It’s a damp Saturday morning here, north of Toronto, and I plan to spend the day with my grandson, five-year-old Noah. I picked him up on my way home from work last night and we spent the evening watching Beethoven and eating nachos. Afterward he helped me water the potted plants outdoors, and when I finally tucked him into bed he snuggled in with his stuffed animals, and I think he was asleep before I walked downstairs.
Today we had planned to finally get sunflower and nasturtium seeds into the ground, but the rain might have changed that. No worries, we’ll find something fun to do. Before we begin our day though, I’d like to share a story that won a contest a few years ago. It’s fictionalized a bit, but 98% fact, based on something that happened to a friend of mine.
So, without further ado, please allow me to present the story. The coffee’s brewing, breakfast needs to be made, and Noah’s telling me all about his Angry Birds game, so I really should give him my full attention.
HOW I LOST MY BUDGERIGAR
Despite tender care I can’t keep a houseplant alive, so I have no idea what possessed Sylvia to give me a bird for my birthday. Maybe she knew my apartment was too quiet and my heart was lonely. Perhaps she guessed my need to nurture something that would love me back.
The care and feeding of a bird was quite alien to me, but I learned to enjoy my little budgie whom, scraping the bottom of my creative barrel, I named Budge. He had a striking green breast and a yellow face, and hopped hopefully about his cage whenever I came near. He loved to sit on my finger, blinking his bright bird eyes while examining my large, un-caged world. Cocking his head to one side he’d make little budgie noises in my direction, waiting politely for me to answer in kind. I always felt he was a bit disappointed when I replied in English, idiotically repeating the same word over and over, hoping he might learn it.
Before long, Budge and I struck up a good relationship despite our communication disabilities. Each evening he gave me the hairy eyeball when I covered his cage, and his muffled chirps reminded me to take it off in the morning. The poor bird had to suffer my moody pre-caffiene silence as I filled his seed and water cups, but after I got home from work we relaxed together while I cooked dinner. Budge rode my shoulder like a miniature jockey, and he often twittered sweet nothings and nibbled my ear lobe for the sheer joy of it all. What more could a young woman like me have wanted in a man?
Budge had been part of my life for about four months when I came home from work one day to find the poor thing listing far to the right and clinging to his perch for dear life. I was sure he had suffered a stroke, and in great distress, I called Sylvia who hurried over. She was horrified to see Budge in such bad shape and agreed with my diagnosis. Grabbing the phone book, she helped me search the Yellow Pages for a bird vet.
The next day I called in sick and went to the veterinary clinic instead, nervously entering the office with cage and crooked bird in hand. While I waited, I overheard conversations between the owners of other patients. They were apparently spending hundreds of dollars to look after their birds, ferrets, and reptiles. I was there to lay out $25 plus tax to end Budge’s life.
The doctor advised me of treatment options that would prolong Budge’s life, but I stuck to my guns and insisted on euthanasia. Budge’s evening glares were nothing compared to this man’s, but he did as I asked and, within minutes, I slunk back through the waiting room carrying nothing in my cage but a small cardboard coffin.
When I got home I surprised myself by crying, for I had grown quite fond of my little green bird. In honour of the wee fellow, Sylvia offered me a red velvet-lined box in which to bury him, and together we laid him to rest in a shallow grave dug in the ravine behind our apartment building.
It took well over a year until Sylvia had the nerve to tell me that a few days after the funeral she happened upon the red box, dug up, and no bird in sight.
I can only speculate, but I never did like the ginger-coloured tabby that lives on the ground floor.