The Bird (July 7, 2005)
Here is what happened yesterday:
I dreamed that I and an unseen woman companion had transgressed some boundary and were trying to clean up the evidence. We had done the crime in a penthouse and were anxious to wipe all of our prints off the surface of everything at the scene of the crime. Although I couldn’t see my partner in crime as we worked, or any visual images of the transgression we had transgressed, I could feel myself growing more and more appalled at what we had done and edging toward a paralyzing state of remorse. At the precise instant when the feelings of guilt became overwhelming, some authorities began knocking on the door of the penthouse and demanding to be let in. I was desperate to escape, but the authorities were at the only entrance/exit, and seemed about ready to break down the door and discover us at the scene of the crime. In a frenzy of fear, with no way to escape what was about to happen –but desperate to the point of insanity, I tried to hide in or escape through one of the slits on a ventilation shaft that was on the floor. I was so scared that I forgot about the law of physics and began to shrink down to the size where I could easily fit through the tiny escape passage. At that point I woke up and immediately noticed that it was 6:38 am.
I lay in bed trying unsuccessfully to interpret the dream and then drifted back to sleep.
About an hour or so later, I got out of the bed, still puzzling over the dream and went
to the bathroom to do my morning evacuations. As I was sitting on the throne, meditating, I was attracted to the sound of birds chirping outside the wide open
window of my forth floor riverside loft. I had been watching a series of nature documentaries describing the lives of birds and so I was thinking, as I listened to the
bird calls, that what used to sound to me like birds singing was actually birds staking
out their territories and warning interlopers to keep out. It was at that moment that I
noticed an especially loud chirping that sounded like it was coming from within my
loft. And it was! A sparrow had flown in through the window and was claiming my loft
as its new territory.
My intention towards the bird was benevolent: I was just going to herd it out the window and back to freedom. But the bird didn’t respond to me like I was it’s benefactor. It treated me like a predator and immediately took fluttery evasive action, flying around the room and then darting down inside a small hard to reach space under a table. I’ve had birds fly into my loft before and they can be troublesome because when they become frightened their bowels get loose and you can end up with some unwanted decoration on places where you most don’t want it to be. So I decided to back off the bird for while and just give it an opportunity to recover from whatever trauma it had experienced and then leave on its own. So I showered, had my morning beverage and checked my email while the bird remained in its hiding spot, so quiet that I almost thought that he had left when I wasn’t looking.
But when I looked, the bird was still there, in it’s chosen safe spot, facing the wall with its back turned to me and standing as motionless as a piece of sculpture. I almost burst out laughing when I realized what it was trying to do: it was trying to camouflage itself, a tiny beige body against a narrow brown baseboard. I realized then that I had better get my partner Judith involved. Judith is a natural nature goddess, and the first thing that she did when she saw the bird was start talking to it in a very St Francis of Assisi voice, telling that we loved it and wanted to help it get back to its people (she actually said ‘we want to help you get back to your people’). And the little bird was going for it! We could see its body start to relax, although it was still in camouflage mode.
“Let’s just leave it alone for awhile”, Judith said to me, “it’ll leave when it gets ready.”
But I didn’t want to wait on bird time, I wanted the bird to leave on my timetable – which was now! I went and got a small box and said to Judith, “keep talking to it until I can get close enough and then you snatch up the table and I’ll catch the bird in this box and dump his little butt out the window!” “No”, Judith said. “That box is too harsh! I’ve got the perfect thing for this.” She left and came back a moment later with a piece of gauzy fabric. “We’ll use this like a net,’ she said. “When you lift the table I’ll drop this over his little body and he’ll like the feel of the fabric and will cooperate with us and it’ll all be so easy you’ll be amazed.”
Here’s the thing about Judith’s ideas. Often they sound crazy, but they work about 99% of the time, so I agreed, with a minimum of eye-rolling. The bird was clearly being charmed by Judith. It stood perfectly still as I approached, ever so carefully, and
picked up the table, and then it abruptly took off in a fluttering frenzy with me chasing
it and trying to steer it to an open window and Judith saying “don’t scare it!” And then, just when it looked like it was going to fly out the open window, the little bird misjudged and smacked into the window with such force that it fell to the floor and lay there unmoving, as if dead. All I could think of was my earlier dream had come true: I had caused something to die and I was starting to feel the anguish that I had felt in the dream when Judith came over to it and tenderly cradled it in the fabric.
We took the comatose-like bird next door to Judith’s loft, which was much cleaner
and more nature friendly than mine, and laid it outside on her window sill. The
bird was still as a corpse as Judith untangled it’s tiny talons from the fabric of
what was starting to look like it was going to be his shroud. “He’s breathing!”
Judith said. “I think the little guy is gonna make it.”I looked at him; he was still lying on his side with just a little fluttering of his chest to suggest that life hadn’t totally deserted him. My idea at that point was to push the little guy off the window sill, thinking that falling would snap him out of his stupor and make him ‘straighten up and fly right’; it’s sort of the same rationale that doctors use when they inject toxins into a sick patient – but Judith went and got a jar top and filled it with water and sprinkled some of it on the bird and sat the rest down next to it for it to drink. In a few seconds, the bird made a movie recovery, all that was missing was the swell of orchestral strings as the bird got shakily to his feet. I felt like I was witnessing a miracle.
I watched the bird as it recollected itself and recovered. It was blinking groggily and looking like Lazarus must have looked that day when he was summoned back
to the land of the living. After awhile I got the idea that we should feed it something.
After a brief search Judith came up with some oats which she again sprinkled on
the bird, but it ignored her offer of nourishment and keep blinking and flexing its
beak like a fighter trying to recover from a knockout. And then, after about half an
hour, with no warning, the bird suddenly flew off the window sill, made a tight arc
and came back and settled on Judith’s open window, chirping expressively. He looked at me and chirped in one tone and then he turned to Judith and chirped in another. Then he flew away.
Later that day, I looked out my window (which adjoined Judith’s window) and I saw
a row of sparrows sitting on the telephone wire outside Judith’s window. A sparrow
(our sparrow?) was clearly addressing them, preaching to them about the day he
felt the hand of the Goddess come to rescue him from certain death.
I’d rather not speculate on the role he assigned to me…
Copyright 2007 Issa Abramaleem
A Short Story