Delicate Things

We were both on the front porch having our final argument when it fell from the trees and landed on the stoop near my feet. The wet smack of it hitting the painted, dirty wood momentarily shut both of us up. We stood there watching the pale pink body quiver in the sharp autumn air until I bent down to scoop it up.

“Don’t bother,” she said to me, hoisting her bag back up over her shoulder. “Poor thing’s done for.”

Instead of answering I stepped into the yard, gazing up into the branches in search of a nest I could return it to. I didn’t say anything, either, when she said good bye and her footsteps crunched across the fallen leaves. I heard her car start, and then the fading sound of the engine growing forever smaller in the distance.

There was no nest I could see, and no way to climb up to it even if there was. I carried the chick into the house, cradling it in my hands for warmth. But she was right: with one last pathetic convulsion it died, the beak flapping noiselessly open and closed only once. I couldn’t save it, either.

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