The BirdWillow Rose
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“They’re coming. They’re coming.”
- The Birds, Alfred Hitchcock 1963
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Six weeks later.
Books by the Author
About the Author
Hit the Road Jack
I. DON’T COME BACK NO MORE
1. MAY 2012
2. May 2012
II. I GUESS IF YOU SAY SO
3. January 2015
4. January 2015
5. April 1984
6. January 2015
7. January 2015
8. January 2015
9. April 1984
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“Look at the cute birdie, Mommy!”
“What birdie?” Sally yells from the kitchen.
“The birdie sitting in our window,” her daughter, Winnie, squeals. “It’s sooo cuuute. Come see, Mommy. Come see.”
Sally washes her hands, then wipes them on a towel. She walks into the living room, then pauses.
“It’s inside? There’s a bird inside the house?” she almost yells. Sally has been terrified of birds since childhood when one got stuck in her hair. While other Florida kids feared snakes and roaches, birds were always her thing.
“Oh, my God,” she says.
Don’t panic, Sally. Don’t panic.
“Look, Mommy,” Winnie says and points at the small white bird. It is sitting quietly on their windowsill.
“Don’t go too close, Winnie.”
“Why, Mommy? Why? Uuuhh. Look at those eyes. It has green eyes, Mommy. Isn’t it be-au-ti-ful?”
Sally swallows, then nods. She doesn’t want to scare her daughter. She doesn’t want to bring the same fear into her life that she has suffered from her entire life. So, she tries hard to keep it together. For the sake of the child.
“Just…let’s…it must have flown in through the door; maybe we can get it to fly back out, huh?”
“No, Mommy. I don’t want it to leave. It’s purdy. Can we keep it, can we, pleeease?”
Sally cringes at the word purdy. She can’t stand it when her daughter doesn’t speak properly. She shakes her head energetically. “No. No. I mean…this bird belongs to nature and shouldn’t be kept indoors.”
“Aw. But it’s so purdy.”
Again, she cringes. “I know, honey. I know. It’s very pre-tty, indeed.” She over pronounces the word to make sure her daughter hears the difference.
The bird moves and Sally shrieks. The bird jumps from the windowsill to the dining table. Sally can hardly stand it.
I need to get this thing out of here. Before it gets tangled up in Winnie’s hair. Oh, dear God, I can’t even stand thinking about it.
Sally waves her hand at it. “Shush.”
The bird doesn’t move. Winnie is staring at it, fascinated. “Look, Mommy. It’s like it’s looking at me. The green eyes are looking at me. Hi, little birdie.”
The bird moves again. It’s jumping, almost sliding towards Winnie. “Stand still,” Sally says to her daughter.
The bird jumps onto Winnie’s arm and shoulder. Sally lets out a small scream but drowns it out with a clasp to her mouth. The bird is sitting completely still on Winnie’s shoulder.
Oh, God, what do I do? What do I do? It’s getting closer to her long hair. Her beautiful long hair.
“The broom,” she says. “The broom.”
She hurries to the kitchen and grabs the broom, then runs towards her daughter.
“Mommy? What are you doing? Mommy? MOMMY!”
Her daughter shouts, but it’s too late. Sally swings the broom towards the bird and slams it into it. The bird lets out a squeak, then darts through the air towards the wall, slams against it, and slides to the ground, a few feathers still hanging in the air after it has hit the tiles.
Winnie storms to the bird and kneels next to it. She touches it gently, while Sally calms down, trying hard not to relive the moment the blackbird pulled her hair while clawing her scalp, screeching and screaming to get out.
“Mommy, I think you killed it,” Winnie cries and picks it up in her hand. She stands with it and holds it out to her mother, tears streaming across her cheeks. Her crying is maddening to her mother.
“Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, you killed the birdie, you killed the purdy birdie.”
Sally approaches her. “Now, now. I…I didn’t mean to hurt it. I was just afraid it might…get tangled up in your hair or something.”
“Look at the little birdie, Mommy. It’s all dead.”
And that is when Sally sees it. The bird moves its tail. “No, no,” she exclaims, relieved. “Look. It’s still alive.”
Winnie caresses the bird gently on its chest, sobbing. Sally feels awful. She didn’t mean to hurt the bird, only get it off her daughter, but her fear got the better of her and she hit it too hard.
“What do we do?” Winnie says, sniffling.
Sally has no idea. She wants that bird out of her house, yesterday. She really doesn’t care about one small bird, but she can’t disappoint her daughter either. She has always preached to her how important it is to be good to animals.
“Do we take it to the vet, Mommy?”
Sally is in the middle of preparing dinner. She is running behind now on her chores. She has to do the laundry and make a lunchbox for Winnie too. She doesn’t really have the time to drive to the animal hospital and sit there and wait for a long time. And for what? One small bird that will probably die anyway?
