Burying the Bird
The sun is bright overhead as Trevor and I bury the baby wren in the back yard. Luna, our cat, ambushed the bird, bit it three times, then walked away licking her lips as it died. Trevor doesn’t want to bury this bird and neither do I. But, I explain, we don’t always get to do what we want. He gives me his what the hell are you talking about look. The boy is softened by divorce; his mother and I give him too much sweetness, kindness, love. Things we couldn’t give each other.
I hand him the shovel and say dig. How big a hole? Just dig, I’ll tell you when to stop, so he begins. I feel the heat on my shoulders, hear the mama wren call out at us, at the cat, at the whole damn world, but there’s nothing we can do for her except bury her young, hope if he disappears from sight he will also slip from her thoughts.
I want to explain all this to Trevor, explain the way pain and loss can lift eventually with time, how one day, one hour, you’re okay again even if you’ve moved across town to a shitty, studio apartment.
He looks at me and asks Dad, can we go to the pool when we’re done? His mother is at the back door, her arms folded tight across her chest, reminding me the only reason I’m allowed in the yard is to bury the bird. I turn to the sky. The sun is bright and blinding overhead. I think cool water, splash and dive, the silence beneath the surface. I say yes, we can, but first we need to finish what we’ve come here to do.
Steve Cushman earned an MFA from UNC-Greensboro. He’s published three novels, Portisville, Heart With Joy, and Hopscotchas well as two poetry chapbooks. More information on his writing can be found at www.stevecushman.net
(Next story: Bottle Black by Nickie Shobeiry)
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