Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Baby Bird

Let me apologize for missing the last week or so.  Many things in life came up that inhibited my blogging.  Of course, it's my blog and the republic won't collapse if I go some time without a post(except maybe my readership), so nyah.  :-P

Now that I'm back on track, allow me to present a new short story.  This was inspired by a recent real life incident at my house.
"Look, mom - it's so tiny!"
Cheri peered down at the pitiful creature, and then she looked back up at the tree from whence it came.  The birds around here apparently didn't know that the branches couldn't support the weight of their nest.  The end of the branch broke under the weight, and the newborn birds fell out.  Unfortunately, the parents weren't anywhere to be seen.
Not wanting to scare her seven year old daughter, Cheri said, "Gayle, honey, I don't know how long the birdy is going to survive.  There are lots of hazards in our yard, from the dogs to neighborhood cats to your clumsy father who might accidentally step on it.  Don't get too attached."
"Yes, mommy."  The words Gayle spoke may have agreed with her mother, but her tone said she was expecting this bird to grow strong.
Cheri shook her head as Gayle continued to squat over the bird and coo at it.  It wasn't very pretty - patches of covering that looked more like small cactus spines than feathers, and scrawny legs that flailed uselessly underneath it.  It had blinked a few times and looked around, but it didn't seem to have any awareness that it was prematurely on its own.
Going back to watering her garden, Cheri looked over to see Gayle race to the house and return a short time later with a bottlecap.  Her daughter knelt down by the bird and laid the bottlecap next to it.  In response to her mother's inquisitive look, Gayle said, "I filled the cap with water since Tweety might be thirsty."
Yes, she'd already named it.  While Cheri loved Gayle's compassion, she worried about what might come next.
Over the next several hours, Gayle also laid down several pieces of corn from her plate in the sink, as well as some pine needles for a nest.  She was careful to not touch Tweety, but she wanted it to be comfortable as possible.
"Mom, do you think Tweety will like her nest?"
"How do you know it's a girl?"
"She just seems like a girl," Gayle said with her unassailable seven year old logic.  "So, do you think she'll like it?"
"I'm sure she'll love it, honey."
Gayle continued bringing out capfuls of water(despite Tweety not taking a sip) and admonishing the two dogs they owned from getting close.  Neither Spotty nor Scout seemed all that interested in that part of the yard at the moment anyway, but Gayle still did all she could to discourage treks into the area.
Later that night, Cheri tucked Gayle into bed.  "Good night, dear."
"Mommy, do you think Tweety will get cold tonight?"
"I don't know.  It's summer, but baby birds don't have the same tolerance grownup birds do."
"I wish her parents would pick her up and put her back in the nest."
"I would like that too.  Maybe it'll happen."
"Yeah, I hope so."  With that, she rolled over and closed her eyes.
Cheri went downstairs and opened her book.  It was one of those trashy romance novels everyone said was bad for you, but she didn't care.  It was a good escape from the worries of the world and let her dive into fantasy instead of reality for a few minutes.
Unfortunately, she was unable to escape as much as she would've liked.  Her daughter had never experienced real sadness before.  Sure, she'd seen a sad TV show here and there or bumped her head when she fell, but she'd never experienced death, which is what Cheri felt would likely happen to poor Tweety.
For a few minutes, she contemplated going outside and removing the bird.  She could tell her daughter anything she liked in the morning, such as it figured out how to fly or the mommy bird came by to retrieve her child.  It was a tempting thing to do since she hated seeing Gayle upset.  True, nothing had yet happened to the bird, but Cheri knew what the odds were.
However, she never got the chance.  Cheri fell asleep in the recliner, her book open on her lap.  When she opened her eyes, the sun was shining through the blinds and Gayle was already headed out the door.
"Where are you going?" Cheri asked.
"Good morning, mommy.  I'm going to see if Tweety had a good night."
"Did you brush your hair and your teeth?"
"Yes.  And see - I even put on my outside clothes."  She was right - she now wore an old pair of jeans and her play-tennis shoes.
"Okay," Cheri sighed, "but you can't stay out there too long.  Breakfast will be ready in a little bit."
"Okay, mommy.  Love you.  Bye!"  She blew a kiss to her mom and raced outside.
Cheri got up and stretched before beginning her morning routine.  Coffee percolated while she got the cereal out and started pouring the orange juice.  She finally looked outside, expecting to see her daughter kneeling and cooing over Tweety, but Gayle was nowhere to be seen.  Curious, Cheri went outside and saw her sitting on the swing in the side yard, tears glistening in her eyes.
"Mommy," Gayle said in a choking voice, "I think Tweety died.  She's not moving, even when I poked at her with a stick."
Cheri walked over and looked down at the bird.  It was laying on its side, its eyes closed.  There was no sign anything happened to it, but it clearly hadn't survived the night.  Whether that was from starvation, or the cold, or something else, it didn't really matter - Tweety was dead, and nothing would bring her back.
"Honey, I'm so sorry."
"We should bury her," she said, a small catch in her voice.  "She needs to know that someone loved her."
"We will.  Where should we do it?"
"Can we do it right there?  She'd be near her home."
Cheri thought at first about the ground she'd worked painstakingly to maintain, but then she looked in her daughter's eyes.  This was clearly important to Gayle, and that dried up any doubt she had about digging in the yard.  She agreed to the burial site and went to get a small gardening shovel from the shed in the yard.  After digging a small hole in the turf, she gently scooped up the bird and placed her inside the hole.
"Would you like to say anything?" Cheri asked.  "It's customary to say something nice about the deceased at a funeral."
Gayle's lip quivered, but she nodded.  Folding her hands in front of her, she said, "I'm sorry I didn't know you for very long, Tweety.  You should have lived longer, but I guess God had other plans.  I hope you're warm in Heaven and have lots of worms to eat.  I'll miss you."
The words rang in Cheri's ears.  She didn't like seeing Gayle sad, but she was now glad she didn't remove Tweety last night.  Gayle needed this experience in order to grow as a person.  Difficult though it may be, death is as much a part of life as birth, and better for Gayle to start small with understanding about it than get blindsided by something bigger later on, for eventually something else will happen.
"Amen, sweetheart," Cheri said, wiping, much to her surprise, a tear from her eye.
Although Gayle had been the one to try and take care of the abandoned bird and had been most affected by its actual passing, Cheri thought that, in the end, it had a more profound impact on her.  Gayle would be out climbing trees and running around with the butterflies later that afternoon, but it was the poignancy of the moment that captured Cheri.  Her little girl was experiencing life, both its good parts and its bad.  In the end, allowing her those experiences would make her a more complete person.  Cheri resolved then and there to allow her daughter to learn from such things rather than pretend they didn't exist.  After all, without the experiences, could life truly have any of the beauty either?

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