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The Bird Feeder's Accompaniment
…A grin crept up on my face as my fingers played the eighty-eight black and white keys. It was ebony and ivory, living in perfect harmony. My baby brother was sitting on the floor, next to the grand piano. His dark hair was sticking up in places like little spears. The adolescent aroma of apple juice and baby shampoo swept in after him. It was almost as if he was hypnotized by the alluring tones emerging from the elegant instrument. I would steal looks at him and observe his eyes gazing up in wonderment as he held his apple juice box so loosely and ignorantly, as if he had forgotten it was still in his hands. These were the times when he was the quietest. My father’s hand showed up spontaneously next to mine and began playing the right hand to my solo. I was taken aback and afterwards I looked up at him and smiled. These were the times that I felt the safest…
The Bird Feeder’s Accompaniment
I sat at the counter in my blue robe and looked over my piano composition. It was three pages long and had no title. I had my head in my hands with my fingers pushing my ravenous dark hair back and my eyes were closed. Through the screen door, I could hear the seagulls responding to one another and the waves’ thunderous sound as they collided with the shore. It was five in the morning and I could not sleep; the sky was masquerading in gloominess. My mother appeared in the kitchen in her silky pajama pants and a plain red t-shirt. Even in the morning light, my mother looked beautiful. Her dark chocolate-like hair was pin straight and looked as if it had never touched the pillow. It still amazes me how she could always sense when I was awake and had trouble sleeping. “What are you thinking about, Bliss?” For as long as I can remember, my mother has called me by the meaning of my name. She put a teapot of water to boil and sat across from me at the counter.
“I’m just thinking about this piece. I can’t think of a title for it.”
“Well, you know, sometimes all you have to do to come up with a great title is nothing. Let the title find you.”
“I just want it to be perfect, Mom.”
“To me, Elysia, it is already perfect.”
“It’s missing the title, the last puzzle piece. It can’t be-”
“Elsie, Elsie!” Just then, my brother landed in my lap.
“What is it James?”
“You’re awake! Look!” He grabbed my cheeks in between his tiny hands and twisted my head to face the window.
“What, James? What is it?”
“Up! Look up!” I looked and saw what appeared to be a bird feeder. It was built from cardboard. I could see the glue in between the walls of the little house. It had a crooked roof and a door that was cut very jaggedly. My brother’s trademark crayon designs were sketched all around it. As I looked upon this fragile feeder, I imagined the excitement my brother had when he was making it. Now I understood why he woke up, it was simply out of impatience to show me his handiwork.
“You see that, James,” I whispered as I held him close in my lap and pointed to the bird feeder. “That right there…is perfection.” My mother smiled at us as James smiled at me. Suddenly, James got a wide-eyed look on his innocent face. I turned to face the window. I looked at the bird feeder where a single Sand Piper had made its abode. Its tan colored body was unusually small and its wings were rather large. It frantically pecked at the food that James had set out.
“Would you look at that,” my mother said with fascination in her voice.
“You should name it, James,” I told him.
“Ye-e-a-h,” He spoke slowly; he was too distracted watching the Sand Piper. “I will name it…uum…I’ll name it Lucky.”
“Why Lucky?” I asked.
“It found my house! That was lucky if you ask me!” He exclaimed as he continued to smile. My mother, James, and I all laughed.
“Now, go back to bed, you.” He plopped down, off my lap and I gave him a little tap on his rear.
“Goodnight, Mom!” He ran to give my mother a kiss on her cheek and then ran to bed.
“That James,” My mother said as she shook her head.
“He’s a little critter.” We both laughed. The whistle of the teapot broke our laughter. My mother got up to turn the heat off and made her tea. She sat back down and we continued talking for a while. After an hour, we became restless and eventually found our way back bed.
Later that day, the gloominess had slowly taken over and it began to thunder miles away. If I looked very closely, I could see that far away, the lightning was taking pictures of the distant land, documenting the smallest of details. The wind was howling and the waves were still crashing, but there was no rain in sight. James showed no sign of fear. In fact, he was jumping up and down on the couch with a juice box in his hands and watching his favorite TV show, “Rugrats”. My mother and father were sitting at the dining table having pancakes for breakfast. James ran up to me and held up his shoe in his hand. “Help.”
“All right, watch.” I bent down and put his foot in his shoe. “You make a loop, then swoop, and pull.”
“Ooh, wait!” He ran away and came back with his other shoe. “Do it again, please.”
I laughed. “But, James, I just showed you how. Why don’t you try?”
“Please?” He looked up at me and his crystal-clear, brown eyes looked like they could melt.
“Okay, loop, swoop, and then pull. It’s as simple as that.”
I looked through the glass door and saw James’s bird feeder where Lucky was still perched there, happily feeding on the supply James had left. The Sand Piper looked less delicate than it had earlier. It had gorged itself on the bird seeds making its white belly inflate rapidly. My forehead creased at the sight of the odd bird.
I trudged, still in my robe, to the four season’s porch where the grand piano stood mockingly. I was waiting for the inspiration to spark the fire in me, I anticipated its burn. It had been a full two weeks since I had composed any music. I sat on the rickety old bench and set my composition in progress on the stand. I set my feet and poised my hands over the instrument. My fingers played the eighty-eight black and white keys. It was ebony and ivory, living in perfect harmony. My baby brother found himself sitting on the floor, next to the grand piano. His dark hair was sticking up in places and in swept the adolescent aroma of apple juice and baby shampoo after him. It was almost as if he was hypnotized by the alluring tones emerging from the elegant instrument. I would steal looks at him and see his eyes gazing up in wonderment as he held his apple juice box so loosely and ignorantly, as if he had forgotten it was still in his hands. These were the times when he was the quietest. Just as my composition was ending, my father’s hand showed up spontaneously next to mine and began playing the right hand to my solo. I was taken aback and afterwards I looked up at him and smiled. These were the times that I felt the safest. Not even the thunder could harm me now. My father and I continued improvising freely. I finally felt at peace with myself.
