The Birds

How does one mourn the loss of thirteen winged creatures?

I have not allowed myself to ask this until now.  It is only now that I have allowed myself to begin to realize that they are no longer here with me.

Twelve are MIA and one is confirmed dead.  So I really don’t know where any of them are.  I only know that they are not here, not with me.

Early this morning I could have sworn I heard Alice singing, imitating a car alarm, so screaming, really.  But making that sound made him happy.  He taught the same song to his sons Sammie and Frida.  They sang it too, and it made them happy.

I can see so clearly in my mind how they would all puff up and march around and all make their car alarm call.  Somewhere in my mind I expect to see it all again soon, when I go back home.

Except…I’m not going back home.  Home is gone forever.

Mr. Nugget was the angriest budgie I have ever met.  He got his name because when he hatched, he was so tiny and yellow-pink that he looked like a little nugget and that was all.  So we named him Mr. Nugget because somehow the title “mister” gave him the authority that the little budgie deserved.

Why was Mr. Nugget so angry?  I guess we never really asked ourselves that.  He would perch in the corner and bitch for hours on end.  Sometimes he would bitch right in the face of some unfortunate victim, sometimes just to himself.  At times we could tell why he was bitching but most of the time it was a mystery.

Thus came the phrase “don’t piss off Mr. Nugget.”

Stormy…She was the first cockatiel I ever had.  She has lived with me since 2001.  She had moved from Plano to Austin with me.  I was with her when she found her mate and she was with me when I found mine.

Storm Bird was calm and carried herself with the authority of the flock’s matriarch.  When the others were upset, she was a stone gargoyle, standing, perching, watching over everything.

Even after she had laid countless eggs and hatched three birds she still was never too good to step onto my finger and perch there.  She never bit me, only reached out her beak in firm warning if it wasn’t a good time.

Over the years Storm Bird’s quiet call sometimes got lost in the noise, but I always looked to her as the strong one.  I guess to most people she was just a bird.  To me she was a person, she was my friend.

Storm Bird’s mate was Alice.  A completely obnoxious bastard from the beginning, I always loved him.  The first time he saw Stormy he knocked at least four other cockatiels off of a ladder to get as close to her as possible.  Then he puffed out his fat yellow chest and looked as fat and adorable as he possibly could.  We had to take him home.

Over the years Storm and Alice hatched Sammie and Frida and Yellow Bird.  Yellow Bird was especially lucky.  She was adopted by a man whose cockatiel had just suffered the loss of his best friend and from the last I heard, she was living a full and happy life with them.  Maybe someday I’ll be able to go see her again.

Sammie was the first bird that hatched in my home.  We heard him long before we saw him.  When we finally did see him we had to laugh.  He was a spoiled baby bird.  When his parents weren’t feeding him he was spending long hours with me and Candice on the couch after our shifts at Wanfu.  We let him sit on our chests or in our laps where he was warm.  He formed a bond with both of us.  His parents never even seemed disturbed that we paid him so much attention.  They knew we were not bad.

I saw Sammie’s lifeless body on the concrete floor after the fire.  I’m not a person to show my emotions extensively, but it was then that I broke down and wailed.  At that moment it did not matter that my parents were there, or that the neighbors could hear.  Nothing really mattered as I knealed in the ashes of our burnt out home and cried over the body of one of the closest things I will ever have to a child.

For those moments there was nothing else around me, nothing in the world except black ashes and the lifeless orange feathers that used to be Sammie’s cheeks.


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