The Woodjin: Close Encounters of the Fowl Kind by Lbilover

Based on real life events that happened to yours truly. Many thanks to Hildigard Brown for the manips!


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Before he moved to the pines, Sean’s sole up close and personal encounter with wildlife had been one night when he’d received a hysterical phone call from his secretary, Liv.

“There’s a raccoon in my apartment, Sean!” she’d shrieked. “Do something!”

So he’d jumped in a taxi and raced to Williamsburg, although exactly what Liv expected him to do about the raccoon, he’d had no idea. It had entered her ground-floor apartment through the cat flap, and when Sean got there, it was sitting on the kitchen counter calmly munching on dry cat food, while Liv and her two cats hid in the bathroom. The sonovabitch had been huge. Sean had had no idea that raccoons came in a super jumbo size, or maybe it had simply been the difference between seeing one illuminated by his car’s headlights as it scurried across a road and seeing one in the close confines of a postage stamp sized kitchen.

The raccoon had appeared supremely unimpressed by Sean, which was hardly surprising. Instead of boldly confronting the uninvited guest and telling him to scram, he had hovered in the doorway and resisted the cowardly urge to join Liv and the yowling cats in the bathroom. In the end, before Sean could make up his mind what to do, the raccoon had taken pity on him (or perhaps he had simply had his fill of cat food) and departed the way he’d come, nonchalantly exiting through the cat flap with a flick of his bushy striped tail and disappearing into the night.

Next day at the office, Liv had gone around telling everyone about Sean’s selfless act of bravery in ridding her apartment of the raccoon. Somehow he hadn’t quite been able to work up the nerve to tell her that the thing had scared him shitless, and that it had left of its own accord.

Since that night, Sean had come a long way. Encounters with wild animals were now a regular feature of his life. He not only spent innumerable hours walking around with an excitable, opinionated squirrel perched on his shoulder or communing with a philosophical box turtle in his bathroom, but he also used his medical skills whenever and wherever Elijah needed them, on a wide variety of non-human patients. There wasn’t much that could throw a man who had sutured a gaping wound in the side of a bobcat with nothing more than some lidocaine and the unique abilities of his partner to keep said bobcat still, or held an endangered timber rattlesnake that had been charmed into quietude by that same partner, or ridden at breakneck speed through the moonlit woods on the back of the magical white stag who was Elijah’s alter ego.

He’d pretty much seen it all.

Or so he thought, until he met Tom.

One misty October morning he was driving out to visit Pete Gunner at his cabin near the cranberry bogs, when he came around a curve and abruptly braked. A flock of wild turkeys was parked smack dab in the center of the road. Sean wasn’t exactly surprised to see them, as there were wild turkeys all over the pines, but they tended to be very shy and very wary of humans (with very good reason, according to Elijah). In fact, until now, Sean had only caught rare glimpses of them, usually as they were vanishing into the underbrush.

This was a circumstance he rather regretted, for he’d always had a secret warm spot for wild turkeys. It stemmed from the time his grade school teacher, Mrs. O’Donnell, had read them a letter written by Ben Franklin to his daughter, wherein he extolled the virtues of the wild turkey. A little vain and silly, but courageous Franklin had called them, and a better choice for the national symbol than the Bald Eagle. Well, having seen both birds for real now, Sean couldn’t quite agree—there was no more magnificent sight (save one) than a Bald Eagle soaring across the sky—but old Ben had stood by his unpopular opinion, for which Sean admired him.

Roused by the sight of the car, the turkeys began slowly drifting in a ragged line toward the side of the road. They were obviously not in any great rush to get where they were going, but then neither was Sean. Pete would expect him when he saw him—that was the piney way. You had to take time to smell the flowers—or, in this case, to watch the turkeys. So Sean shifted the Jeep into park, set the emergency brake, and settled back, valiantly resisting the nigh overwhelming urge to make up bad ‘turkey crossing the road’ jokes with which to torment Elijah later.

