Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Bird in the House

“Grammy, there’s a bird in the house,” my grand-daughter, thirteen, cries, her voice breaking my sleep. “I was letting Trixie out and the bird flew in.”
            I peel back the covers and slowly, I pull myself from my bed. We are alone in the house. It has been a rough summer, her mom leaving, her dad having hip replacement surgery, this child not knowing where she’ll be living, school starting in days, her dog, her beloved Trixie, attacking and tearing another dog’s ear, growling to protect her food bowl, and tonight the dog has diarrhea, losing control inside a cloth travel crate.
            Barefoot, I pad down the stairs. “There it is Grammy,” my grand-daughter says, pointing high to a skylight in the living room.
“Get her,” I say eyeing the dog. The bird flies low, then disappears. 
 “I don’t know how it got in, Grammy.” My grand-daughter’s voice tremors, and I imagine her fear. Will I yell? Punish her? Tell her she’s stupid for leaving the screen door open. That’s what she’s used to at home. But home is gone. Her mom has left without a forwarding address. This child has been with my husband and me all summer. Mostly, her dad, my son has been here, too. Until his surgery.
The ax hangs above Trixie’s head. She needs to stop attacking other dogs. She needs to stop guarding her food bowl. She needs to stop growling when I put her into her crate. Mostly, Trixie is a loveable, friendly, smart appealing dog. A Catahoula leopard dog, rescued dog from a kill shelter in Tennessee, she was taken from her mother too early, spayed to early. Probably mistreated from birth, this dog has issues. My grand-daughter loves this dog. She needs this dog. Tonight, she’s been up every hour letting Trixie out. Not once has she awakened me, until this bird flew into the house. “It was banging into walls, Grammy,” she says. “I didn’t want it to die.”
Worry springs from her skin, an aura of worry surrounding this lovely girl-child. She is so much me when I was young. So much herself, smart, vibrant, inquisitive. Why has life has dealt her a difficult hand?
Yesterday, we shopped for back to school clothes, shopped although none of us knows where she’ll go to school. We pretended all was well, buying a plaid shirt, a loose fitting off the shoulder sweater, a pair of skinny jeans, rejecting a second pair because they were too expensive. A sign in a window had promised forty percent off. No, not these, a salesperson told me. At home, my grand-daughter went on line. “Look, Grammy, they’re forty percent off on line. And I can get a fifteen percent off coupon.”
The bird flies into the dining room. Opening all three sliding screen doors that lead to a deck, I tell my grand-daughter we’ll just let the bird fly out. We stand in the kitchen. Holding Trixie by her collar, my grand-daughter points. “There it is, Grammy.”
Something small and brown on my kitchen floor. The bird. Probably a sparrow. Injured? Afraid? Stooping down, I gently take the sparrow into my palms. I’ve never felt such warmth and fragility. Never felt a heart beating so wildly. Placing the bird onto the deck, I wonder about my scent. What harm have I done? The bird is still. I back away, step inside. Still, holding Trixie, Nina watches. “Grammy, it flew away.”