It’s hot in here and it smells like shit. Sunny thought to himself.
He considered this for a moment and then did the only thing he could possibly do: feverishly flap his small bluish yellow wings until feathers flew in the air and scattered on the bottom of the cage and the floor below the table it was set on.
His wings moved with such urgency that his owner, Rose, took notice. She got up from her customary spot in her squeaky rocking chair perched in front of the television. She labored a few steps towards the cage leaning on her cane heavily as she took every step. She moved closer to Sunny. Her eyes widened. She watched in horror as her beloved bird was soon to meet, what she felt was, his untimely demise.
She was sure he would flap his wings to death. Sunny wished he would.
“Sunny.” She paused. “My love” Another pause. “Calm down.” Her speech was as slow as her movement.
“Everything’s ok.” Another pause. “Relax.” She waved her hand slowly as if to quiet him.
His flapping continued.
“Come on.” She stared inside his cage. “It’s alright.” Her voice was low and fragile. At any moment, it seemed, Rose could collapse into a heap on the floor.
Shut up, lady. Sunny thought to himself while he flapped away.
Rose was a nuisance to him.
You try living in dirty, cramped, small ass cage that smells like shit and cuts you off from the rest of your own kind. He squawked loudly in incomprehensible bird language.
He would roll his eyes at her reassurance if his eyes were capable of such a thing.
“Please,” she pleaded then paused. “Relax. I don’t want you to die now.” A longer pause. “You’re all I have.”
Rose’s eyes were glassy now; as she looked inside the cage. His flapping slowed as he made eye contact with her. The air around him calmed, as feathers slowly fell to the ground. His cage, which had shaken even the small coffee table it was perched on, moved to a standstill. Sunny turned his head to the side, so that only one eye was staring firmly at Rose.
I hate when she says shit like that. I’m just a fucking bird for crying out loud. His one eye continued to glare at her.
Rose smiled at the bird, relieved that the flapping had come to an end.
Sunny was not pleased.
Rose had shut him up.
But his anger towards his predicament only intensified.
Within a few minutes, the nurse made her way into the room as Rose cleaned up the mess Sunny had made.
“You shouldn’t be doing that!” The nurse grabbed the broom out of Rose’s hand. She seemed more annoyed than worried.
“My bird…he got a little agitated today. I was worried—
“Ok. Enough.” The nurse rolled her eyes and walked towards the door. “Time to eat.” She re-emerged from the hallway, wheeling in a food tray.
“It can’t be. I’m not hungry.” Rose protested, while grabbing her cane from against the wall, and making her way to the sofa.
“It can be and it is. Let’s go. It’s too hot to put up a fight with me today.” She grabbed Rose by the arm with some force and sat her down. She stood over her with the tray of food. “Come on.”
Rose usually had difficulty eating; she hadn’t had much of an appetite since Jim passed away a few months back. The nurse sat next to Rose, on the grey couch beside the wooden rocking chair and fed her. There was no warmth in the way the nurse placed forkfuls of mashed potatoes and green beans into Rose’s mouth.
Rose was quiet as she ate.
Rose rocked slowly in her chair after the nurse left and looked out the window at the green grass outside. It was a sunny mid-summer day. She watched as some of her friends sat under the shade from the trees, on the few benches. She thought about joining them and then remembered that she hadn’t signed up for “outside time” today. It wasn’t her turn.
She looked over at Sunny who nervously paced to the left and right on his stick.
I can’t take this! Sunny chirped incomprehensibly. This is hell. Don’t you get it, old lady?
“What’s the matter, dear?” Rose asked Sunny, snapping out of her rocking chair daze to look at him
What’s the matter? Everything’s the matter! This isn’t a way to live. I need some air. Real air; not stuffy cage air either. I need to move my wings. They hurt. I need to see other birds. I need to be free! He yelled.
All Rose heard was chirping.
“You must be hungry.” Pause. “Let me feed you.”
Rose got up from her chair and moved towards Sunny’s cage. She kept his birdseed below the coffee table the cage was placed on. She bent slowly; her back was stiff from all the sitting. She grabbed a scoop filled with seed and opened the cage door. Sunny’s eyes, which were already wide, got impossibly larger.
As Rose opened the cage door with her right hand and the scoop of seed in the left, Sunny jumped off his stick and onto the cage floor. Rose thought nothing of it. She was trying to focus intently and move as quickly as her slow body allowed, in order to place the scoop of food into the bird feeder. Sunny had other plans.
He jumped quickly from the cage floor and right out of the now-open door, startling Rose. She dropped the scoop of food; it scattered across her yellow tiled floor. Sunny, at first, was so overcome with emotion that he couldn’t decide where he wanted to fly. So instead, he flapped around in a circle; stopping briefly to catch his breath on the light bulb hanging from the ceiling fan. Rose reached out, trying to grab him and nearly losing her balance in the process.
I’m out! I’m out! I’m really out! Sunny chirped and flapped with equal intensity. As he took a moment’s rest on the light bulb, he looked at the window and immediately knew what had to be done next. He glided across the room, seeming to move in slow motion towards the sunlight and the trees and the air.
And then a loud thud.
Sunny crashed immediately into the window—the closed window— and then onto the floor. He tried to move his wings to get up but he couldn’t. They hurt too much. He couldn’t tell if it was because he never used them to this extent or because he crashed so hard. His body hurt. His soul hurt. He was tired.
Rose moved even more slowly than usual towards Sunny, exhibiting caution and fearing that any quick movement might disturb him further. She scooped him up with both hands and placed him back in the cage, laying him on the cage floor.
No. He moaned, still unable and now unwilling to move. Rose’s eyes were heavy and sad as she looked at her injured bird and closed the cage door shut.
Sunny, now immobile, lay down on the newspaper-covered floor of the place he reluctantly called home. He looked at Rose beyond the bars of his cage. She looked at him from her own.
Their lives, their fates, mirroring each other.
By Madonna Hernandez