The flock consisted of seven drab brown hens and one very impressive looking tom. The gobbler’s rich chestnut-brown tail feathers, banded with smoke gray, stood straight up behind him in a graceful fan, and his black and white striped wing feathers and subtly iridescent body feathers were strikingly beautiful. Overall, it might be a less colorful display than a peacock’s, but it was gorgeous nonetheless—even if it was offset by the comical effect of the tom’s red wattle and featherless skim milk blue head. These were not exactly Tom’s most attractive features to human eyes, but Sean supposed that to the hens, the wattle in particular was a major turn-on. There was, after all, no accounting for taste.





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The hens bobbed their heads as they stepped with delicate precision across to the verge. There they milled around, pecking at the sandy soil while they waited for the tom to join them. But Tom didn’t follow his ladyloves. Instead, he headed toward the Jeep; his strutting walk was irresistibly reminiscent of a Rockette onstage at Radio City Music Hall. Clearly, Sean thought amused, Tom wasn’t lacking in the ego department. He looked damn fine, and he knew it.

Sean expected that after a brief detour to check out the Jeep, Tom would rejoin his harem, and the turkeys would go on about their business and leave Sean to go on about his. Only, it didn’t quite work out that way. The tom vanished from Sean’s line of vision as he neared the car on the passenger side, and he never reappeared.

Minutes passed. The hens, bored with waiting, drifted off into the woods and out of sight. But the tom didn’t follow after them, something which struck Sean (admittedly no turkey expert) as very weird.

He checked both side view mirrors and the rear view mirror multiple times, but still couldn’t see Tom. He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel and wondered what the hell the turkey was up to. What could be so fascinating about the Jeep? He put the car in gear and edged cautiously forward, hoping that might get Tom moving, but after a few feet he stopped again. He really wasn’t interested in turkey road kill for dinner, and Tom didn’t seem to be getting the message.

But while he might not be in a rush, he couldn’t remain parked here indefinitely waiting for Tom to finish contemplating his navel or whatever it was turkeys contemplated. Sean leaned out the car window. “Yo, Tom," he called loudly, "get a move on, would you?”

Gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble gobble. The sound was coming from the other side of the Jeep, and in Elijah’s absence, Sean could only make a stab at interpreting what it meant. A singsong nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah nyah seemed the likeliest translation. Sean grinned. He was being given the metaphorical finger by a turkey, it appeared.

After a few more minutes of fruitless waiting, however, amusement started to morph into exasperation. Okay, this was getting ridiculous. If Tom wouldn’t leave of his own accord, Sean was just going to have to make him. With a sigh, he unfastened his seatbelt and got out, leaving the door open. He walked around the front of the Jeep to the other side, and discovered Tom standing beside the right front tire. The gobbler was staring fixedly at the hubcap as if it held him spellbound. Before Sean’s fascinated gaze, Tom bobbed his head forward, nearly touching the hubcap with his beak. He half raised his wings, fluffed out his breast and swayed back and forth while he continued to bob his head, almost as if he was doing some sort of ritual dance.

What the hell? Sean thought, totally flummoxed by the turkey’s strange behavior. He wished Elijah was there, not only to explain what the tom was doing and why, but to convince him to take his act elsewhere. But Elijah wasn’t there, and so it was up to him. Well, he reasoned, how hard could it be? He was the new Sean Astin, after all, not the one who had stared a raccoon in the eyes and backed down.

“Okay, time’s up, Tom,” he said briskly. “Enough doing…” he made a vague gesture, “whatever the hell it is you’re doing. C’mon, let’s go.” Clapping his hands, Sean moved toward the turkey, who backed away from the tire, his outraged gobbles as he did so making it clear that it was under protest. “Sorry, buddy, but the fun is over.”

Except that, as Sean soon discovered, the fun wasn’t over—it was only just beginning. Because Tom had no intention whatsoever of abandoning his hubcap obsession, and quickly darted to the rear tire to resume his staring and preening. When Sean shooed him away from there, he ran around the back of the Jeep to the other rear tire.

And so it went. Sean clapped his hands, he whistled and shouted, he stamped his feet, and he flapped his arms, all to no avail. No sooner would he chase Tom away from one wheel then the blasted turkey would hurry over to another.

