if she has some clap-attack and can't stop? Who do you dial?

Clap on. Dear God. Clap off. Dear God. The dear clapper has tried out a new tactic that I'm hoping is a one-time occurrence. I heard the initial clap and said to my husband, "See. Hear that?" Then, we looked while the neighbor, who must have struggled with the garden hose on full-power, sprayed shooting water up into the sky as close to the high voltage box as she could get. This is probably a bad idea. But the crows did finally fly off, to across the street where the portrait painter throws them peanuts from his front door.

At my lowest point I wonder if she is fully aware I am on the verge of retaliation, yet she continues the diligent encores. Would she conspire to make my head spin with all these delusional notions of countering the strikes, and actually, not only, take pleasure but perhaps, hope to offend? Deep down, I know she is stuck in her own small world. She would be mortified to find out how annoyed and alarmed and tired I am. I also know she misses my dog. Probably misses our visits. I just want everybody to find relief. It must be awful being scared all the time. I hope to be like the other old lady who feeds the hummingbirds high-powered sugar water and lets them dart around her head. Dizzy and joyful. Please, please don't worry about an electrical outage. Don't fret about not being able to breathe. I'm sorry you worry so. Everything will be all right. It must be tough when the end is near. Let's sit on the stoop and talk about roses.

Was it only yesterday I took a bow? The grand bow in a fine tempo to the first clapping of the day, I wasn't fully awake, but it did give relief. It must have been an auto-response. Maybe this is the key, to get in sync with it. The bow made it absurd (good), albeit in a Fellini-esque sort of way. I must keep this in mind, at least theoretically. Use it when the going gets tough. Take the bow. Relish the applause. Because one day I'll worry about not hearing a sound.

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