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Wendy Vardaman
Political Geography

Birds take up residence inside the eaves. They pry apart boards, like summer tourists coming to reclaim a seasonal residence, turn on the water, air stored bedding. Get up early every morning to begin their inconsiderate construction. I ask my husband to tell them they’re squatting, that they’ve got to go, but he says they’re too high up to touch. My youngest complains about the crack-of-dawn noise in his bedroom walls. I ask my husband to raze their homes and clear the debris. Make it seem like they were never there.

But before he can act, squirrels assemble along the roof. Ruthless. They space themselves evenly along its edge, pass each struggling wad of feathers from one mouth to the next until, at the line’s end, the last one drops his stunned captive to the ground. They do this, again and again, a factory of indifferent cruelty, to mother, father, chicks.

When the bats arrive, they’ll turn out the birds that ventured further inside, move into space that hadn’t previously existed, use the walls of our house as a day-time dormitory, like one of those Japanese worker hotels where you rent a berth just big enough to lie down. They will go hunting at dusk, stay out all night, and only the occasionally lost bat, frantically careening through the kitchen, over the bed and under the table, piano, couch, will hint at their vast presence in our midst.