Now it is dead
you try to tell yourself you'd done all you could to save
it. Or had you? It was just a dirty disease ridden smudge
. That's all it was. A small insignificant
blotch of life that had landed there, filled a tiny pocket of space
, and dwindled away through no fault of your own. There was nothing you could have done
Just a dirty smudge that stands out against the white weatherboards, the sparrow is huddled in the corner of the bathroom window sill. Motionless, save for short, frightened, breaths; the bird is still a baby, evident in its soft, coat of down. The small terrier below is frantically jumping about, scratching the freshly painted wall with his front paws. Hours spent choosing a colour at the hardware store. “Fresh Cream” was the final choice. You wince. His bark becomes hoarse with excitement. Every dog has his day, and perhaps - after all these years of failed bird catching attempts - this is it.
The sparrow is obviously sick, incapable of flying away. It is simply stuck there just out of reach of the terrier’s salivating jaws. It faces the window and no features are discernable. Just fuzzy, dirt encrusted, and grey. It almost looks like a part of a dismembered possum, that you so often found strewn across the back lawn when you barely owned the tabby. Barely owned, because it was half feral, and rarely shew any affection. (‘Shew.’ An archiac term, yet so appropriate for such an old, embittered creature.) Council laws state that cats must be kept inside at night. She was a law unto herself. Growling, the dog would thrash wildly with the limp marsupial in his vice-like jaws as if it was still alive, and he had to finish off the kill. And the cat, satisfied from having devoured the head, would skulk about the edges of the mess the dog was making of her work.
Perplexed by how it got to be there in the first place (if it can’t fly now, how did it fly before? Is it just paralysed with fear?), you know its just a matter of time before the sparrow dies. For a moment you contemplate helping the pathetic dot on the wall, but decide its probably disease ridden, and hey, it’s just a sparrow. A pest. An introduced species, brought over by the British. Probably to make them feel at home like the two rabbits that inundated the outback. The possums the cat killed were native animals. Yet somehow, because they destroyed your roses, and woke you up at night fighting on the roof, you only felt the slightest bit of obligatory sadness out of obligatory patriotism. “Oh kitty, you really shouldn’t have done that.” Now she’s gone, your roses are too.
Unlike the possums, this tiny mark on your wall seems so afraid and so alone. Lost in an unwelcoming expanse of “Fresh Cream.” The more you stare at this thing, the more it will seem alive; and the more you will feel compelled to help it. The more guilty you will feel after you don’t help it. And you know you won’t because you have better things to do - like sleeping on the couch in the sun room. You walk away, and after a while , so too does the dog – mind turning to things within his reach.
You wake up on the couch, staring through bleary eyes with disgust at the dribble on the new pillows. Time to quit the afternoon naps. Suddenly, emerging from your post-nap fuzziness you remember the sparrow. You go outside to find it still there exactly as it was before. Only, now the short breaths have ceased all together, and it really has become just a smudge on the wall. “What a terrible way to die.” You then pick up a stick and prod the dead bird. It falls to the ground with a light thud and the dog snatches it away, tossing it up in the air like a new toy.
You look in horror at the dried bird shit on the weatherboards. More like ‘off cream’ now. There is a dirty mark on the window sill. A dim reminder of the life that once inhabited that corner of the earth. That nagging feeling of guilt creeps up on you again. Guilt for a sparrow? You chuckle to yourself. Definitely quitting those naps.
There was nothing you could have done.