Tuesday, 16 November 2010


I was almost home. We had lost at volleyball, but had played well and enjoyed ourselves. Chad had again been kind enough to give me a lift home, and we had talked about manners and architecture. All was good in my world.

We pulled up outside my building, and I got out and said goodbye and thanks to Chad. Looking down in the dim light, I noticed what looked like an old tennis ball, a "dog ball", lying on the road next to the car. I gave it a nudge with my foot, and started walking towards my gate. To my surprise, the ball did not roll, but hopped uncomfortably and began a distressed chirping. I quickly realised that this was not a ball, but a bird, and an infant at that.

When I was in high school, our house had a garden planted to attract birds, but was flanked on two sides by cats. I have a distinct memory of coming home from school one day to find a baby miner bird shivering and crying helplessly under a tree, its wings torn and broken. I had no special sympathies for the miner, but it was impossible not to pity such a small creature in obvious distress. The predatory instincts of the cat had been enough for it to hunt and corner the bird, but years of domestication had taken away the killing blow and the need to devour its prey, leaving the bird helpless. I had put the bird in a tree, where it might be safe from cats for a while, but I knew then that it would not survive.

The cries of that bird were echoed now in my mind by those of this small bird on the road. For a brief moment I fancied that it too had been the victim of some neighbour's pet seeking an outlet for long-lost hunting instincts. This time, though, I was not crouched with open hands, but looming over it having delivered a blow. Quite rightly, it struggled to flee the foot of its inadvertent assailant, but alas, this only took it further into the road, and into the path of an oncoming car. It had scarcely waddled a metre when, with a cruel, precise timing, it crossed the wheel line of the car. There was a small crunch as the unwitting vehicle ended its life.

Powerless to help, I thought to attend to the bird, or body, but instead turned away. There was nothing more to be done. The baby bird lived on only as a troubled image in my mind. And neither of us are happy about that.

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