I killed a bird today. It was dying on my front walk just outside my house. I could hear his little cheeps and I saw two girls younger than me standing looking down at him. He was struggling on his back.
I could tell they didn’t know what to do but they knew they needed to do something. I walked over to them, conscious that I was on my way out and didn’t want to be late but when I saw that little guy I knew this moment could not be rushed.
I think he’d been hit by a car.
His eyes were funny and ants were attacking him, his little yellow legs kicking in the air, beak opening and closing methodically. He was a myna. Not my favorite bird but in that moment it didn’t matter because he, or she I suppose, was a creature in pain.
I tried to put it on its legs hoping that it would miraculously recover once it was upright. I thought it might have just been like a ship knocked asunder in a wave and maybe with the right wind he would set sail again.
He just fell back over. Beak still calling out with little squawks. Legs still cycling in the air.
We looked at each other, these strangers and I. We can’t just leave it, we agreed.
The slimmer, paler one of the two said she would do it if I found her something heavy, so we trooped into my garden and assessed the rocks edging my flowers for a suitable thwacking stone.
Suddenly none looked right to my eyes for such a job, but she pointed to one. “That one.” The biggest. It was decided.
I hefted it up and began walking towards the crying creature on the pavement. I turned and asked “why am I suddenly doing it? I thought you were going to.”
“I will,” she replied. “Give it. I can’t look, though. You look and tell me.”
We all looked at each other one last time before she dropped the rock. She didn’t wait until I helped her get it in the right spot and it was all wrong. It was a body shot.
A body shot is not the right way to do this, everyone knows that.
I grabbed the stone quickly and finished it, sickened by our actions but knowing it was the humane thing. We agreed we had done the only possible thing and we separated. They walked their way and I went to the gym. And that was it
A bird who was flying happily this morning, going about his day eating worms and hanging with his buds or whatever mynas do at 8am on a Tuesday in Spring, was now lying in a gray plastic bag in my wheelie bin.
My dear old friend has brain cancer.
I just found out two days ago. He’s had something wrong with him for a few months but they were doing tests. No more tests now. We have the answers we hoped never to hear.
They cut it out as best they can but brains don’t like being cut into. Especially certain soft squishy bits that hold keys to important memories. His brain is unlikely to be the same, but maybe that won’t be a problem in ten years when we’re all just so happy that he made it through this precarious time and we can all still laugh together.
I just spoke with my friend’s partner; the mother of his child and I feel rather bereft. She was stoic and we discussed practical things like me dropping food over, and can I help with car rides or babysitting which she declined. She’s just in survival mode, she said. One foot in front of the other. Trying to take it all in, keep it all together, maintain a semblance of normal for her child.
I know I talked too much because I filled those silences with lots of words because I didn’t want to cry.
Sometimes life is a really cruel mistress. I get the whole Circle of Life and the old monkey raising the baby lion above the head shit, but fuck it can be cruel. Don’t send me love or condolences. I don’t need them. I am only peripheral to both of these tales. A bystander who is willing to help.
Anyway, as I walked to the car I heard the bird’s friends tweeting in the tree. I said sorry to the bird, and to his friends who were watching as I climbed into my car. Sometimes I wonder if it is cruelest for the creature experiencing life or the dear ones watching on helpless.