Misdeeds MAG

May 22, 2009
By Anonymous

Grasshoppers bounced out of the weeds like popcorn. Bird sentinels chattered at each other from treetop to treetop. The vibrant sounds of life were marred only by the harsh rasping of the magpie. Ah, the magpie, one of the most tenacious and cunning animals alive. He is a rugged forager. He is the master thief of birds. I watched his black and white coat through the foliage as he surveyed the scene with steely eyes. He was looking for me, for any who plotted mischief.

Seeing nothing, the magpie swooped from his perch on the fencepost to the ­entrance of the barn. Little claws shuffled to a halt in front of the door, and he craned his neck, peering into the darkness beyond. After reassuring himself that no one was about, he took a tentative step onto the ­cement. Then he took a few more. Glancing back one last time, he scuttled to the bowl of cat food. His head began bobbing up and down, up and down, then pointed at the ­ceiling to swallow. Only then did I move from behind the pine tree.

I snuck along a well-beaten path, confident that the magpie suspected nothing. I placed my feet carefully, soundlessly stalking. I was so intent on silence that I brushed against a patch of weeds. Grasshoppers erupted in all directions. The pecking in the barn stopped. I froze as if caught in the glare of a spotlight. Then something touched my leg. My breathing quickened. I glanced down, and, to my relief, saw a grasshopper clinging to my jeans. He began crawling slowly up. Each of his six legs worked methodically, carrying him closer to an end he did not know.

In retrospect that grasshopper was just like me: He had found something interesting and was going to climb it because it was there. He didn't care what it really was. I had found a way to capture birds when the barn door happened to blow shut one day, trapping a trespasser. I hadn't yet learned to appreciate and respect the spark of life in all creatures.

The pecking resumed, and I flicked the grasshopper into oblivion.

With care I reached the sliding door ­unheard. My hand gripped the edge of the barn door, and I began heaving shut the solid wood slab.

Everything went into slow motion. Suddenly I realized what was about to happen. I saw the bird's neck wildly jerk toward the door. Alarmed it bolted for the opening. The flurry of wings was diminutive next to the massive ­momentum of the door. The rumbling of the door grating along its track ­became overwhelming, drowning out the magpie's cry. Helpless, I watched the door racing toward the bird, the bird racing toward the exit. Feet, inches, nothing … thud.

I watched in horror as the light drained from those keen eyes. The bird, caught between the doors, looked through me into the next world. Its beak gaped, but no voice broke that eternity of silence. Its head slumped, beak leveling at my heart, pointing. Look, look at your heart. Look at the darkness of your heart. Then I cried.

The birds of spring still sang and the crickets still chirped as I cradled the magpie, rocking its limp body, caressing its black and white feathers with my hand and tears. As I choked, “It will be all right; it will be all right, little bird,” I was not trying to reassure the magpie; I was trying to reassure myself, but deep down I knew I was a monster. I had witnessed a spark of life, and I had snapped it like a twig, never to be mended. So fragile; too fragile.

So many sins have restitutions; death doesn't. I couldn't return life to the bird. I had killed it, and I could never take it back. I hadn't set out to kill an animal – I was simply entertaining a whim – but it had a more severing consequence than I ever imagined. I have since learned the gravity of small acts. Believe me, ignorance is not bliss. ­Ignorance is stupidity. I killed out of ignorance, and I will not make that mistake again.

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