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Feathered Fidelity

Story ID:4992
Written by:Michael Timothy Smith (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Various USA/Canada
Year:1999
Person:Life
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FEATHERED FIDELITY



Relationships begin with love and promise, but often we see them weaken,
crumble, and fail. I think all relationships should go with the birds.

***

I often lost or misplaced things when I was a child. “Mum, what happened to my
hockey cards?” I’d cry. “Mum, I can’t find my baseball!” I’d whine. “Mum, my favorite
marble, the blue one, is missing. Where is it?” Tears streamed down my cheeks, as I
searched under my bed for the bag of marbles.

“It must have gone with the birds.” she’d reply.

She said the same thing every time. “It must have gone with the birds.”

It took me forty years, but I think I finally understand what she meant.

***

I was a young boy. A small yellow bird hit our front door. I looked outside and
saw its tiny, unmoving body on our deck. I opened the door to see if it was stunned or
dead.

I knelt over it. Mum joined me. “Michael, I think it’s dead. I heard the bang on
the glass. It hit pretty hard."

"Mum, should we bury it?"

"I'm not sure, Michael. When I first looked out, I saw another bird land nearby.
It grabbed this one by the neck. I think it was trying to pick it up. We should let nature
take care of this. Let's put it on the roof of the car and see what happens."

We placed the little bird on the roof of my dad's car and returned to the house,
where we watched it from our living room window. The bird's mate flew to its side and
grabbed the back of the dead bird's neck in its tiny beak. With strength only love and
devotion could provide, it lifted its companion from the car, carried the body across the
street, over the meadow on the other side, and into the trees.

It flew low to the ground, struggling with a weight equal to its own. The little
bird flew between two and six feet off the ground, staggering in the air, as it carried its
loved one home. The struggle was hard, but the desire not to be parted from its mate was greater.

***

I stepped from my home on a warm summer
morning. I looked toward my neighbor's townhouse.
A single strand of spider web stretched from a
bush near their door to the wheel of one of their
cars. “That’s strange.” I thought. “A spider
doesn’t spin one strand.”

I reached to break the web and discovered
it was a piece of fishing line. I gave it a
tug. It was tangled in the bushes. The other end
was knotted under the rear wheel of their
car.

One of the boys who rented the house
stepped outside. "Looks like someone
booby-trapped your friend's car." I said. He
walked to me. I continued. "Strange! It seems
to go all the way under the car.”

I walked around the back of the car and
saw a robin. It fluttered to get away, but
the line wrapped around its tiny leg held it firm.

I reached out. It squawked and flapped
away from me. I moved faster on the
second attempt and managed to get a grip around
its trembling body. It twisted its head to
snap at me. I held tight.

The boy came close. “Get something to cut
the line.” I said quietly. “Don’t
scare it.” He returned with a knife. “No, that
won’t work.” I said. “When you cut the
line, the tension will break its leg. Get
scissors.”

While he was gone, I heard the agitated
chatter of another robin in a nearby tree.
It dropped from the branch it was perched on,
swooped low over my head, landed in a
tree behind me, and continued its racket.

The boy returned with a pair of nail
cutters. “Will these work?” he asked.

“Perfect!” I said and carefully cut the
line from its leg. The robin was free. I held
it a little longer. There was still a small piece
of line wrapped around its leg. As I reached
for it, the robin twisted in my hand and escaped
my grasp. It flew low across the
pavement, under a row of mailboxes, and up into a
tree. The second robin stopped its
chatter and joined it. It had stayed close, as
its mate struggled for freedom. It wouldn’t
leave its companion until it was either free or
its death separated them.

***


The birds I witnessed mated for life and
the struggles that came with it. Mum used
to say, “It must have gone with the birds.” She
meant it must have flown off. After what I
witnessed, “gone with the birds” has a whole new
meaning - all relationships should go
with the birds.

Michael T. Smith