Seven Tears Into the Sea
       Phantom Stallion Series

Terri Talks

Terri Farley
Wabi Sabi

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Bernice the Pigeon & Mother Teresa

Dear Readers,
Two weeks ago, Bernice showed up in the dark at the top of the stairs.
Climbing up to the tiny apartment which is my in-town office, I saw movement, then made out a pigeon. Dragging one gray wing, she backed into a corner of the landing.
Was she just too injured and exhausted to put up a fuss at my approach, or were her red-orange eyes full of trust?
I edged past,opened my door with the stealth of a cat burglar -- sorry Bernice, I won't even think cat -- and eased inside.
All morning, I peered out to check on her. Still there.
At lunchtime, I put out little dishes of water and bird seed.
At dusk, she was still there, food and water apparently untouched.
The landing is shared by two apartments, and though I've never met whoever lives three feet away, I knocked on the door to let them know we had company. No one answered, but I figured they'd discover Bernice just as I had.
The next morning, I hurried to work, hoping Bernice hadn't been cornered by a you-know-what, or died of her injuries.
I stopped in the sunshine at the foot of the stairs, and peered up. Once my eyes grew accustomed to the dark, I tiptoed up. Without a flutter, Bernice backed away from her empty dishes.
Happy beyond all proportion because she'd survived the night, I refilled her dishes, then called my husband and children to let them know.
She made it through the next night, too, and her wing tip no longer dragged on the landing's old indoor-outdoor carpet.
On the third morning, she made a little cooing sound when I left her out there alone and headed for the computer.
The next morning, she was gone. I surveyed the landing like a crime scene, but there were no fluids and no explosion of feathers which would have indicated attack.
Yes! I was elated, practically dancing, until I saw the note on my door.
A guilty glance showed me what my CSI investigation had missed: one bit of gray fluff, 3 white splats smaller than my thumbnail, a scattering of bird food. About fourteen seeds.
Suddenly furious with the strangers in apartment seven, I thought, Mess? Yeah, you bet I'll clean up the mess. Tomorrow morning at 5 a.m., I'll come armed with a broom which might bump #7's door. No, a vacuum cleaner. Hear the whine going after that mess? Or I could rent an industrial rug shampooer. Wake to its roar, oh ye of cruel, uncaring hearts!
I missed most of a writing day, imagining the villains in #7 had kicked Bernice down the stairs, or called Pest Control to have her taken away and gassed.
The only thing I wrote -- and it required 3 drafts -- was a note which began Dear Neighbor. It promised I'd bring cleaning supplies to work with me the next day.
The surroundings of a writer on deadline are usually chaotic, and I was surrounded by stacks and piles and windrows of books, printouts and notes, even on this unproductive day. I was stepping over them, headed for the door, when a line of text caught my eye. Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.
No author. I stopped and reread. Probably words of wisdom from Mother Teresa, something to build into one of my characters.
Yeah, I thought, and it's not only kind words which echo. Words posted by someone who doesn't GET saving a soft-bodied, flightless bird...
And that's when I got it. Those thoughtless words had turned me toward vengeance. A stranger's unthinking insistence on hygiene had become a declaration of war.
I told myself I wasn't like that, like them, and forced myself to buy sweet smelling cleaning supplies, and a scrub brush. After doing research on bird borne diseases, I decided some rubber gloves were in order, too. Then, I set to work, silently, and I thought about echoes and ripples.
My emotional flash point for kids and animals will always be low, but I'm trying to build a dam against ugly words. It'll have plenty of cracks and be low in places,but I AM in control of my own splash in the river.
And my fingers are crossed that at least a few of its echoes are sweet.

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Posted by Terri Farley @ 10:34 AM

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