Something was wrong.
Usually, jays are as active and noisy as their larger cousins, crows. But this blue jay seemed defeated. When I got close to study him, I could see the feathers on the back of his head were missing. as if he'd been pounced on by a neighborhood cat.
The next morning he was still in our backyard, It was more obvious something was wrong and doom seemed nearby. Yet, he seemed content to sit under the fig tree, away from the pond, in a very secluded, shady spot. Though the temperature was in the 70s, the forecast maximum temperature for the day was above 100.
The blue jay knew none of that and sat there, stoic--to my eyes--about what fate held for him.
As I looked closer, I could see his feathers were uncharacteristically puffed out. I imagined life must be ebbing out of him and he was getting a chill. That and the missing feathers on his head signalled he would have a needlessly hard time getting through the day with blistering heat on the way.
And yet ... His eye is on the sparrow [and the blue jay too].
I knew if the blue jay were to die, he couldn't have picked a nicer place, from his point of view. He had all the shade he needed, lush vegetation, and a pond of water nearby.
As I watched him hop away--from the fig tree to the hawthorn--I imagined the energy of his bounce might allow a recovery from the presumed mauling by a cat.
Later I went out to check on him again. The temperature, at late morning, had climbed into the mid-80s.
What I feared had happened. No longer standing on two spindly legs, puffy blue and black feathers upright. No, he had fallen over on his side, the claws of his feet visible. He had left the shade of the hawthorn and was inches--twenty at most--from the pond.
He must have wanted to get one last sip before he went off to join the spirit in the sky.
I had no choice but to bury him where he fell beside the pond he loved in his last hours, bearing witness when this one bird fell, we took notice.
Image credit: Charlie Dickinson
Read Charlie Dickinson's
story collection, The Cat
at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable
.epub (most other readers)
.pdf (for PCs)
Also, a flash fiction, "Ylena Thinks Nyet," is at Cigale Literary Magazine.
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