"Birds," is my favourite story in the collection. I think I like it best because it is the saddest. That sounds strange to say (though I love misery lit) but because it is so sad, it also offers hope. "Find a penny, pick it up and all day long you will have good luck," may be a silly rhyme, but it signifies a person's search for luck, for good fortune. Ghost stories, omens, signs, and superstition have always been an interest of mine and I've certainly heard my share of occult stories over the years. Haunted dolls, strange digging in the yard at night, black and white figures in the woods and of course the belief that if a bird flies into your house a death will follow.
There have been bird superstitions for centuries, for example a sailor never kills an albatross for fear he will get lost at sea, it is bad luck to see an owl in the day, or seeing three seagulls flying together overhead is sure to lead to a death. There are some good luck bird superstitions as well- if a blackbird makes a nest on your house it is thought to be a sign of good luck or if a bird poops on your head it is also a sign of good luck. It seems ridiculous to associate a bird with luck of any sort, good or bad, so why do people believe in these superstitions in the first place?
According to psychologists, connecting things that are totally unrelated like good luck charms, or rituals, superstitions or old wives tales helps people control what may be an uncontrollable environment or an unpredictable environment. How many people have a certain ritual before engaging in a high stress activity like competitive sports or a high stress job? How many people "touch wood" when they talk about some horrible event that they hope will never happen to them? People find meaning in simple things, they want signs of what will happen next, they want hope for the future, they may need a resolution to their problem. "Signs," or "charms," or "rituals," may fill that need.
The superstitions are endless and quite varied, depending on the country of origin. So it wasn't a stretch to write a story about a bird getting inside a house and the belief that because of this a person had to die. So where is the hope you are probably wondering? It is in the eyes of the young, the eyes of the old, the belief that finding a penny can make for a better day, the belief that making sure a bird does not fly into your window can ward off death. I think every one of us believes just a little in some of these, whether you admit it or not.