Round and round the Jeep they circled, Sean and the tom, and despite the damp chill, Sean soon worked up a sweat. He also felt more foolish than he’d ever felt in his entire adult life. It might have been funny if it wasn’t so embarrassing. Thank heavens this wasn’t New York City and there was no one to witness the farce and record it for posterity. He could just picture the photos on Page Six of the New York Post and the Youtube vids on the Internet. He could just read the headlines: Man Loses in Battle of Wits with Turkey or Who’s the Real Turkey Here?

The thought crossed his mind more than once that he should just call Elijah and get it over with, but now that he’d spent so much time chasing the gobbler, Sean was stubbornly determined to succeed without having to rely on the Woodjin’s help. Anyway, it was ludicrous to think that he, a former corporate CEO with an MBA and an MD to his credit, couldn’t outfox a turkey.

Fifteen minutes later, winded, frustrated, pissed off, and wishing he’d turned the Jeep around and fled the moment he set eyes on the dad-blasted turkeys, Sean had had enough. He held out his arms and charged at the turkey like a man demented—which by now, he pretty much was.

“YEEAHHHHHHHHH!” The primal scream let loose from his throat as he ran would have done the Devil proud.

It certainly got a rise out of Tom—literally. The startled bird, his wings flapping madly as he tried to get out of Sean’s path, flew up in the air and came down again in the most unlikely spot Sean could ever have imagined: the driver’s seat of the Jeep.

Sean dropped his arms and stood staring in dumbfounded amazement at the surreal sight of a wild turkey sitting behind the wheel of his car. “Oh my fucking god, I don’t believe this,” he said, and then, all of a sudden, the comical aspects of the situation hit him and he started to laugh.

He literally cried with laughter until tears rolled down his cheeks and he slumped against the hood of the Jeep to keep from sinking to the ground. Tom stared at him unblinkingly through the windshield, and Sean definitely didn’t need Elijah to interpret that look. “Humans are batshit crazy,” it said. He was so right.

“Well, I throw in the towel,” he told Tom when he could finally talk again. “I know when I’m out of my league. It’s time to bring in the big guns.” He pulled his cell phone from his coat pocket and called Elijah—a conversation that was mercifully brief only because by the time Sean finished explaining what had happened, Elijah was giggling so uncontrollably that conversation was impossible. Then he used the cell phone to take some photos of Tom perched in the driver’s seat, because if ever a moment needed to be preserved for posterity, this was it.





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~*~

When the small blue Toyota bounced into view some twenty minutes later, Tom was still ensconced in the Jeep, showing no inclination whatsoever to give up his prized spot. In fact, he seemed to be quite fascinated by the dashboard and was absorbed in investigating the various buttons, knobs and dials, with the result that there was now country music blasting out the speakers at full volume. Sean wished he could at least have picked a classical station.

Sean went to meet Elijah as he got out of the truck, and he would have bet dollars to donuts, judging by the flush of color in his cheeks and the sparkle in his blue eyes, that his partner had been giggling practically non-stop since they got off the phone. Ah well, if it made Elijah laugh, then it had to have been worthwhile. There was no sight more beautiful in the entire world than the Woodjin laughing—even if it was at Sean’s expense.

“Hey,” Sean greeted him.

“Hey,” Elijah replied. “So, there’s a turkey in your Jeep, huh?” he remarked, his voice trembling with suppressed mirth.

“Yep. See for yourself.”

Elijah walked over to the Jeep. “What is that music?” he asked in a horrified voice, exactly as Sean had known he would. Elijah’s musical tastes were pretty eclectic, but country was way down at the bottom of the list.

“Ask Tom. He’s the one that chose the station. I’m just an innocent bystander.”

“Oh Sean.” Elijah bit his lip. “You really shouldn’t have left the car door open, you know.”

“Silly of me not to realize that a wild turkey would want to hijack my car.”

Elijah giggled, and Sean grabbed him around the neck in a playful wrestling hold. “Think it’s funny, do you?” he growled.

“Well, y-yes,” Elijah spluttered helplessly between giggles. “I mean, l-look at him, Sean. It’s the f-funniest thing I’ve e-ever seen.”

