Dinner time again. We're getting the neighborhood news via our talkative "littles".
"They were telling us about their pets, Mom."
"Yeah, they said they 'only had three cats, a dog, and two goldfish.'"
The brother grimaces. "That's three cats, a dog, and two goldfish more than I would want."
We had pets once. Our last one was a bird, a finch. She was dove-grey with a striped head and a yellow beak. We called her Miss Priss because she would bounce from nest to roost to roost, preening her feathers and tossing her head. When wild birds flew by the window where her cage sat, she would go wild herself, flitting angrily from one side of the wire wall to the other. She was a casualty of The Bad Weeks.
February was not a good month last year, neither were the first days of March. Just about this time twelve months ago, my brother was in hospital with acute appendicitis. It took two trips to the emergency room, a call to 911, two surgeries and ten days to fix him up.And somewhere in the midst of hospital visits, and late, anxious nights, I forgot about Miss Priss.
The first thing I noticed was her silence. "Where are you?" I asked, stooping over her cage and peering into her nest. I tapped on the wire walls, I shook the rungs a little. There came no flutter of wings or querulous chirps. My lip trembled a little as I saw the empty seed husks in the feed container and the tepid water. Starved.
"I guess we'd better take you outside."
When our first bird died, he got a proper funeral. That night Miss Priss's departure made only the slightest ripple in the family circle. I buried her alone, in the dark of the backyard. And then I went inside to hear the latest news about the invalid.
It's a year later, and now the invalid is home. And you know, it feels pretty good to be out of that intoxicating vortex of hostipal beds and IVs. It's nice to know that my brother's still around here somewhere, with a faded scar and unplumbable energy. It's even better to sit down to dinner every night - with the whole family. But every so often, I still think of our bird, and miss her.