A Tribute by Richard Bleil
This past Friday, at the end of my shift at the Drive-In theater, as per my usual duties, I was cleaning the men’s room. After sweeping, which I do first to coordinate the use of the broom and mop with Heather who cleans the women’s room, I brought the broom around to the women’s room where I usually leave it just outside of the bathroom. Friday, however, there was something wrong.
A baby bird was sitting on the ground just outside of the women’s room, alone, where there was too much foot traffic for the little guy to be safe. I looked to see if I could find the nest but didn’t see one (perhaps it was too dark). And I was stuck with a decision.
The bird was clearly too young to take care of itself, and mom was nowhere to be seen. It was too dark to really get a good look at him (I’m assuming gender here, but as I’m not a biologist I have no way to tell what the proper gender is), but I knew it wouldn’t survive where he was. He seemed very scared, was very still, and very quiet, no doubt hoping to go unnoticed but, honestly, had I left him, I don’t’ think he would have survived. So, I scooped him up.
He was so sweet and gentle, and simply rested in my hand. My left hand, specifically, as I still hadn’t completed cleaning the men’s room. Without so much as a peep, he seemed to just sleep. He was black with white spots, and a blue sheen on his back making me think that maybe he was a Starling, but, again, I’m not a biologist. He had two tiny little down feathers, one over each eye, that reminded me of Bernie Sanders, so I named him Bernie Bird. It was a challenge cleaning with just one hand, but Bernie Bird and I got the job done together. I spoke soothingly to him throughout, hoping to calm him in case he was frightened, but honestly, aside from breathing, he never moved.
Finally, it was time to take him to his new temporary home. For the drive, I took my cap and put it on the floor of my car and turned the radio down very low for the approximately half-hour drive. My desire was to raise him until he was big enough to fly off to join his kind, but I had nothing to feed him at home. As such, I stopped at a gas station convenience store to see if I would be fortunate enough to buy some baby food. Of course, they had none, so I bought a small container of milk and an apple juice for kids. It was the best I felt I could do there.
At home, I still had the cage I had purchased for Rocky, which would be perfect to protect Bernie Bird from my cat Star. I don’t think she would have intentionally harmed Bernie Bird, but even playing could have caused serious injury or death. I do have plastic droppers that I use in my chemistry demonstration at the Ren Fair, so I took up a small bit of liquid, and hoping that Bernie Bird would think it was mom’s beak, put it to his mouth. He never opened his mouth, and only briefly opened his eyes. I tried putting a little drop on the edge of his beak, but to no avail.
Unfortunately, the next day I was scheduled to work early at a “shop and swap” event. I got up early enough to try to encourage Bernie Bird to eat, but still to no avail, but I did get just one tiny little chirp out of him. I put some wild bird seed (which I use to feed birds around my house) in his little enclosure along with a small cap full of water and went to work. Coming home, I stopped by a pet store to buy some meal worms and crickets hoping that maybe I would have better luck with them. Unfortunately, it was not to be. Bernie Bird still wouldn’t open his mouth, even after grinding the food.
Yesterday, Bernie Bird took to flight spiritually, leaving me with a broken heart and feeling of inadequacy.
It’s amazing to me how these little critters can so casually enter our lives, and utterly steal our hearts. He was only with me for about three days, and I did little more than hold him in my hand as I tried to encourage him to eat and drink, and yet, he touched me. I’m going to miss him. Far more than I wish.