A Bird In The Hand
This is a martinet, or a swift, depending on which language it’s speaking. Its cry is shrill, and we hear a lot of daily commotion and conversation as a flock of them circles high above the swimming pool, doing their regular public service combatting the mosquito population.
But when I held this one in my hand he was quite silent, not trying to escape, even holding on tightly to my fingers. I set him high in the cherry tree, and he’s there still, many hours later, clinging to the branch, and to life, for as long as possible, like the rest of us.
He’s been broken by Beppo in some way, as his wings still flutter and flap, but he doesn’t fly. It’s the saddest thing, to see a bird so still. I keep willing him to fly, but his eyes are dull and although he cocks his head a little toward my voice, I know he won’t obey. In the morning I’ll find him lying at the base of the tree, and then what will I do?
It’s just one swift out of hundreds, but it’s the one I’ve held in my hand. A soft swift, harmless and with good intentions. It’s all in the natural order for a cat to hunt and a bird to fall, but still. Beppo himself is very soft, never bites or scratches me intentionally, and if ever he hurts me accidentally no sooner do I make a little cry of distress than he sets to licking me, making it all better. He likes to have his ears and face brushed with the softest bristles, and purrs contentedly all the while. He also kills ruthlessly.
Lately, in addition to the snakes, mice, and rats, he brought in a bat. We didn’t find it for several days, and if you’ve never smelled a days-dead bat, count yourself among the lucky. None of them touched me like the swift, probably because I didn’t hold any of them, alive and hopeful, in my own hand. I know that we say in English that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, but I’d give a lot to see this one bird take wing. I don’t want to hold him in my hand, not now or tomorrow, I want him to fly away home.
I don’t want it as much as I want peace on Earth, or an end to world hunger, or even, I’m sad to say, as much as I want my own personal happiness, but I want it a lot. There are things I should be doing, my homework for tomorrow’s class, writing about the wonderful time we had with our friends yesterday, learning the subjunctive. But instead I keep making the short journey to the cherry tree, to see if he’s still there. It’s a very small life, but one that’s touched mine, and I don’t want to let it go.