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Victor, My Feather-Duster

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`WHAT on earth are you doing?'' ``Never mind, Gocky. Just go in there and relax. I'm the new maid,'' Victor announced. Once again I was looking after my friend's son - an installment on last Christmas's gift-pledge. Having no grandmother of his own in the area, Victor happily adopted me, complete with the nickname given me years ago by my first grandson.

Birds had taken over the living room. That is, most of my precious collection of china, glass, wood, and feathered birds were distributed about in unaccustomed places. A bluebird perched on an end table under a large vase of day lilies. A thrush dangled precariously from the switch of a bridge lamp, its wire feet twisted to hold. The radio table held a Dali dove and a soapstone hawk. The coffee table was graced with a cardinal, a small Canada goose, a meadowlark on a fence post, and a sea gull forever about to take off from a Maine lobster pot.

Additional birds were lined up on top of one bookcase, and cutouts of others were braced against more permanent objects. A magpie, mockingbird, and blue jay of glass, ceramic, and wood, respectively, were foremost. ``I'm making this whole room a bird-place,'' Victor informed me. As if I couldn't see that for myself. ``It's an a-very, see?''

I scrunched into a corner of the couch, picked up my feet and relaxed, as bidden. He bustled about, squaring off waterfowl coasters on the table before me. No trying to stop him. It was his way of working off excess energy on a rainy day. (Victor's an old hand at arranging. Not really concerned about the proper sex for maids and their duties, he establishes his own criteria.)

He wrapped a terry-cloth apron about his probable middle. It sagged, dangling a tie, but made a handy dust cloth. I never realized there was so much dust around. But when he emptied the shelves of the bookcases on either side of the fireplace there were clean outlines left to accuse me. ``Relax, the maid's on the job,'' he reassured me. A family of ducks were lining up on top of my couch, right under the watchful gaze of an alabaster owl on the ridge of an overhead picture frame.

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