“Tell you what,” she says and walks to her closet. She pulls out the old shoebox that she uses for all her old pictures and letters. She brings the shoebox to Winnie and shows it to her.
“What’s that?” Winnie asks.
“A bed. For the birdie to sleep in while it gets better.”
“You expect it to sleep in there on the hard floor?”
“It’s not…it’s a bird…all right?” she says with a growl, then walks to the kitchen, grabs an old cloth, folds it and puts it inside the box. “There, you go. Now it’s soft and nice for the little birdie.”
Winnie looks inside, then smiles. Carefully, she places the small bird on the soft cloth. She grabs the box and holds it in her arms. “There, there birdie. I’ll take good care of you and make you well. No one is going to hurt you ever again.”
She gives her mother a look and Sally sighs. “I didn’t mean to hurt it, Winnie. I told you.”
Winnie looks at the bird, then up at her mother. “How do you take care of a bird?” she asks.
Sally sucks air in between her teeth. James is the one who knows about birds. Mostly because he goes duck hunting when the season is right. He will know more, but she can’t really disturb him at work because of some bird in their house, can she? Besides, she really needs to get on with dinner in order for it to be done when James comes home from work. But the look in her daughter’s eyes is about to kill her.
“All right,” she says. “Let’s look it up.”
Sally grabs her iPad, then Googles How to take care of a hurt bird and finds an ar
ticle that she thinks sounds good. She reads it.
Winnie sits next to her on the couch. She hasn’t cracked the reading code yet, not like the rest of the kids in her Kindergarten class. It worries Sally that she still doesn’t read when all the other kids do.
“What does it say?” Winnie asks.
Normally, Sally would let her try and read it herself, helping her to sound out the words, but there simply isn’t time for it now. So, Sally reads out loud to her instead.
“Put the bird in a box lined with a soft cotton cloth or paper towel—did that,” she says with a smile, happy that she did something right. “Then close the lid and place the box in a dark, quiet, safe place for an hour or two. The bird likely has a concussion, a build-up of blood under the skull, pressing on the brain.” Sally looks at the bird and then remembers how it was swung through the air and slammed against the wall. Yes, a concussion is probably the right diagnosis. The question now is if it will ever wake up from it or if she has actually killed a cute little bird in front of the very eyes of her five-year-old daughter and traumatized her for life.
What kind of a mother are you?
“Then what?” Winnie asks.
Sally reads on. She skips the part where they talk about the blood draining from the bird’s brain and reads the last part: “After an hour or two, take the box safely away from windows, but in an open area, facing woods, brush or another suitable habitat, and open the lid. Let the bird fly away.”
Sally stops, then looks at her daughter. Winnie’s big eyes are on her.
“And what if it doesn’t? Mommy, what if it doesn’t fly?”
Sally shuts off the iPad. “Then we’ll take it to the vet, okay?”
Winnie sighs and looks down at the bird. “All right.”
James Ferguson rushes to the gate and stops the Jaguar. He nods at the security guard, who nods back, recognizing him, then opens the gate. James drives onto the island, over the small bridge, enjoying the view over the Intracoastal waters.
He likes living on Lansing Island. As a young kid, he could only dream about ever living there, on the gated island where all the rich people lived, and now after ten years as an investment banker, he has finally made it.
James drives onto the street where some of the neighbor’s kids are playing on their bikes and scooters in the middle of the road. James laughs heartily. He loves the fact that Winnie is going to grow up in a place where kids can do that. This is the safest environment you could ever raise a kid in. Nothing gets past the security guard and no one gets onto the island without an appointment and thorough check.
If only Sally wasn’t so afraid to let the kid go outside on her own.
It has gotten worse, James thinks. Every year it gets worse. She didn’t used to be like that. She never used to be afraid of things. Now, it’s like she can hardly get into a car without squirming in fear that someone might hit them or they might crash. Before they had Winnie, Sally was fearless. Always the one who would go scuba diving or surfing, but now she is all of a sudden afraid of the ocean and won’t even take Winnie to the beach. It annoys James that she has locked herself up like that in the house. It’s like she stopped living.
James drives slowly past the kids and waves at them, while they yell, “Hi Mr. Ferguson,” before getting back to their activities. He can’t help thinking about his poor sister who was kidnapped when she was only eight. She was snatched at the bus stop while waiting for the school bus. He never saw her again. Even though he tried as an adult to track her down, she simply vanished and the police never found out who took her or where she ended up. He has no idea if she is still alive or not.