Lucky hit the window. The wind was merely too strong for its fragile body as well as James’s bird feeder. Fortunately, the collision had not killed it, but, unluckily, the bird feeder was destroyed. It lay on the deck, tattered and destructed. The glue that had once held the walls together was now vanished, and the walls were cracked. The mist that had started to sprinkle had slowly made its way around the feeder, as if purposefully, and muddied the thrilling fixtures that had once decorated the curious construction. My father had gone outside to probe the small bird and James had taken it upon himself to make a Popsicle stick house for it, so that it could live in our house until its injuries healed. All morning James’s eyes carried a look of melancholy. “That bird was very lucky. It was nearly starved to death,” My father had said.
“That’s its name.” I told him
“The bird, James named it Lucky.”
“He couldn’t have been more right.”
I could not help but struggle with the idea that something had been peculiar about this bird all day, I had sensed it within myself. Somehow, I had known it was one of the weaker ones.
Water streamed down my face and the hot shower steam released the tension built up inside me. I stepped out of the shower and my feet met the piercing, cold bathroom tile. I dried off, got dressed and walked into the kitchen. I witnessed my mother fumbling with the gold band belonging to her wedding ring. I noticed a haunting silence stirring about the house.
“Where are Dad and James?”
“They’ve gone out. Your brother grew weary from the weather and demanded to go to the park,” my mother replied. Her physical appearance was there, but it was as if she had answered from elsewhere. My stomach tingled as the house shook from the thunder’s fury. The gloominess of the sky progressed, and the rain had begun to pour.
“When will they be home?” I asked, as nonchalantly as my emotions allowed.
“I’m not sure. Your father forgot his cell phone, yet again. Sometimes, I wonder why he even has one.”
“They better come home soon. It’s only getting worse outside.” I spoke on the verge of panic. I walked, shakily, to the four season’s porch. My mind was running and my heart was racing; I needed to get my mind off the horrible imagery occurring in my head. I let my troubles fade away as I played a beautiful melody. Time was not of importance to me. Infinite time passed as my attention was diverted. My amity was broken by the telephone’s ring. My mother’s voice was muffled through the walls of the porch. I heard her approaching. My palms were sweating and my hands were shaking. My mother’s tear-streaked face entered the doorway and no words were needed to know that something horrible and misfortunate had just happened. Her arms wrapped around my trembling body and our emotions escaped us.
“Hey, hey, look, Elsie, I did it,” My brother told me from the hospital bed. “Loop…swoop…, and pull,” my brother whispered exhaustedly. His voice now was a sad comparison to the jubilant, exhilarating James I knew and loved. Nothing in the world could calm the shiver that was working through my body. A single tear painted my sorrow face. I tried as hard as I could to keep a brave face on for James. I took his petite foot in my hand and saw his accomplishment. I sniffled and hurriedly wiped away the tears that were fighting to burst out of my eyes.
“That’s right, James. Loop, swoop, and pull.” I smiled as I spoke these words that had become our cliché. He gave me a frail smile back and as I watched him, pain arose inside of me.
The words were replaying themselves in my mind all day, Elysia and Kaitlynn Hudson? Yes, that is us. Your son has been recovered and is in room 132. …Mrs. Hudson, may we talk in private? Anything you say, my daughter must hear. (Sigh) I am dearly sorry, but we were not able to resuscitate your husband after the crash. Unfortunately, his soul was lifted on impact. He was gone before we arrived. My mother had lost her balance as this pristine news was gently digested. She could not handle any more of what the nurse was informing us. I held her and tried to be strong for her, for the both of us.
It is strange, the feeling of losing a loved one. A feeling of absolute emptiness and loneliness dominates and all that is left are vacant thoughts and sentiments of fright, doubt, and denial. My mind had so many questions, but my voice had given up and did not want to speak. The feelings of regret, however, were the most powerful at the time and nearly killed me. I regret not stopping them from going to the park…I regret everything.
Apparently my brother had been in the right place at the right time. The doctors allegedly stated that if James had moved over even a couple of inches before the crash, he might not be here. He survived the crash with what the doctors’ say are “minor injuries”. I disagree. He has a broken arm, a broken leg, and a very confused, scared, and fragile heart to heal.
The curtain revealed the anxious crowd. I looked upon the rows and rows of unfamiliar faces and I found my eyes searching for whom I knew could not be there. I saw the banner that read, “Annual High School Talent Competition,” at the top of the aisle. My performance was listed first on the program. The auditorium doors burst open as my brother’s wheelchair made its way down the aisle with my mother trailing. My heart sank and my eyes began to water. I stopped myself before the first tear could escape my eye; my dad would not allow this if he were here. The title of my piece had found me as I had walked out of the hospital on that scarring and blemishing day. It now stared up at me from the page that sat on the stand. It read, The Bird Feeder’s Accompaniment. It had now been a week since the accident and our damaged hearts were very slowly beginning to repair. Through the evocative music, I knew a part of my father would always be with me. He had helped me place the last puzzle piece. I took a deep breath and as I pressed the first note, all my insecurities, all my tragedies, and all my sadness diminished into oblivion as the music soothed my soul.