I hate birds.

Specifically, I hate large birds.

And by hate, I mean I have an irrational, crippling fear of large birds.

This includes but is by no means limited to: geese, seagulls, turkeys, cranes, flamingos, loons, toucans, pelicans, roosters, ostriches, emus, pheasants, swans, hawks, vultures, eagles, and peacocks. If dodos were still around, I’d be afraid of them. I am glad they’re extinct. TAKE THAT, DODOS.

It all started with geese. When I was about four years old, my dad took the family for some leisurely morning-time fishing at Riverside Lake. It’s not a real lake by any means, just one of the decorative, stocked, chemically- treated bodies of water that are oh-so-very popular in Southwest suburbia. We couldn’t very well fish on empty stomachs so we did what any normal, suburban family would do before a embarking on a fishing excursion in an equally suburban area: we went to McDonald’s. I was given a sausage biscuit. I found it to be scrumptious.

Cut to my family sitting on the “shores” of Riverside Lake, enjoying our breakfast and fishing. My dad baited the hook on my Snoopy and Woodstock pole for me (hooks are SHARP! DON’T TOUCH!) and helped me cast my line. My mother and my sister sat at a distance behind us. They didn’t fish. Instead, my mother was attempting to feed my two-ish year old sister her Bacon Egg McMuffin. Pointless, if you ask me, but no one did.

Being as impatient then as I am now, I didn’t want to wait around for some dumb fish to notice the free food dangling off a pointed object. Because you know, that’s not a trap or anything. Fish are so dumb. And slow. So I parked my Snoopy pole against a rock and skipped off to finish my breakfast. I hated getting dirty as a child and it took me a minute or two before I found a suitable spot to sit: not dusty, not rocky, grassy but not wet grassy (being high maintenance started early with me). I ate quietly, starting contentedly at the Arizona sun sparkling on the artificially blue water. Some happy little ducks took an interest in my little picnic-for-one and waddled over to my spot. And really, why wouldn’t they? Hello, sausage biscuits are delicious. I eat them now. I don’t care if they’re from McDonald’s.

Now at this point in my life, I was a seasoned feeder of the ducks. My parents often took me to throw Cheerios at them at the water hazards in the golf courses near our house. Ducks and I were tight. As much as I wanted my biscuit all to myself, I was only four-ish and that’s a lot of transfats for a tiny tummy. So I graciously broke off some bits and tossed them at the happy ducks. They seemed pleased and a few quacked their appreciation. I was feeling very proud.

It wasn’t long until our idyllic moment began to attract unwanted attention. I saw a VERY LARGE goose start to lumber towards me, no doubt intrigued by the blissful quacking and smell of buttery biscuit goodness. Once I caught sight of him, I was on edge. I had never seen a goose before. Not in real life anyway. And this goose did not look like anything I had ever seen in my farm animal picture books. Those geese are like two inches tall. And flat. This was a VERY LARGE goose. Taller than me. Wider than me. My four-year-old “anything bigger than me is scary” instincts kicked in instantly. It didn’t help that he looked absolutely monstrous. His eyes were red, a trait I associated only with vampires and werewolves. He had claws on the edge of his webbed feet. Claws. His feathers were pure white, like some kind of abominable snow beast. I wanted to run but my feet were glued to the grass.

The VERY LARGE goose was gaining ground quickly, mercilessly kicking and snapping his beak at my duck friends as he approached. I started to panic. I threw a big piece of my biscuit at him, hoping he’d eat it and go away. He snatched it up off the ground and continued his death march. Nearing tears, I threw another piece and yelped in horror when he caught it in midair. He kept advancing toward me, his hunger unsatisfied. He had had a taste of McDonald’s sausage biscuit and he wanted more. Maybe the biscuit wouldn’t be enough, I thought. Maybe he wanted to wash down said biscuit with a helping of terrified four-year-old girl. I started to back away slowly, throwing pieces of biscuit, hoping he would get full and go away. He didn’t. Before I knew it, we were beak to nose. The VERY LARGE monster goose spread his VERY LARGE monster wings. I VERY NEARLY wet my pants. Then he reached out his VERY LARGE neck and take a snap at my little four-year-old hands holding the biscuit. I screamed a most bloodcurdling scream and ran to my mom, who still was sitting with my sister, completely unaware that I was about to be eaten by a VERY LARGE goose monster. I looked back but the goose had disappeared. Miraculously, I was still clutching the sausage biscuit in my hands. I gobbled it up in terror-stricken silence.

The rest of the day is a blur. I couldn’t tell you if anyone caught a fish or if my sister ate her Egg McMuffin (doubtful). All I know is that I walked away with a newfound nemesis and a fear that would terrorize me for the rest of my life.

The whereabouts of the VERY LARGE goose monster remain unknown.