NOVEMBER (The Invalid)
|On this first morning in November Yellow Ribbon awakens
with her wings stained mustard-yellow. The night before she hadn't reached Happy Face's
nest. Instead she had plummeted like a rock into the open garbage can below. Cold
and in awful pain she lies with her wings sprawled across crumpled napkins and paper
cartons. Odors of dill pickles, onions, and fried ground beef waft from below her.
Hours pass. Two humans drop trash into the can, not noticing that a bird is there. At midday there comes a loud roaring noise and Yellow Ribbon hears a human making its sound:
"Hey, Carlos, looky here. There's a little bird in the trash can. It's hurt or something... "
Through half-closed eyes Yellow Ribbon sees a hand reaching toward her but she is too weak to flutter her wings. She feels herself lifted from the trash can.
"It's just a dirty little sparrow, man, You gonna get bird-lice all over you... "
"Carlos," Yellow Ribbon hears, "do you think it'd eat some hamburger-bun?"
"Man, them sparrows eat anything. They're like mice or rats. What you tryin' to do?"
"I'm gonna put this bird beneath the hedge and I'm gonna put some crumbled-up hamburger-bun right here next to it so it'll have something to peck at."
"Playin' Salvation Army, man; you bein' bad, hee hee, hee!"
Carlos finds a paper cup capped with a plastic lid. Inside the cup, ice has melted leaving water tasting of Orange Crush. He pours the water into a plastic, boat-like tray that once held a banana split.
"Hamburger bun on one side and water on the other! Man, this little birdy gonna get on the road to recovery!"
For the rest of the day Yellow Ribbon sits beneath the hedge. Sometimes she eats or drinks but mostly she sits with her eyes closed, only half alive. Now is a time simply to endure the cold, endure the pain... to wait and see what happens... to survive another night...
With the next dawn Yellow Ribbon finds her body so stiff and painful that she can hardly move at all. A light sleet is falling. Icy pellets pepper through the hedge's leafless branches, bouncing all around her.
At noon a black poodle bouds from a car, makes sharp, nerve-shattering barks, runs to the shrubbery, sniffs, and keeps on snooping until it finds Yellow Ribbon, the hamburger bun and the water. Keeping an eye on Yellow Ribbon it gulps down the bun, laps up the water, then sniffs our bird, and runs away.
Yellow Ribbon does not register the event. She only feels the cold wetness and hears the sound of her erratic heartbeat in her own ears.
At dawn the next morning Yellow Ribbon's temperature has dropped almost too low for a bird to keep on living. However, during the night the sky has cleared, so when the sun rises above the buildings its rays slant across the street to beneath the hedge where Yellow Ribbon sits. The sun glows upon her grayish-brown back and bestows our bird with desperately needed warmth. It recalls our bird from the very threshold of death.
By mid morning, Yellow Ribbon's body temperature is normal, but her hunger is overwhelming. When afternoon comes she is so weak from hunger that she can hardly hold up her head. But then, through her misery, she hears a certain song...
Chirup chireep chirup...
Happy Face perches above her, beside his nest atop the floodlight over the trash can. Indian summer is long past but the bright sun of this November day is warm and the sky is blue so...
Happy Face hears this feeble call.
Happy Face flies into the hedge above Yellow Ribbon and chirps in a way that says, "Well, come on!"
Yellow Ribbon tries to fly but her wings only quiver. She tries to chirp again but this time her mouth only spreads into a wide gape.
To Happy Face, Yellow Ribbon is behaving like a nestling when it begs for food from its parents by quivering its wings and gaping wide its mouth. Purely accidentally Yellow Ribbon is telling Happy Face that she wants to be fed. Happy Face spots a large crumb from a greasy onion-ring next to the garbage can, picks it up, and plops it into Yellow Ribbon's mouth.
Several times this sequence of events is repeated. Eventually Yellow Ribbon learns to gape wide her mouth, even if she doesn't intend to chirp, and to Happy Face these are just the old games of Indian Summer. However, when the sun moves behind a tall building and cold shadows arrive, he loses all interest in the game, and simply flies away leaving Yellow Ribbon begging beneath the hedge.
The food has been enough to keep the flame of life inside Yellow Ribbon burning for at least one more night. Unfortunately, this is the last sunny day these parts will see in a long time; Happy Face will not return to his nest atop the floodlight for the rest of the year.
Each Monday, Wednesday and Friday the garbage men make their rounds. Today, a Friday, they find Yellow Ribbon not far from where they left her.
"Hey, birdy, I thought a cat woulda done got you! How you doin', Baby?"
Today Yellow Ribbon has managed to climb into the hedge's lower branches. From her low perch she watches as Carlos crumbles two stale doughnuts below her and fills another banana-split tray with somebody's undrunk, still-fizzy Sprite. When the men leave, Yellow Ribbon eats and drinks all she wants, finds herself stronger than ever, and then withdraws deep into the hedge's shadows.
The next morning there's still crumbled doughnut and Sprite left, and after her first meal she finds herself feeling better than for a long time. In fact, once she's climbed back into the shrubbery, it occurs to her that probably she could climb even higher.
Slowly and methodically she pulls herself from one branch to another until she's among the hedge's topmost branches. By now she enjoys the best view she's seen in a long time -- a view that revives her spirits and fills her with confidence. What a relief to see something other than gravel, trash, and stunted crabgrass beneath the hedge!
Atop the hedge, for the first time Yellow Ribbon notices that not far away a young Hackberry tree's trunk grows up through the hedge, and rises far above it. The trunk is thickly overgrown with ivy. It's ivy like that which crept up Whitestone Hall's walls where once she roosted so long, long ago. Yellow Ribbon enters the ivy, and there she finds a maze of intertwining stems on which a bird can perch and climb.
Using the ivy's stems like a ladder she climbs upward inch by inch. Eventually she reaches a large branch emerging from the ivy jungle, so she follows the branch as it extends from the ivy jungle. Passing the last ivy leaf, immediately she is greeted with a true bird's-eye view, a vista that causes her spirit to soar!
She cannot keep herself from hopping farther and farther along the branch, as far as she can. And what a pleasure when at last she finds herself above the drive-in's parking lot, not far from the drive-in's roof...
Of course, House Sparrows are not famous for thinking things out; it's just natural for them to fly when they want to fly. Therefore, right now our bird simply surprises herself by leaning forward and beating her wings, and fluttering into the cold November air.
Yellow Ribbon's voyage is more falling that flying, for still her body isn't healed enough for real flight. Nonetheless she lands upon the drive-in's roof without hurting herself, and this little success brings as much pleasure to our bird as a little House Sparrow is allowed.
Yellow Ribbon perches at the edge of the drive-in's roof and chirps. She does this for a long time. It's a Monday, so eventually the garbage men come.
"Carlos!" the human-sound says, "it's up there on the roof!"
"Hey, man, our lil' birdy is gittin' around!"
A human steps onto a garbage-can rack, reaches up and takes Yellow Ribbon in his hand.
"Carlos, you think it'd like to be put in that old nest atop the floodlight?"
"If it don' like it, man, it can just jump out. And maybe putting it there is a good idea, you know, 'cause they say it's gonna snow big tonight."
"Looky here little birdy, we got you a good ol' hamburger bun and we're gonna stick it right here next to you... "
In the night, the night before Thanksgiving, the snow does come. With a full stomach Yellow Ribbon perches in the nest watching large snowflakes descend through the floodlight's beam of light. Rising from the floodlight, a beautiful, warm breeze curls around her. From the ventilation shaft in the restaurant's wall beneath the floodlight issue odors of dill pickles, onions, and frying ground beef.
Continue to DECEMBER
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