was too cold to play outside with any real enthusiasm.
There wasn't enough snow on the ground to build
anything substantial, either. Any snowmen would
look dirty and grainy with half of their bulk made
up of frozen grass and dirt, which not only looked
sad and pathetic, but didn't really hold its shape
well. A snowman made up mostly of dirt was mostly
soggy, listing to one side like a drunk about to
of the kids among our group spotted a dead bird
in our front yard. This caused quite a sensation
among the kids on our block. We had plenty of toys
and bikes to play with, but that dead bird was more
interesting. None of us had ever seen a bird up
close before. If we tried to sneak up on one in
the yard, it was always too fast for us, flying
to safety before scolding us. I didn't understand
it! In cartoons, the birds always flew up right
onto your finger, singing along with you. Sometimes
they'd even ask you how your day was going! I wanted
a bird to ask me how my day was going! Nobody ever
seemed interested in my day, anyway. "What
are you up to today, Danny?" they'd ask. "I'm
going to swing to the moon!" "The moon,
eh?" "Yep. I'm gonna get a good head start
on the swing and leap off!" "Won't you
need a push?" "Nope. I had some Life cereal
for breakfast this morning. It had fruit in it!"
it was no use. No bird was going to ask me how my
day was. Sticking your finger out in front of a
wild bird would merely make you look pretty foolish.
Having your arm held out for no reason made you
liable to be tickled or sent on an errand. "Are
you bored? I've got some chores if you're bored!"
all stared at it quietly, not making a sound. A
few of us wondered if it would get up and look at
us before flying away. Most of us, especially me,
were not used to anything not moving at all and
letting us study it so intently. If you stared at
anything too long in our house, it was liable to
begin complaining. "Mom, Danny's staring at
me!" "Stop staring at your sister, Danny!
Go outside and play!" They were always telling
us to go outside and play. Sometimes I wondered
why we even lived in a house at all! In fact, when
you really got momentum going and actually were
having fun outside, it was then that you were called
to come back inside.
we stared at this bird, perhaps a crow. Its unblinking
eyes were mesmerizing. I couldn't understand why
it looked different. I didn't realize that the spark
of life was something tangible, that you could actually
see or notice until it was gone. Those eyes were
staring at something else; I'd probably never know
what that was. It was also a bit frightening, but
I was unable to look away. This might give me nightmares
for weeks: the dead eyes of the bird would become
the eyes of every boogeyman that lay await under
the bed, in the shadows and in the closet.
gaze wandered to its wings stretched against the
snow. I wondered how it had been able to fly. I
loved paper airplanes. My Dad made great paper airplanes
and he always told me that the wings were the most
important part. As I stared at these wings, I had
an inspiration. Perhaps the bird could still fly,
just like my paper airplanes! It had flown once;
maybe it just needed a good push!
I picked it up, having to pull it out of the snow
a bit, because it had frozen, after all. You have
to understand that I was playing in the yard with
older and younger kids, but no one was there at
that moment to explain the facts to us. Well at
least not before I picked the bird up, intending
to give it a good shove into the air. The other
kids looked at me in horror, wondering about this
weird kid that was trying to fly a dead bird. Not
only did they sidle away from me a bit, but they
started to look for an escape route. Staring at
a dead bird in fascination was one thing, but actually
picking the bird up is another thing altogether.
While none of them would now admit to being there
when I picked it up or even knowing who I was, none
of them could look away, either. Suddenly I was
a stranger, and instead became a sideshow attraction
greater than Ripley's Believe It Or Not. To associate
with me was to invite major trouble, but to leave
and miss the show would be even worse.
must have some kind of instinct or secret signal
that goes off to let them know when their children
do anything potentially harmful, foolhardy or just
plain strange. I know that I kept my parents awake
at night since this time, not by action or sound
or even intention. I do know that when the body
moves my instinct, anything can happen.
of my attention was focused on the bird, which in
my head was going to soar, wings outstretched and
climb high above me. The next instant, my mother
was there pulling me away from my experiment and
back to reality to tell me the dangers of touching
dead birds who through no fault of their own were
filled with germs and disease. I'm sure that I started
crying at that moment, so it's difficult at best
to remember what else happened. I imagine that despite
my winter coat and gloves during the Bird Incident
that I was thoroughly scrubbed with disinfectant,
lathered to four times my size and kept indoors
for a few days in case I developed any symptoms,
rashes or things started falling off.
also sure that this instilled in me the worst fear
of germs that ever sheltered a child and I must
have thought everything outside of my body was disastrous.
I couldn't share a glass, fork or spoon with anyone,
even my parents, and if you even touched a portion
of food, you could have the whole thing as far as
I was concerned. While I wasn't the cleanest kid
on the planet, I was the quickest one to the sink
scrubbing off the day's play with an enthusiasm
only shared by those with certain disorders and
doctors who performed surgery.
continued to have a delight and appreciation for
animals and their abilities to out-maneuver us and
each other. But God forbid if they licked my hand
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