Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Girl and the Bird

 Once upon a time, there was a girl who lived in the city. She was a happy girl, more or less: she had friends and family near and far, and she had a bike to ride, and good food to eat, and a happy boy by her side. The girl was a wild one: she wore feathers in her hair and rode her bike on the empty streets of the midnight city, daring the world to come up and meet her.

Most often, the world did.

One night, the girl was riding her bike when she happened across a tiny bird in the middle of the street. The bird did not fly away when she pedaled towards it; instead, it cocked its head at her and blinked. Despite its tiny size, it seemed fearless. The girl slowed her bike down. The streetlight pooled orange glow across the road, and the moon rose slowly beside them.

The girl looked at the bird. The bird looked at the girl. Nothing around them moved. Even the treetops were still. The girl smiled gently, silently inviting the little bird closer. The bird hopped, once, twice, then stopped. The girl smiled. A tenderness flew through her, unexpected on this ordinary night.

Then the bird let out one small sound, and its body fell to the side. Its tiny talons curled up, and its eyes closed.

Dead? Dead.

The girl let out a cry she did not hear. Without thinking, she scooped the little bird up into her hand. It weighed barely anything at all: it was lighter than a rose in bloom, smaller than a handful of snow. It did not move as she held it near to her face. She looked through tears for signs of life.


The girl was still astride her bicycle, still in the middle of the street. Because she didn't know what else to do, she swung leg over her frame and carried the tiny body over to the sidewalk. She placed the bird gently on the pavement, then stood and looked at it from her full girl's height.

It was so small. Surely nothing this small could have suffered for long.

The girl sat on the curb and allowed her sadness to rise up. A sob slipped out, then another. The night around her blurred into orange light and shadows. The moon's full face disappeared under her tears. The bird lay beside her, quiet in death.

Then the girl heard a sound. Another bird had landed, cheeping madly at the girl, at the tiny body beside her. Then another bird landed. Soon, the girl and the body were surrounded by a tiny quorum of birds, all crying into the night.

The girl pushed herself back up to her feet. The birds fell silent for a moment, watching her rise. Then they turned their attention back to the death at hand. It was impossible for the girl to know—were these other birds friends? Family? Perhaps a lovebird, drawn to the scene by the tidal knowledge of death? All mourning in their own raptorish way?

As the girl watched, each took a turn running its beak along their fallen friend's feathers. It was a gentle thing, made strange and beautiful under the orange glow of the streetlight. The birds paid her no heed as they tended to their friend.

The girl walked back to her bicycle and looked once more at the birds on the sidewalk. They were silent now, looking down at the tiny body.

The girl did not smile as she rode away, but neither did she cry. Instead, she felt the love she held in her heart for her own flock rise up over the city like a wing on the breeze.

Image via Karl Martens via My Modern Met

1 comment:

  1. "As the girl watched, each took a turn running its beak along their fallen friend's feathers...The birds paid her no heed as they tended to their friend. "
    This whole section made me feel a lot of heart feelings