In our series of letters from African-American journalists, film-maker and columnist Richard Roeper looks back at some of his earliest memories

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Burt made himself comfortable in the couch, stretching his legs out in front of him and
holding one of them up to the cool air flow from the air conditioner.

It was an afternoon in the early 1990’s when Burt was working as a
computer technician for a publishing company in New York City while attending
the SUNY
Binghamton
undergraduate
education
program.

They had just about settled in when a loud, sharp
thud—like a car rear-ending a concrete wall—scratched Burt’s eardrum.

Burt glanced up at the ceiling fan and saw a dark shape flying past.

It wasn’t until after that crash that he turned the fan light up really high so
he could see right into the open ducts that the fan used to cool the interior
of the office.

Burt’s heart started pounding in his head, he realized that he was hearing the
bird’s wings flapping against the metal, making the creaking sound of the
concrete slab against which the office was anchored.

Burt stared hard at his open window, which was located next to the ceiling fan and
to the large plate glass window that opened to a large patio in back.

The bird was flying straight in front
of the glass, and as
soon as it hit the edge of the glass—Burt was sure it was nothing more than a
brilliant flash—it
collided with the glass a second time and shattered.

Burt was standing in the kitchen at the time, eating his third slice of
home-baked brownie pie. As you may be able to tell from this photo, the
kitchen is in the front of the house, while the living room and the kitchen
share a wall. This photo was taken right after the crash.

There’s a picture of the back of this house on the wall over the stove.
The whole front of the house is white clapboard and has an asphalt
patio on the side.

One of the first things that had attracted Burt to his new home was the
starry sky, and that sky is visible both in this photo and the one on the
wall.

There’s no sound on earth quite like a bird flying into a sliding glass door.
Unlike the white noise of mass extinctions and vanishing rainforests, the
singular thud of delicate avian bones against shatter-resistant Duraplex glass
is impossible to ignore.

It’s the sound of the natural and man-made worlds colliding, like the off-key
fervor of a bronze temple gong struck by a fresh-faced initiate.

Burt Frumbder was savoring the second sip of his first cup of coffee when this
one-of-a-kind sound made him jump, spilling this same cup of coffee. He swore
and shuffled to the kitchen sink, attempting to pat his grey sweatpants dry
with a dirty dishcloth.

After a few unsuccessful attempts to eradicate the stain, Burt noticed with a
satisfied pursing of his lips, that the warmth of the spilled coffee almost
felt good on his thighs. He shrugged and walked to the living room to
investigate what exactly had caused the sudden noise.

Burt made himself comfortable in the couch, stretching his legs out in front of him and
holding one of them up to the cool air flow from the air conditioner.

It was an afternoon in the early 1990’s when Burt was working as a
computer technician for a publishing company in New York City while attending
the SUNY
Binghamton
undergraduate
education
program.

They had just about settled in when a loud, sharp
thud—like a car rear-ending a concrete wall—scratched Burt’s eardrum.

Burt glanced up at the ceiling fan and saw a dark shape flying past.

It wasn’t until after that crash that he turned the fan light up really high so
he could see right into the open ducts that the fan used to cool the interior
of the office.

Burt’s heart started pounding in his head, he realized that he was hearing the
bird’s wings flapping against the metal, making the creaking sound of the
concrete slab against which the office was anchored.

Burt’s eyes grew wide, and his face went from shock to total fear, as he stared
into the open window.

He felt the air slowly being sucked out of the room, and with it, the sense of
pitch and sweetness of the afternoon.

Then, out of the corner of his eye something flew right by his face, only inches
from him.

It was a small yellow bird the size of a robin, and it was carrying a white
chicken in its beak.

The bird was heading right for Burt, and on top of it, the chicken was still
sleeping.

Burt’s eyes became the size of saucers, and he watched through his own
super-wide vision, as the yellow bird flew over his head and into the open
window.

And when it was flying out of sight, he noticed a small black-and-white cat
prowling around in the bushes, right beside where he last was standing.

It was as if the cat was looking at Burt, waiting for a sign that Burt was
having the same experience as it did.

On top of it, the white chicken began to wake up and squawked.

Burt had only been alive for a few days at the time, and he was still in shock,
after having witnessed the crash of the bird in front of his window. The
little cat on top of the chicken acted as if it knew exactly what had been
going on, and it crept back into the bushes to sleep for the night.

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