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Flipping the Bird

July 19, 2013

So there I was, waiting to specify what vegetables would go on my Subway sandwich when I noticed something flying around out of the corner of my eye.

Looking to my left I saw a bird flying around the magazine section of the convenience store.  “There’s a bird in here,” I said out loud.  The other sailor finishing up his transaction either didn’t hear or didn’t care; or maybe he thought I was messing with him.

I kept glancing back to the bird as I requested the additions of spinach, tomato, black olives, green peppers, honey mustard and oregano to my sandwich.  Instantly I was taken back to a time when I couldn’t have been any more than four years old…

=========

“Shoo!  Shoo!  Get away from him!” li’l CB yelled.

It was a Saturday set to be like any other.  Li’l CB had just come out of the front door and into the yard when he heard a frantic chirping and droning buzz.

Beneath the large two-trunked tree was a baby blackbird that had apparently fallen from its nest.  It was unable to fly and the bluebottle flies were having their way with it.

Li’l CB began shouting at and shooing away the scavenging insects but with little, if any, effect.  He then turned his attention to the li’l birdy, beak wide open in terror, head jerking every which way, trying to find a way to safety but its fragile li’l wings didn’t work.  Instead it was being slowly eaten alive and now one of the little humans was standing over it, wildly waving its featherless wings and making shrill, angry noises.

Ol’ KB, li’l CB’s daddy was working on something in the garage.  Li’l CB ran over to his daddy, tears starting to run down his face, pleading with him to help.

Ol’ KB, with a look of grim determination walked over with his son.

“I’m not sure there’s much we can do,” he said to li’l CB.  This was just the worst news li’l CB could hear.

“Please, daddy, we’ve got to do something!”

Ol’ KB thought a moment.  He told his son to wait there and guard the birdy while he went inside the house to fetch something.

“It’ll be okay, birdy,” li’l CB said.  “Daddy’ll help save you.  Shoo, flies!  Go away!”

A moment later ol’ KB was back with a paper sack.

“What’s that for?” li’l CB asked.

“Let’s say a prayer for the birdy and then I’ll pick it up with the sack in case there are any bad germs and take it somewhere it won’t hurt anymore.”

Ol’ KB didn’t usually speak in such ambiguous terms and this worried li’l CB, but he knew no other course.

“Dear Jesus, please save this little birdy who doesn’t have his mama or daddy anymore,” prayed li’l CB.

Ol’ KB said, “Amen” and then told li’l CB to stand back.  He managed to get the birdy onto the sack and told li’l CB to wait there and not move until he came back.  Through sniffles li’l CB said, “Okay.”

Ten agonizing minutes later, ol’ KB came back, this time with some redness under his own eyes that li’l CB wouldn’t remember was there until nearly 30 years later.  He knelt down and hugged li’l CB and in the tears he told his son that the birdy wasn’t hurting anymore and was in a much better place.

Li’l CB didn’t fully understand.  Unless his daddy had some secret talents in the arts of healing he could only reason that the birdy was no longer feeling pain because the birdy could no longer feel…this brought on a new wave of tears and his daddy held him tight and then ol’ CB emerged from his reverie….

========

“Would you like that as a combo or sandwich only?”

I had to shake my head to clear it and come back to the present.

“A combo, please,” I said.

The bird flew around the magazine section again then back to its perch above the muscle mags at the end.  It just sat there, looking around, as if it was trying to figure things out.  It wasn’t chirping or anything.  No one else seemed to notice.

Seriously! I thought.  Nobody sees this hapless little guy in here??

I turned to the cashier and paid for my food then when I turned back saw the bird had gone.

…but not far.

At that point I saw it fluttering near the top of the wine cooler (the actual cooler with many wines inside, not the drink) and it was trying to land but there were no obvious places.  It managed to cling to the top of the cooler door, so it was leaning back, beak pointed to the ceiling and open, its tiny bird chest heaving up and down as it gulped down air, obviously exhausted, maybe even thirsty, from all its attempts to get back outside.

Dear God, I silently prayed, You care for the sparrow, You gotta let this little guy live.

I was thinking I’d just scoop it down and into my cover, but with Subway bag and drink in hand figured it could fly away pretty easily.  I looked for a place to stash my stuff and noticed the stack of shopping baskets.  My plan evolved and I grabbed one of the baskets.

Walking up underneath the bird, it didn’t seem to notice me.  I lifted the basket up, directly underneath, and it looked right at me…and still didn’t move.  On one hand I was glad that it wasn’t freaking out, on the other hand, how tuckered out did this poor avian have to be to not try and fly away when a big ol’ clumsy human walks right up to it?

I reached up with my cover and started to pull it down over the bird; there was a little resistance but it let go and dropped gently into the basket where it sat, beak still wide open, and totally silent.

Quickly I got it outside and set the basket down right outside the door.

“Okay, bird, you’re out!” I said.

“Fly away!”

…it didn’t move.

I hunkered down next to it, scrutinizing it.  It looked at me, then away, beak still open, little birdy chest still heaving.  Maybe it’s thirsty, I wondered.

Running back inside I first grabbed a bottle of water and then dashed to the tupperware aisle in search of something that could serve as a little water trough or something.  Finding a Rubbermaid butter dish I made for the checkout line and within a minute was kneeling back down, next to the basket with the still catatonic bird.

“Alright, birdy, here’s some high-quality H2O for ya,” I said, pouring some into the bottom of the butter dish.  The bird never acknowledged it when I set the water in next to it.  I moved it up to the bird; no response.

“Hrmph.”

I didn’t know what else to do so I picked the basket up again and carried it over to one of the picnic tables.  I set my own stuff down and then gently turned the basket sideways so the bird could hop out.  It didn’t seem to grasp what was happening as it clung to the bottom of the basket and stretched out its right wing to steady itself, beak still open, gulping down air.

“No, you’re supposed to fly away now,” I said.  I turned the basket a little further and finally the bird let go and sat on the table.  I refilled the impromptu water dish, setting it next to the bird and took the shopping basket back to its place.  Returning to the table I noticed the bird’s beak wasn’t open as wide as before and it seemed to be a bit more alert.

Sitting down I expected it to fly away from my immediate vicinity but it just waited.  I nudged the water toward it, still no acknowledgement, and then I figured I’d just go ahead and eat my lunch with this unexpected guest.

First thing I did was tear off a little piece of bread and set it before the bird.  Nothing.  Then I tried flicking some water on its head; still, nothing.  By now its beak was completely closed and it was standing up.

“Well, I’m glad to see you’re feeling better,” I said between bites.

I reached to try and urge it to drink again and then it flew away with a chirp.

I smiled, said a silent prayer of thanks, and finished my sandwich.

Image

My fine, feathered friend.

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