Bye Bye, Little Birdy

March 25, 2009 at 3:41 am (Uncategorized)

Something awful happened here yesterday. Something bad. I worked in the office all day as usual (MS redrafting is going well, thank you), and at about 5:30 pm, I realised I had to return a DVD (Man on Wire – fascinating doco on the French tightrope walker Philippe Petit’s conquering of the Twin Towers), so I wandered through the apartment shutting doors and windows. When I got out to the sunroom, to my horror I found an injured mynah bird lying still on the tiles. 

“Oh my god,” I said to it. “Oh my god, oh my god.”

I knelt down beside it and it raised a wing and tried to move its legs. 

“Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit,” I cried. All reasoning capacity promptly LEFT THE ROOM. “Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit!!!”

I ran in circles around the sunroom for several critical minutes talking to the bird and advising it to REMAIN CALM. I then reassured it that I meant no harm. I was here to help. I bet the bird thought, “Fuck, finally!  Now she comesshe didn’t hear me smack into the glass? That was hours ago! I’m dyin’ here!” I ran to get my phone. Couldn’t get through to Llew. Jenny, Darkling and committed naturalist, was my next call, and her phone was switched off. I thumbed a text: Jenny injured bird lying in my sunroom  don’t know what to do. 

Nothing. 

I ran down to the pet grooming business at the end of my street to see if they had a vet emergency number listed somewhere on their window. 

Nothing. 

I called my sister-in-law. Flic said she’d taken injured birds to the vet before. 

“How do you pick it up?” I wanted to know.

Pause. 

“Well, you just pick it up.”

“Won’t it gouge me because it’s panicked? And anyway, what do you put it in?”

“Even just wrapping it in newspaper is fine.”

I looked doubtfully at the bird. It wasn’t moving and hadn’t moved in a while. Then, while I was still on the phone to Flic, it definitely moved a tiny little bit. It was still alive. 

“I’ll find a vet! I’ve gotta find a vet! Bye!”

I ran in here and – thank you, internet – found the nearest vet. It’s about a half hour walk from here. I explained the situation and the man – Chris was his name – said they’d be open until seven. 

“He’s not looking so good,” I said, my lip trembling. “He hasn’t moved in ages.”

“Maybe he’s just concussed,” suggested Chris. 

“It could be in shock,” I agreed.

“Maybe. That definitely happens. If you bring him up here we’ll be able to take a look.”

“What do I bring him in?”

“A shoe box works.”

“A shoe box. Okay. See you soon.”

I ran into my room and chose my newest, biggest shoebox. Being an optimist, I put six breathing holes in the lid with my kitchen scissors. When I got out to the sunroom, I knelt down behind the bird and started talking in what I believed was a soothing manner. I eased him into the box by sliding him onto a magazine first, but when he rolled into the box, a cry escaped from yours truly. The bird was dead. He was so dead. I burst into tears, put the lid on the box and started running down the beachfront, my box held in front of me like the Holy Sacrament challis in church (it’s been a good long while since I’ve seen one of those, but you know the sort). Then I thought, oh no, they think this bird is still alive! They’re going to think this is my fault because I didn’t get there soon enough! I called back.This time a lady answered.  

“I was just talking to Chris about a bird that flew into my bifold doors,” I started.

“Yes?” She sounded nice.

“Um, it’s um…” I tried not to cry, but I couldn’t help it, “it’s died, I’m pretty sure it just died, but I’m bringing it up anyway because I just don’t know what else to do.”

“Oh,” she said, in just the right voice. “Oh, I’m sorry. Okay, well we’ll see you soon.”

“Okay,” I blubbered.

Then, stopped at a set of lights five minutes later, I could have sworn I felt something stirring inside the box. Some tiny little sign of life. 

“Hold on, little buddy,” I told the box. “Just hang in there. We’re nearly there.”

The hill I charged up yesterday is at an angle of about 70 degrees. Steep motherfucker. I cleared it in record time. If it was a race, I was winning. And accompanying me on my journey were all the neighbourhood’s native and introduced birds, singing their sunset song. This struck me, as I grunted up the hill, as very beautiful and appropriate as well as unbearably sad. Could my bird hear all the other birds? Was it a farewell song, or was he right now rallying on his bed of tissue paper? I tightened my grip on the box and stepped up the pace. 

When I burst into the vet surgery, the kind lady was there. I held out the box and she looked at me (sweaty and deranged looking, no doubt), looked at the box and looked back at me.