James drives into the driveway and stops the car with a deep sigh. It feels nice to be home after a long day. He likes what he is doing—don’t get him wrong. No, it’s just a lot of pressure on his shoulders, handling all this money for all these huge companies. He is constantly afraid of messing up, even though you can’t ever tell on his face. He learned that quickly in his business. It’s all in the poker face. No matter how bad it looks, you gotta look and make it sound like you’ve got it under control. More than that. Like you’re in charge and nothing can stop you.
It gets exhausting from time to time, but James is getting quite good at pretending.
James pops a piece of nicotine gum and chews it while letting the stress out of his body. He likes to leave it in the car and not bring it with him inside. His daughter and wife shouldn’t sense how much the job wears on him. They should be happy and not worry. He does his best to make everything good for them, so the least Sally could do is to be happy and not fearful all the time, right?
He breathes out while still chewing. He’s been without cigarettes for two weeks now and this time it seems to be sticking. Usually, at this time of day, he would be sitting in his car smoking a last cigarette while letting all the stress go—one cloud of smoke at a time. But his last visit at the doctor’s hadn’t been good. His blood pressure was too high and he had a cough that wouldn’t let go. Not to mention the sky-high cholesterol for his age and too much intake of alcohol; well, all that kind of makes him on the verge of a heart attack. So, he quit smoking. For Sally and Winnie’s sake.
James finishes chewing and as soon as he feels relaxed enough, he spits it out in a paper-towel and wraps it, then gets out of the car and throws it out in the garbage can. He takes in a deep breath and pulls his shoulders back and forth, prepping himself for the second round of poker face today.
He puts on his husband and father-smile, then grabs the door handle and pushes the door open.
“Honey, I’m home,” he chirps, making sure to sound like he had the best day of his life.
“I’m in the kitchen,” Sally yells back. She comes out in a hurry, kisses him quickly, while wiping her hands on her apron, then returns to the kitchen.
Winnie screams and runs towards him. She throws herself at his leg. He lifts her up and hugs her tightly, his heart overwhelmed with love for the little creature. “Hey, baby girl. What have you been up to?”
“We have a bird,” she says.
“Mommy almost killed it.”
James chuckles. “She did now, did she?”
“Yes, you should have seen her. She knocked it with the broom and made it fly through the air. Poor, poor birdie.”
“I’m sure she didn’t mean to hurt the little bird,” he says.
“I think she did,” Winnie says.
He puts her down with another chuckle. “So, where is this birdie, then?”
She grabs his hand and pulls it. “Come. Come see.”
Winnie lifts the lid of a shoebox and James looks inside. There is actually a real bird in there, he is surprised to realize. Up until now, James believed it was just one of Winnie’s many stories, but it is actually there. He can only imagine how bad this must be for Sally, who suffers from severe bird-phobia, or whatever they call it.
“Is it dead? It looks kind of dead, sweetie.”
Winnie shrieks and looks inside. She touches the bird on the wing and it moves slightly.
“It’s not dead, Daddy. It’s not dead.”
“Well, that’s swell,” he says, looking at his watch. He is starving. “Maybe you should put the lid back on so it can get some rest.”
“Mommy said to let it sleep for two hours,” Winnie says, determined. “Is it six o’clock yet?”
“As a matter of fact, it’s six thirty,” he says.
“Shouldn’t it be flying, then?” Winnie asks.
James shrugs. “I don’t know, baby. Maybe it just needs a little more time, don’t you think? Hey, how about you and me go find Daddy’s big bird book and see what type it is, huh?”
Her eyes light up. “Yay.”
She puts the lid back on and they walk hand in hand into James’s office. As a hunter, he has a lot of books about animals. He finds
the one on birds, then takes it down and starts to flip the pages.
“I don’t think I have ever seen a bird like this one before,” he says as he looks for it.
“That’s because it’s very special,” Winnie says.
James chuckles. “I bet it is.”
James flips a few pages more, then looks at Winnie, who scans through all the birds on the pages, then shakes her head every time she doesn’t see it.
“It kind of reminds me of a hummingbird,” James says. “The size at least.” He finds the hummingbird and studies the picture.
“That’s not it, Daddy. Its beak is different. More curvy. Like a hawk’s beak.”
“So maybe it’s more like a cuckoo, then?” he says and flips a couple of pages more.
Winnie looks at the pictures of the different cuckoos and then shakes her head. “Nope. That’s not it either.”
“I don’t know,” he says. “I think it kind of looks a little like it, don’t you?”
“You have only seen it while it’s asleep,” she says.
“True. What can you tell me about it, then?”
“It has green eyes,” she says.
James wrinkles his forehead. “Green eyes? What do you mean green eyes?”
She looks up at him. “What I said. It has green eyes.”
“Birds don’t have green eyes,” he says.
“Yeah, they do,” she says. She points at a picture in the book. “Like this pelican has blue eyes.”