Under My Wing

January 6, 2010
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The fiery red sun beat down on me, scorching my entire body. Beads of sweat trickled down my face and dripped off my nose while the stickiness pasted down my damp hair. I cruised up and down the simmering asphalt road, with heat waves rising off it, and my bike gleamed in the midsummer’s sun. While turning a corner, I caught a glimpse of my neighbor’s house, their roof in particular. On it, sitting like a tree stump, I noticed a bright, dark blue bin. Intrigued and puzzled, I decided to investigate. I knocked on the heavy wooden door with a tightly clenched fist, and out came Mrs. Brewster.
“Hello Jack.” Mrs. Brewster greeted in her sing song voice.
“Hi Mrs. Brewster” I said timidly. “While riding my bike, I spotted that blue bin on your roof. What is it for?”
“See that window?” She pointed at a small upstairs window protruding from the rest of the house. “The mommy bird didn’t want one of her children, so she tossed it off the roof. I put it in that bin hoping that she’ll realize what a mistake she has made.”
In an instant, my mind cogitated thousands of thoughts. “Why did she throw him off? Don’t birds have feelings too? Does the mom not love him? Does he have an illness or disability? Maybe it’s just a flying lesson.”
“Is the sun too strong for him?” I asked.
“I am not sure.” answered Mrs. Brewster.
She climbed the three rungs of the step ladder and steadily clutched the prize on her descent. I peered over the edge to see, and there I saw the most delicate and fragile creature I had ever lay eyes on. We gazed at him for some time wondering how anything wouldn’t want such a creature. Finally Mrs. Brewster broke the silence,
“What do you think we should do with him?
“I’ll take care of Him!” I yelled eagerly.
Before Mrs. Brewster had the time to blink, I had deserted her and bolted home to get a box from my dad. Just as before, I shot right back at the speed of a gunshot.
We used a towel to get him into his new home being careful not to touch him directly. I remember hearing that a mother bird would not go near its young if it sensed it had been touched by a human. I gingerly scooped him into the towel and set him down in the new box. I felt his heart beating like a small metronome through the towel.
After carrying him the few yards from my next door neighbor’s house, which felt like the distance of a few miles, I placed the bird in its new box gently on the table in my kitchen. It was a nice sunny room with a view of the outdoors, in case he missed it. The room was also a nice place for the bird as the curtains had birds, trees and flowers printed on them.
Because I had never been a parent before, I had no clue of what to do. I thought of my mom and all the things she does for me. My mother cooks for me, cleans for me, plays with me, talks to me and cares for me. She makes me feel safe and cheers me up when I am sad. Now I could try to do these things for the bird. I kept them in my head like a list and started checking them off.
My baby bird looked very hungry so I had to feed him. I triumphantly trotted to the backyard to find some worms. I dug several holes, lifted dozens of rocks and I soon found at least seven worms. I tried feeding them to him, but he was too weak to swallow them whole. Now I would have to do what every mama bird does for their young. Because I found it quite repulsive to chew up and regurgitate worms myself, I figured mashing the worms in a cup with some water would have the same effect. I got some worm mash sucked into a straw and brought it to his beak. He sucked all of the juicy meat out! I tried it again and he ate it all. He continued consuming the worm mash. There was hope!
The baby bird’s box was so empty and bare. I thought he needed to feel more cozy and warm. I went outside to gather some materials. I got pine needles, leaves grass and even some bubble wrap from the garage. I bundled and wove these items together until it resembled a nest.
At this stage in parenting, I realized that the mother bird would never take him back so I began to feel comfortable touching and playing with him. I didn’t know exactly how to play with a newborn bird, so I just tried to make him laugh. I tried peek-a-boo which failed. But, then I thought about myself and what makes me laugh. I wondered “Are birds ticklish?” To my great surprise, he seemed to be. After giving a few gentle strokes under his wing, he let out a small series of hiccups. I really believe it was laughter.
When I am down, I always listen to or play music to cheer me up. For the bird who seemed lonely, I sang and played piano for him. He seemed to perk up. He even made musical tweets which indicated his interest and appreciation for music.
The next day, when it came time to go to an 8th grade graduation party for my brother, my mom said, “Come on Jack. We don’t want to be late.” The baby bird seemed to be doing well so I upgraded him from the box to a basket with the homemade nest. I did not want to leave him alone, so I carried the basket out to the car along with a cup and straw for worms. While all of the other boys were playing “Jackpot”, I was sitting on a tree stump feeding and keeping the bird company. “Now that he is stronger I wonder if he can eat small pieces of worm?” I wondered. I shredded up the worm into about ten pieces. He ate seven and I left the other three in the basket for later. At that moment I thought, “Hey, I’m pretty good at this.”
Bed time was the worst! I protested and cried and pouted and stomped my feet until the house shook, but my parents knew all of my tricks. They had won the battle. They promised they would check up on him every few hours. Feeling a little better that he would be checked up on, I went to sleep.
The next morning I woke up to an uncomfortable and strange feeling. As I eased down the stairs, taking baby steps so they wouldn’t hear me, I heard my parents whispering. When I was standing under the entryway, my parents were so preoccupied they didn’t even notice. Finally I interrupted my parents’ whispers. All of their expressions faded and we were left with an awkward silence. I knew something was wrong because my parents were hovering over the basket looking back and forth between me and the basket. The bird was dead.
They didn’t need to tell me. I had already gone through the death of two people very close to me. (Although this bird wasn’t quite family, when he died, a part of me went with him). My house was a bathtub, and I was the faucet. I spewed salty tears like a sprinkler. The tears trickled down my face in a tickling sort of way that reminded me of the bird. When I heard the radio, I was reminded of the bird, while eating dinner, steak and mashed potatoes, the mashed potatoes reminded me of the bird. I wanted to hurt someone and hug someone at the same time. I knew it wasn’t my parents’ fault so I embraced my parents. I smelled my dad’s herbal after shave and my mom’s sweet shampoo scent. I wanted to hold on forever. Humans are odd in the way that it’s harder for us to understand and grasp the concept of death. When an elephant dies, do you see its family crying for days on end and holding a funeral for it? I met this bird three days ago and had gotten attached so easily that I didn’t think of the consequences. It was so unexpected. I had many fantasies that I would teach him now to fly and even talk and we would become best friends. All of my dreams were crushed that morning and I had wished nothing other than to have my bird back.

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Charlotte C. said...
Jan. 19, 2010 at 5:33 pm
I really like it is really sweet and I felt with you when the bird died. Good writing
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