How can the man who holds numerous patents on space helmets (and related paraphenalia) for little birds find himself at the darkest bottom of life?

What triggered this downward spiral? Was he reminded of the little bird lives he destroyed each time he’d glance at his wrist watch and see the scars left by the frantic pecking of his test subjects? Each new prototype, each new helmet polymer meant one less song bird in Aunt Bea’s pear tree.

Maybe the silence of the research library suffocated him like the silence of his neighborhood with its great Elms and Walnuts and Birches, their great boughs and branches muted and empty.

Perhaps deep down he felt responsible for the Widow Johnson losing the family home after spending too much of her fixed income on bag after bag of exotic birdseed, trying everything, convinced it was her own failings – her repugnant house manner maybe, or her inability to fold a napkin without a man – that kept the birdies from her feeders.

All he wanted to do was land the first sparrow on Venus. Simply having the world’s strongest man tuck them into sandwich bags and throw them into the sky wasn’t enough. These birds had to survive. They were our ammbassadors. They were us!

Maybe what brought him to the brink was the realization after 45 years of work, that he should’ve used box turtles for such experiments. The turtles are far easier to tie to fragile science balloons and it wouldn’t have resulted in the loss of any innocent life since reptiles don’t have souls.

Chris Weagel

Chris Weagel writes about the intersection of technology and parenting for Wired Magazine. No he doesn't. He can't stand that shit.

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