My sweet little bird is dead.

I adopted him and his cagemate in the fall from an ex-coworker of mine while the Fiery One was away on one of his many trips field-producing a television series documenting devastating disasters resulting in gross human tragedy. I had become somewhat of a gross human tragedy myself with his extended absences, and so bringing the bird population in my apartment up to a total of three was a welcome change.

My apartment was so quiet with no Fiery One around to throw on music or documentaries or tell me patently absurd things, and our little finch named Elliott seemed to be getting depressed in his later years without having fellows around to chat with. When the two new ones arrived, I put their cage smack dab up against Elliott's, and he could barely contain his little bird self. He kept standing on one side of his cage so that he could be as close to them as possible and sang and sang and sang at them, hopping back and forth madly as he did it. A tiny green and white poop mountain grew under one end of his uppermost perch.

I was just happy to have a small group of chattery creatures who would throw up a minor ruckus for me when I arrived home from work every night. It was often because they needed food or water, but sometimes it was just because. On the Just Because occasions, I would make the loud squawking noises they like and have a busy four-way conversation. (I just now clued in to a possible reason why my neighbours rarely say hello to me). It was kind of sad-old-lady-ish of me, but they were sweet, and I needed I bit of sweetness to look forward to when I was walking into a Fiery-One-less apartment.

I didn't want to go ahead and name them without the Fiery One, so I started calling the two new birds The Male and The Female. They didn't seem to mind. They were too busy getting it on and laying eggs that would never hatch. The Male was a bit older and probably shooting blanks, but The Female was passionately and irrationally in love with him, so she overlooked the obvious and continued to make her nests and lay her unfertilized eggs.

Her passion, as it is with many human loves, was a bipolar rollercoaster. One moment they would be cuddling and peeping at one another and the next would find her completely denuding him of his feathers. She loved him and she abused him for nesting material. Occasionally, she would give him a scabby pecking sore on the back of his mostly naked neck.

In an effort to save The Male from his stressful and potentially fatal situation, we threw the larger and stronger Elliott in with her and put The Male in a cage by himself. He thrived, quickly regrowing his feathers, but The Female worried and pined over her loss. It was pathetic. She would press her little body against the bars as though through sheer force of will she could make it through to her one true love. The Male, on the other hand, was happy to visit with her through the bars, and he took up loud and repetitive singing to express his newfound freedom: Mine eyes have seen the glory of having my own cage / She can protest all she wants but I still remember her rage...

Image hosted by Photobucket.com
The Male looked like this, only with a
white lightning strike on his forehead.

Everyone eventually seemed to enjoy their new living situations, things quieted down, and we all entered into a rhythm together. I learned their different kinds of squawks, chirps, peeps, and songs so that I could decipher from another room whether they needed water or seeds, and they learned that if I was too dense to catch their meaning, dancing wildly and shrieking would get my attention when I came home from work.

It was this rhythm of living with pets that had me ask the Fiery One to go into the television room to check on The Male's water yesterday morning. I don't know how, but The Male would go through more than twice what the other two could together. From the other room I heard the Fiery One say Uhm, hon, he's not in his cage. The Male had escaped a couple of days earlier, so I asked if he was on the floor anywhere. Uh, no, wait. He's in there. The Fiery One's tone was low and thoughtful. It made me queazy. I walked into the television room and asked what he was talking about. He indicated a corner of the cage. The Male was lying there on his side. I looked away. I didn't want to see if he was still moving or not. When a bird is dead or dying, you know it immediately. Their feet look dead before it actually happens, and it was distressing to see The Male's toes extended together down from his legs. His legs are twitching, the Fiery One informed me after I had looked away.

I didn't know what to do. I have had to mercy-kill animals before, but I have never had to do it for an animal that I love. There was no way that I could do it for The Male, so I put on my coat and went to work with the Fiery One's assurance that it would all be over when I came home. Later in the morning, he called me to tell me that The Male had died, and we decided that his little body should be left beneath a bush so that he could go naturally, which the Fiery One did on his way to work.

It was awful to see his feet like that and how he lay there unresponsively on his side. It is always shocking how death changes a body, transforming it so quickly into something unrecognizable, an object. My sweet, little birdilly-wirdilly became a helpless and wretched thing, and I put on my coat rather than do anything at all.

Bush Warbler
Matsuo Basho

Bush warbler:
shits on the rice cakes
on the porch rail.