Lessons Learned

birdThe man held the large, plastic saucer in his hands and twisted the edges in opposite directions.

“See, it’s not going to break like your traditional ceramic bird bath.”

The woman took the saucer from the man to test his claim of durability for herself, twisting the edges and trying to bend it in half, without success.  Although gullible in all of her other relationships, she was not one to take the word of a salesperson at face value.  Not anymore, at least.   

Unable to break or bend it, she nodded in satisfaction and flipped the saucer over, “No price tag?”   

The man held his delicate hands in front of his chest like a squirrel with an acorn, he was determined not to lose this sale.  Surprisingly, things weren’t as lucrative in the bird supply business as one might imagine. 

“Well, that’s actually our last one.”

The woman raised her eyebrows in question.  

“Last one?” she asked incredulously. 

The last time she heard that line, she ended up with a slick ceramic, cushion-less couch that was impossible to sit on without sliding off of it.   

Mustering his most pathetic expression, he explained, “These are made in China and with the tariffs, we can’t get anymore.  Don’t know when, or if, we will ever get more.”

She pretended to take a minute to think, not to appear hasty in her decision.

“Well, I suppose I’ll take it.  And throw in some of those crushed peanuts and…”

Suddenly, her attention was redirected towards something unusual and glorious.  It was a crane standing in a bucket of rocks, fashioned out of wire no thicker than that of a coat hanger.  Perfect in every way.  Her daughter would have added, perfectly tacky, and reminded her of the other garden art that had accumulated in her backyard.

“Mmm….” She mentally silenced her offspring’s voice.

“And that beautiful bird.  Add that in with the peanuts and the indestructible bird bath.”

She knew a good deal when she saw one.

Breakfast Favorite

robin

“Whoa! Watch where you’re going!”

A bird flew from a bush with a great commotion of flapping and feathers. It landed on a branch on top of a pile of sticks a few steps away from the bush from which it burst and glares. The little bird redefined the cliché’ if looks could kill as it continued to stare at the intruder with beady, black eyes.

“Must be something good in there, eh little bird?” the intruder purred with a throaty voice and crept closer to the bush.

Sure enough, a nest was tucked into a low crook in the scrub bush. It was loving sewn together by beak and claw, made of twigs, trash, mud, and a piece of string. The nest was dangerously low, just low enough for a little peek by any curious, four-legged passerby.

“Eggs! There’s four blue eggs in there!”

The still-warm orbs nestled together in the center of the nest, siblings through the shell.

And through the next life.

The cat reached up with one furry, violent paw and whacked the nest down to the ground already littered with fading mulch and dead leaves. Speckled blue eggs rolled out over the debris in zig-zag paths. Each egg was neatly stopped by the pink, waiting tongue of the cat that loves scrambled eggs.

The Bird’s Oatmeal

“Strange, isn’t it?” the woman asked and stared out the window.  

She dried a wineglass as she did so, carefully wiping the crystal dry.  There were only four glasses left from the original set, she thought with sadness.  Clumsiness would be her downfall as it had been for much of her wedding china.

“What?” her husband asked, blissfully unaware of the broken glasses and dishes.   Each broken piece was treated as evidence of what his wife called “the dropsies” to be disposed of as quickly as possible.    

“The light, it’s just so eerie.  Everything looks fresh and alien at the same time.   The grass doesn’t seem real, it’s like each blade was just shaved from a block of green.”

She’s such an unusual little dreamer, the man thought as he flipped through a pile of letters.   

He got up and peeked out the window, the sky was dark.  Yet, the trees and grass were illuminated from just a few cracks in the heavy clouds.  He pushed the window up and warm air rushed in bringing the smell of rain and dirt.

The outside world was dry and still.  Leaves hung motionless from branches and then began to shiver as a gentle wind blew in and began to swell.  The gentle wind turned into a bullying gust and roared around the trees, shaking the limbs and branches.  Flowers and leaves flew up into the air and swirled with bits of dirt and dust. 

The window slammed shut on its own with a loud bang.  The man jumped back wine and knocked a wineglass from the rack.  It crashed to the ground and the set was reduced once again.

The next morning, the man left before the sun was up for work.

An alarm went off and the woman lay in bed, fighting the desire to fall back to sleep.

Throwing off the covers, she knew that she had to get up and go to work if she wanted to keep her job.  She shook her head, no, that wasn’t right.   She couldn’t care any less about the job, but her husband minded.   He cared a good deal that she was employed and they were able to pay the bills. 

She looked out the window and gasped.  The yard was covered with broken limbs, branches, leaves and random pieces of trash caught up in the storm.  Water still dripped from the edges of the window.  The woman wrapped herself in an old coat, slipped into a pair of rubber garden shoes and stepped outside.

The sky was overcast and the air felt damp and cool.  It must have stormed all night, she thought, trying to remember if she heard thunder or lightning.  Still wondering, she started to pick up the debris and soon had an armful that she dropped next to the house.  She planned to bag the pile up after work and shuddered at the thought of how she had to spend the next eight hours of her life.

A rustling in the grass near the pile she just dropped caught her attention.   It didn’t slither or weave back and forth, which provided some comfort as she leaned closer to investigate.

“A baby bird!” she exclaimed. 

She crouched next to the bald little creature as it flapped its wings and hopped up and down.  It begged for help with each chirp.  Food, shelter, a sweater, anything will do at this time, it seemed to say.

The woman looked around, no nest, no mommy bird, no worms.  This is bad for you, baby bird.

The bird locked eyes with the woman and starting hopping towards her, uninhibited by the fear that should have sent it in the opposite direction.  Desperation leads creatures and humans alike to make peculiar choices, not easily explained or repeated, but driven out of the need to survive.                

Unable to watch a creature suffer, the woman held her hands out and scooped up the chirruping bird, against all warnings she ever heard.

She brought it inside and made a cozy home out of a Kleenex box for the bird and called off work for the day.  

The bird grew fat and healthy on oatmeal and crushed worms.  It moved out of the Kleenex box and into an old wire cage that the woman found filled with colorful scarves at a thrift store.   She had a standing order for a box of night-crawlers each week at nearby bait shop.  Glossy, blue feathers covered the bird’s body.  They trailed behind the bird, a royal train of color.  Each morning, it woke the couple up with trills and tra-la-la’s as it flew into their room, hungry for crushed worm and oatmeal.   It took to riding on the man’s shoulder and cuddling on the woman’s neck in the evenings.  During the day, the bird flew about the house without restraint.

They grew old together, the couple and the bird. 

The woman shook her head, no, that isn’t right. What bird eats oatmeal? That’s just what you like for breakfast. 

The bird locked eyes with the woman and hopped toward her.  

“What kind of life could we really give you?”

It kept hopping, closer and closer, demanding a decision.