Today I gave a speech at my former high school about writing. I also read some poetry and sold a couple of books to my former ninth grade English teacher, now head of the English Department and a creative writing teacher. It went well.
The event I wish to write about, however, does not have to do with my speech.
It happened when it was time for me to leave my house and head to the high school. I had opened my car door and had put my bag in the front seat. That’s when I heard a chirp. Looking around, I saw a small bird lying next to the rear tire of the car. It lay on its side, and though its eyes were open, I could tell it had been badly injured.
I scooped the bird up in my hands and brought it over to a pine tree that grows in my front yard. I placed it on the nettles, but I had to pry its little feet off of my hand, as if by holding onto my hand, it was holding onto life. I remember my dad having saved a bird that flew into our front window by petting it until it hopped up on his knee and flew away. Since I had to leave, I could not stay long. Still, I petted it with my finger for a time before leaving it there, not sure whether it would live or die. As I shut the driver’s side door, I noticed a few little feathers on the glass. It must have flown into the window.
As I ascended the driveway after giving my speech, I looked over at the tree to see if I could see the bird. I figured that if it was no longer there, and there were not feathers everywhere (which meant that one of the neighborhood cats had gotten it), then it had survived. But if it was still there…
As I couldn’t tell from the car, I walked over to the tree. I did not have to walk far. There, lying on its side, was the bird–its eyes closed, its feet gripped shut. On its head lay the fatal mark.
I found an oversized shoebox in my room. I had bought shoes a month or two ago, so not only did I still have the box, I still had the tissue paper inside. I went outside with the shoebox and scooped up the bird once again. I lay it in the box, wrapping the tissue paper around it like a burial shroud, bordering it with the wads of paper that had been so recently stuffed in my shoes. I tried to make the one near its head like a pillow, but I could not. After putting the top back on, I placed the shoebox in an empty trash can in my garage. No proper burial for this bird. Just some kindness and affection shown during its last moments on earth.
I wish that I hadn’t left the bird to its fate. Might I have been able to nurse it back to life, like my father had done with a different bird, had I not been in a hurry to leave? But if I hadn’t gone to the car when I did, I may not have found the bird while it was still alive. And while it may have died alone, at least it knew that another creature knew of its passing.