Grinning, Sean released him. “It is pretty funny,” he admitted. “But it won’t be nearly so amusing if Tom leaves any little presents on the upholstery, so how about you work some of your Woodjin magic and get him out of there, okay?”

“Okay, but only because I find his taste in music totally appalling,” Elijah joked.

Sean watched Elijah poke his head in the open car door. The turkey didn’t startle or jerk away as he laid a gentle hand on its neck. Even without the loud, plaintive wailing of some guy singing about broken hearts and truck stops, Sean wouldn’t have been able to hear Elijah’s conversation with Tom or decipher it if he could. The language was one that only a Woodjin, and maybe Dr. Doolittle if he really existed, could understand. And though Sean had witnessed this Woodjin wielding his magic countless times before, he never failed to be captivated and even awestruck when he saw him at work. Those people who claimed to be animal whisperers didn’t know what they were talking about. This was the real deal.

After a couple of minutes of communing with Tom, Elijah removed his hand and straightened. He held the car door open as far as it would go, and Tom shuffled around on the seat then hopped down to the ground. He ruffled his feathers a little, gobbled a few times, and strutted off. He did stop once and glance back as if the Jeep’s hubcaps were tempting him again, but Elijah just shook his head and said, “Nuh-uh. Your hens are waiting for you,” and that was that. Tom broke into a run, dashed into the underbrush, and disappeared from sight.

Sean let out a giant sigh of relief. “Next time I see a flock of wild turkeys in the road, I’m taking a detour—a wide detour,” he said.

Elijah laughed and reached back inside the Jeep to turn off the engine. The wailing, blessedly, stopped. “I think that’s probably a wise idea, Sean,” he agreed.

“You know, I have a bone to pick with Ben Franklin,” Sean went on, aggrieved. “All these years I thought he had a point about wild turkeys, but what kind of national symbol would stare at a car hubcap for hours on end?”

“A vain one,” Elijah said. He picked up several turkey feathers that were lying on the seat and console and pocketed them. “Franklin was right about that. They are vain, and a little silly, too.”

“You mean to tell me that that gobbler was admiring his reflection?” Sean asked, amazed. “I thought it was some sort of hypnotic trance effect or something.”

“In his eyes, he’s a very handsome fellow,” Elijah protested. Then he grinned. “He told me so.”

“Oh he did, did he?” Sean still sometimes wondered if Elijah was taking the piss out of him with his explanations.

“Uh-huh. He was dwelling mostly on his wattle, but to him, and to his ladyloves, it’s a very superior wattle.” Elijah spoke solemnly, but his eyes were dancing with mirth.

“And here I thought actors and politicians were the only ones who got off on admiring their reflections,” Sean mused. “Tom’s clearly in the wrong business. So how’d you convince him to give up being the president of his own fan club?”

Elijah giggled. “I reminded him that while he was hanging out here, some other tom turkey might be moving in on his harem. He didn’t like that idea at all.”

“You know,” Sean said consideringly, “I’m never sure if I should believe half the stuff you tell me or not, but somehow that makes perfect sense. After all, imagine how I feel when those does follow you around.”

“Sean, you’re not going to start with that again,” Elijah protested.

“Nah, it was just an excuse.”

“For what?”

“For this.” Sean pulled Elijah close and kissed him. “Thank you, Woodjin," he said softly. "And now I’ve got an idea. How about we emulate good old Tom and sneak off into the bushes? We’ll find ourselves a patch of nice soft sugar sand and you can reassure me that I still have a very superior wattle.”

“If you need reassuring on that score, then I’ve been doing something wrong all these years,” Elijah said.

“Yeah, but you know us vain types. We need our egos stroked constantly.”

“In that case, I’m delighted to provide some stroking.” The sudden flare of heat in his eyes left no doubt what kind of stroking he meant.

“I thought you might be.” Feeling as breathless as if he'd run several dozen more laps around the Jeep, but for an entirely different reason, Sean took Elijah’s hand, and led him off into the woods—in the opposite direction from Tom and his harem. One close encounter of the fowl kind was enough for him today.

~end~