“The bird,” she said.

I nodded and she opened the lid.

“Oh yes,” she said. “He’s no longer with us.”

Loud crying from me. 

“He looks like he’s been dead a while,” she continued. “He’s pretty stiff.”

“He was alive when I found him,” I said. “He wasn’t in great shape, but he was alive. He raised his wing right up and moved his feet a little bit.”

She was inspecting the body. 

“Have you seen this leg?”

“No.”

“See this?”

It was a big gaping wound, like his leg had been scraped away. There was no blood at all on the bifold doors, just a greasy but perfect feather print, and a bit of drool on the tiles. No blood.

“This bird was not in great shape,” said the nice vet lady. “Look at this. And this.”

She kept pointing out injuries on the bird’s body. I looked at her hopefully.

“This isn’t from hitting the glass,” she said. “I doubt that’s what killed him. He was on his way out anyway.”

Bless her. I think she just said that to make me feel better, but that’s okay, because I was pretty keen to start feeling better. I stumbled out of there and called Flic back and had a bit of a cry to her. No domestic pets for me, I said. Forget it. Can you imagine what I’d be like? Hopeless! Too sentimental! I get too attached! Forget about it!

I walked back down the hill into the village. I felt really bad. I needed a magazine, some baklava and a cup of tea stat. Recovery escapism. I needed something to take my mind off the fact that the poor little birdy died on my watch. He may have been out there for hours, and maybe if I hadn’t been so engrossed in here, rewriting my damn manuscript, I might have heard him smack into the glass. I might have investigated. I might have saved him. It makes me really sad to think of him lying there while I was two rooms away and totally oblivious. Horrible. I’ve since learned from the Darklings that mynah birds are a nuisance and drive out native birds, but being an introduced species isn’t their fault, and nuisance or no, I still wish he hadn’t died. I know death is the most natural thing in the world, but it still wrenches, especially when it happens right before your eyes.

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9 Comments

  1. davidrochester said,

    Oh, poor bird, and poor you. I’m sure the vet was correct, that it had already had a rough time, and you needn’t feel responsible for its death. It’s nice that the poor little thing had you there to mourn it, though. Most birds don’t have that advantage. Some people aren’t even missed when they go, you know; so that was a fortunate bird.

  2. kate said,

    Di, this broke my heart! Fantastic imagery.

  3. Grad said,

    Beautifully written. I felt very sad. It reminded me of the time I found a young bird in my front yard underneath a Russian Olive tree. Up in the leaves was a nest. I got a ladder, gently scooped up the bird, climbed up the ladder and into the tree using one hand. I put him back in the nest. All day I sat on the floor looking out my window watching for the return of its mother. Night fell, and the next morning I climbed back up the tree. Bird was still there. All the next day, no mother bird came. I called a vet who specialized in birds. He told me a bird that small needs a huge amount of food to survive, and feeding baby birds was tricky. According to his instructions, I climbed back up the tree, got the bird, put my little children in the car and we drove almost an hour to this vet’s office. At first things looked good. Then the tide turned. Two days later he called to tell me Shakespeare (oh, I named him) had died. I know how you feel. That was 25 years ago, and the memory still makes me cry.

  4. Lilian Nattel said,

    This brought tears to my eyes. Just remember one thing–all beings die, but it wasn’t alone when it died.

  5. doctordi said,

    I’m taking all your sound and soothing observations and clutching them to my heart. Poor little birdy. And Grad, I have to tell you, I came SO close to naming him. So, so close. I had to force myself NOT to do it, because I knew it would make it worse if he died. As it is I don’t know if he was officially a HE, but he was to me. A tiny little fallen prince of the skies.

  6. Pete said,

    I’m sorry – for the bird, and for you. I also know that Mynah birds can be a pest but they’re also so damn clever and this one touched your heart.

  7. doctordi said,

    Thanks, Pete. I saw a mynah being bullied by two currawongs yesterday and it was all pretty aggressive. It’s hard thinking of the poor little guy as a pest – generally speaking anything that’s born to fly is okay by me. Being able to fly is just so cool.

  8. litlove said,

    So sad! You were brave, too – touching wounded birds you never know whether they are going to go for you in their panicky suffering. I agree with David. Most animals die alone – this one had the grace of your compassionate witnessing. There’s one peaceful Mynah in bird heaven now.

  9. doctordi said,

    Well, I was pretty reluctant to handle him, Litlove. When Flic told me to pick him up, there was a definite pause while I digested the implications!

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