The Blue Jay
Today I was driving down a road in my neighborhood when I saw a bird in the road making an odd movement. It looked as if it was rocking back and forth in the street but the motion was not natural. I drove passed it but turned around to see if it was okay. I pulled the car over and got out hoping with each step that the bird would fly away. Yet as I approached, its eyes met mine and kept them even though I was soon standing over it. Something was wrong with its legs. Its feet were curled up and it was rocking to and fro trying to get its legs underneath its body.
It was a blue jay. It didn’t make much protest of my presence and I knew I should get it out of the street to keep it from getting hit by a car. Sometimes birds fly into windows and are knocked temporarily unconscious or dizzy but then recover to fly away. Its beak was long and pointed and I knew that if it was scared it might try to peck my hand if I picked it up. I walked back to the car, upset because I didn’t know what to do and found a paper towel to wrap around it. I went back and reached down to pick up the bird from behind, careful to hold its wings in place as I learned in the past. It didn’t resist me; it only made a few chirps and then silently opened and closed its mouth, still staring at me. I walked with it cradled securely in my hand talking softly to it, asking what was wrong and what should I do. Looking around for a proper place to let it rest I saw nowhere safe; to the left a cat lay stretched on a porch that would know in an instant that injured prey lay nearby. I held it, looking at it looking at me, its dark brown eyes not wild with fear yet watching me to see what I would do next.
I didn’t want to continue holding it as I was hoping that if given a moment to rest it would recover. I thought hard for at least five minutes about what my options were, beginning to cry as I felt helpless to the situation and pity for the bird. A wildlife recovery facility I knew of was housed in Town and Country Mall, which has since been demolished. I set it on the ground beneath a bush and prayed for it to get on its feet and fly away. Instead it toppled over on its face getting soil on its feathers. I began crying again and quickly gathered it back up as I knew I could not just leave it laying there to struggle. I wished for the strength to break its neck but I knew I could never bring myself to doing such a thing, even to end its misery. Continuing to hope for the best I sat with it in someone’s yard, placing it on the grass next to me. It sat there not even trying to move any longer and slowly leaned to its side. I cried and prayed for a miracle or an end saying out loud, “Come on!” and truly believing it could happen if I thought hard enough. Instead its legs straightened out behind it and its eyes looked away from me and its breathing slowed then stopped. In a moment I knew it was dead.
The eyes narrowed and the wind rustled through its beautiful feathers. I covered it with the napkin once again and sat with it for a minute in sadness and wonder of why I had just experienced the creature’s death. I knew that if I were the bird I would feel relief at not dying alone in the street but with someone mourning my suffering next to me, even if I didn’t know who they were. I felt lucky to have been there for the bird but torn inside as to what to do next. Whispering something to the body I carried it to a flowerbed and placed it on the ground between breeds of domesticated wildflowers. I was still shaken as I drove away.