Most days, my staff and I take it in turns to escape the office for some air. Sometimes, I take a little walk around the park across the street from the office; sometimes, if I only have a few minutes, a quick traipse around the block does it. I stretch my legs, I get some sun and fresh air and exercise and, very proudly, I don't use it as an excuse to light up a cigarette.
Two days ago, I had a bit of extra time, so I decided to take the long way around the park. Dogs were being walked, children were playing, and birds were swooping in and out of shrubbery. I even saw some butterflies frolicking in the air. It was all very pretty.
I don't know how I noticed it then, because I'm usually clueless about stepping in front of obvious things, like traffic and movie stars, but there you go - sometimes I even surprise myself. Sitting in the grass was a bird that wasn't moving too much, even when I started walking toward it. Once I got to within a foot of the little thing, it started screaming at me, angry and flustered. Well, I mean, I think that's what it was doing; frightened is probably a more apt description, but honestly, it looked more pissed off than anything else. Its tiny beak opened and closed like it was waiting for a worm to drop, but my poor broken ears have long since stopped picking up the high-pitched tone of birdsong. I'm kind of grateful - the memory is already kind of horrid without audio effects.
So there we were, me and the bird, this fat little sparrow with some kind of injury. I'd stare dumbly, and it'd stare at me. It looked like it was having a rough day, like I do in the morning when I first get up, like I've disintegrated a bit in the night. Its feathers were ruffled, its eyes were bleary, and it looked like it could have used a stiff drink to take the edge off. It didn't fly away though, so I knew something was wrong. But every time I tried to get near it, it'd start its horrid silent screaming, and I'd back away. So I stood there, dithering, until I finally broke down and fished my cell phone out of my pocket, and called the girls in the office to explain what was in front of me.
"So what do I do? Am I supposed to pick it up? I think it's got a broken wing."
"Just kill it. Put it out of its misery."
"I can't kill it! Are you crazy? If it could talk and I could hear, that's not what it would be begging for! Oh! I gotta go, it's starting to - "
Move. It started to move, to hop along in the grass. Hop hop hop, stop, rest. Then it would start again. I followed along for a while, but it would turn every so often to tell me, I imagine, to bugger off. So it couldn't fly, but it could move and it could feed itself. And if any larger animal came along, it was done for. And that's what I've been thinking since then, because I've seen what my cat can do to a bird. It's not even a bit charming.
Look, I'm not going to carry this around in my brain for the next two years... but honestly, poppets. There are raccoons in the neighbourhood! Nasty bastards, those ones. So I'm just curious here - what would you have done? Leave it? Call one of those animal saving agencies? Wrapped it in your sweater and nursed it to health? Fired up the barbeque? What would you have done?
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