The Birds. How I became their beloved.
Long ago, when I first moved into my house, no birds lived and bred in the rafters though evidence suggested previous owners had discouraged settlement. Screening material blocked access to safe recesses. Misshapen and misfitted boards formed a haphazard barrier to nesting spots deep behind sideboards.
One day a bird flew in. “How cute.”
The bird, a common sparrow, perched on a beam and watched me standing in the doorway. There we were on opposite walls, peering over my Ford Focus. It occurred to me we were doing the same thing. The bird watching me, I watching the bird. She’d tilt her head, I’d tilt mine. I’d lift my arm, she’d raise her wing. We became pals.
She built a beautiful nest (I’m guessing about that) and laid her eggs. Soon the little ones were chirping for food and she’d fly in and and out, in and out from dawn till dusk. The cycle continued for years. Some nests were tidier than others, I could tell by the debris hanging or falling from above.
Only a few times did I find a newborn nestling, fallen or pushed off the cliff. I’d try to leave the body where it landed and let nature (aka: the neighbor’s cat) take its course, but the idea of that poor mother bird seeing her baby on the pavement became too sad for me to endure. I’d scoop the body into a dustpan and hide it under the leaves of a daylily plant, out of mom’s sight, but not out of reach for the neighbor’s cat.
Beloved of the birds. A legend is born.
One day a distress cry shattered the quiet of my suburban neighborhood. At first I dismissed it, having learned enough bird language to distinguish between hungry kids; or squawks warning of cats, predator birds, or me. The cry was too persistent to ignore. I peeked outside and didn’t see any obvious threat. Yet the bird still cried.
I found the spot, but with the distance and the darkness of the high corner, I couldn’t see what was the problem. I thought I saw slight movement, I squinted. Didn’t help. So I grabbed a flashlight and my glasses and inched closer.
“Oh my gosh! Poor little bird.” How I became their beloved.
A large splinter of wood above the nest’s entry had slipped down and onto the mother bird’s neck, its little head poking out from the crack as if from a medieval pillory, or worse—a guillotine. The bird is trapped. I have to do something. The bird wiggled and snapped its head, eyes wide as I approached. You can imagine the fear and panic, and the bird was freaking out, too.
I grabbed a long snow scrapper with a brush at one end. As I closed in, I comforted the creature, speaking in a quiet, soft voice. “Don’t be scared. I’ll save you. Be calm. It’s almost over.”
I wedged the snow brush underneath the loose splinter and eased it up. “Be free.” The bird flew away.
For days, the bird flock spoke of me—Hero. Champion. “I am legend.”
That one family had been enjoyable to observe, they enhanced this author’s life. But those joyous years of nest building, daring flight patterns, and bird songs were about to take a dark turn.
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Full-length fiction with plenty of dark turns and nothing to do with birds: Asylum, a dark suspense saga and winner of IPNE Book Awards 2016 for Best Mystery.
Or see our Asylum page at DreamWatch Press for more buy links, sample chapters, and reviews.