The Sparrow

September 25, 2008
By Hilarie Kincaid, Indio, CA

I have one green eye and one brown eye. The green eye sees the truth, but the brown eye sees much, much more.

With my one brown eye I see the things they don't say. I see what they long for, live for, and lust for. I see their hopes, wishes, and tears.

It tells me who the bad ones are, and who the good ones are. I have friends. I have lackies. I can control people. They can control me. This is a blessing and a curse. Sometimes I wish I didn't know.

But I digress. I have a story for you. One that perhaps has made me a softer person. One that has changed my life in the most subtle and the most extraordinary of ways:

One day I was walking to the store and I took the "scenic route" through the park. It was a simply beautiful day and the sun was so bright there was an almost complete absence of shadows. It was the peak of springtime and the grass was green, there were beautiful pink and white flowers on the trees and birds were chirping as they built their nests. It was one of those marvelous days that makes you happy just to be alive.

I was strolling leisurely, taking my time, when I came upon a man, an old beggar, sitting on the side of the walk. He was drawing on a raggedy piece of paper someone had ripped out of a notebook.

He held out a hand to stop me as I walked by.

"I suppose you want some money, don't you?" I said as I dug through my purse. "Well, here."

"Keep it." he said in a raspy voice, weak from years of smoking. "I don't want your money."

With my green eye I knew it was the truth and I was mildly amazed. Never before had I encountered a hobo who didn't want money to at least buy drink.

"Well, what do you want then?" I asked cautiously.

He held out his other hand and I saw what he had been drawing. A sparrow, unfinished.

As I pored over it, I felt my jaw drop. It was exquisite. Perfect down to every last detail. Every feather was minute and detailed. Its body was in perfect proportion to the rest of it. The beady eyes seemed to sparkle and glint in the light and the whole thing looked almost ready to leap off the page and fly away, twittering happily. I was almost surprised it hadn't yet.

But something was missing...Ah, of course.

I felt something nudge my hand. I looked over...It was a pencil. "Would you draw the wings?" He asked politely with an almost pleading look in his eyes.

"I'm no artist," I said stiffly. "It would ruin your drawing."

"No. Then it will be perfect."

And with my green eye I could see he was telling the truth. So I shrugged and sat on the dewy, green grass right next to him.

I looked at him with my brown eye, trying to decipher his motives, or, at the very least, exactly what he was expecting me to draw.

I could see nothing and I shook my head in frustration. Either he had no motives, which was unlikely, or he had no imperfections through which I could see him. The latter didn't seem quite so unrealistic.

He cleared his throat and said one word..."Draw."

I nodded and looked around for the inspiration for his drawing. Surely that little bird must be here somewhere.

He touched my shoulder. "No." he said softly. "From here." He tapped his temple with his index finger and smiled benignly.

I glanced back at the paper and placed the pencil to it. I started to draw, slowly at first, then gathering speed. My aimless lines and scribbles began to take shape. A rough outline of a wing slowly began to appear as my hand flew across the paper. I was using a talent I had not possessed before, nor one I would ever possess again.

The outline was done. Time to fill in the little things. I sketched in the dozens of wispy feathers and added definition to the minuscule bones. Sketched and shaded, shaded and sketched, until I thought my arm would fall off. But I wasn't done. I had to keep going till it was finished.

The day grew late around me and still I worked, all thoughts of going to the store forgotten. I sketched the last line, right in the middle of the wing, and sighed. My arm hung limply at my side and the pencil rolled from my fingers. It was dusk. The coming night air was fresh and crisp. I looked at our finished work.

"Very good," the beggar said, right in my ear.

I jumped. I had forgotten he was there.

Then I returned my gaze to the crumpled piece of paper...and gasped. He was right. I couldn't believe my own hands had produced that.

Of course it wasn't as good as the rest of the little sparrow, but even so...Amazing. I ran my fingers over the page and was startled when I couldn't feel the feathers, or the bulk of its body underneath my fingertips.

I looked up at the sky and the fast-approaching night. There were another 20 minutes or so until dark.

"Look." he said, pointing towards a tree about 100 feet from us...there was our sparrow!

I searched for the pencil and paper to compare, but they were nowhere to be found.

The real sparrow captured my attention again and I examined the wings. They were exactly the same as the ones I had sweated over for close to an hour. The body just as graceful and perfect as the one the vagrant had drawn. An exact match.

"I must go," he said.

I turned to say goodbye, but my breath caught in my throat and I couldn't get the words out. I turned my head away and quickly looked back, but he was gone. I had met his eyes for the first time throughout this whole experience.

The old beggar had one green eye with which to see truth, and one brown eye with which to see everything else.

The author's comments:
It still needs some work, I think, But this is my, personal, favorite of all the ones I've written. :]

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