Volume 25, Number 3

The Rally To Wealth

Ken Poyner

The collection of nesting material consumes us. Much of our social order is decided by how much nesting material an individual can amass; how many twigs and which species of tree they come from; how fine the cuts of string collected are; what farms grew the straw that is matted into the nest’s perdition-smooth base. There is only so much nesting material: the quest is first to get enough and second to get the best.

We festoon our withering nests with whatever we can gather, and the most elaborate nests collect the most elaborate praise: they are the first to be copied by the less fortunate, the models for the imaginations of those who would fearlessly imitate those archetypical structures with less rigorous entwining, less pure materials, more bile-chested boasts.

Some of us are better at collecting materials than are others. Some hire proxies to go out and gather material; others collect purity-rated nesting materials and offer bundled packages to the public, consisting of mixes of differing qualities, differing quantities and in an amazing crowd of combinations: with fantastically descriptive names and shamelessly shock advertising that can knock the puberty right out of a maturing bird.

Some citizens amass huge amounts of nesting base, keeping their excess in warehouses at the edge of the rookeries, stacking it orderly in shackled bulk. Among the elite Red-Ferin, receipts for nesting-material-storage space pass as signs of status. The material itself has become of no use, simply stored in the internally eternal glum, externally glaring, warehouses: the mere possession of the precious raw components of nesting construction has become the rage. Who could use so much? No one. Not even the most shamelessly self-replicating of birds.

In those years when nesting material is scarce, there are some who say the warehouses should be opened up, that maintaining so much rumored nesting material out of the common convergence has its negative effects on everyone: not the least being on those who strive as hard as anyone, and who, from the limited sources of freely circulating nesting materials, cannot get socially, morally, nor physically, enough. The tawdry warehouses stand full, and the Red-Ferin puff up with their elegant receipts proving the existence of claimed and unapplied nesting material: and the price of nesting material then sympathetically soars, but they do not care.

They avow they are due the lustful proceeds of their industry: but many of the warehouses are old, have been passed father to nestling, father to nestling; combined in marriage alliances; enlarged in trading schemes that snipped a piece of string here, a cut of straw there, a prized twig here, from the ordinary citizens’ anticipated quota. Some hoarders have managed, through nefarious means, to manipulate the exchange rate, leverage a control of the bulk of the market to skim for themselves ever more nest-building material, as the rights to the source spin uselessly round and round a bureaucratic Ferris wheel to become only extrapolations of extrapolations that can each incur—for no reason—a charge, and the quick-feathered benders of the open market then take their percentages and enlarge their warehouses and strut again, wild-winged, with their pandering receipts.

We know there is no good in this, even though some believe that what the Red-Ferin can get away with, the Red-Ferin should get away with: somehow, it is their flock-right. Most of us would not mind their hoarding if they were the best locators of our much-needed nesting material, the ablest finders of new sources of construction stock, the smartest packagers of pre-sorted nesting fodder, or with their own beaks worked the hardest to gain the seized commodity and the rights to its future trading. Perhaps we would not even mind if they simply collected enough to be extreme in their nests—gaudy and spacious and monstrously beyond the comfort any bird needs to generate a family—and then, clock-like, stopped, being satisfied with their grandly ensnarled collections. But they go on harvesting and amassing and consolidating to ever fewer and fewer nesting pairs the nesting material that has always, before their schemes and systems, been a common wealth.

And now, if we question the spread of warehouses, we are told we should be glad to have the fulfilling work of erecting warehouses. We should be joyous that there is wage-grade nesting material at all. We should be grateful for what is so far unclaimed by the Red-Ferin, what is left magnanimously for the ogling remainder of us. I should be happy to be one of those who sweeps up around the warehouse bins of some regal bird, to be the common Olomong who chases away the rats and riffraff who might threaten the treasure of nesting material retained by this regal Red-Ferin, and I should be pleased to have a few strings and scraps of straw to myself to employ roughly in my making of a lackluster family.

I have been told that to not be happy is seditious. I have been told that it is the current division of nesting materials, supply and ownership, that makes us the great, though separate, species that we are. I sit in the rough of my nest, crowded against my flight-weary and slack-winged nestmate, and think: I cannot raise a family here; I cannot create the next willing generation here. Who, then, when I am left as nothing but an abandoned ribcage on the nearby shouldering ground, will there be still strong and justly placed to sweep up, to chase away the rats and the vermin from the warehouses of the blessed, to fill the void on which the privileged dance?