I found a pet bird in the courtyard the other night. I opened the courtyard door and it sort of exploded up and away from me. In the sodium-vapour darkness I thought it was a gigantic mutant moth, a kind of evolutionary throwback from Giant Moth Times or just a general mistake on the part of moth DNA.
A kind of horror-show nausea thrashed around in my stomach at the notion of bird-sized moths. I imagined that a new order had arrived with the night, a world of giant insects straight out of Victorian schlock horror. Meanwhile, the bird had landed on a nearby windowsill. So I hugged the wall opposite and exited through the laundry room door.
Once in the laundry room, though, I started to question my instinctive terror. If it’s just a giant moth, I thought, then the worst thing it can do is freak out and fly into me. Which is obviously and objectively horrible, but it won’t hurt me in any way (no venom or acid spritzing, for instance). Even mutant moths are more scared of me than etcetera.
By the time I’d franked some coins into the dryer, I had made up my mind to go up and confront my terror. I pictured the moth in my head, its dusty wings and armoured back, imagining myself only inches from its weird moth face. I have an idea that this kind of visioning exercise is good for me, but only in giant moth situations.
But my strenuous vision work in the laundry room turned out to be a waste of time. The animal on the windowsill was a little bird, possibly a finch, with a tiny body and an attitude that reminded me of a lost child hoping that someone would take him in. It didn’t fly off when I approached but flipped its head back and forth, assessing me. I went and got Schmutzie, and we crouched down and watched it for a while. The bird kept an eye on us, clearly working out some kind of solution.
It must have flown out of an open window, Schmutzie said.
Maybe it’ll survive out here.
No, said Schmutzie. Little pet birds don’t know enough about finding food or avoiding predators.
The bird finally decided to freak out again, leaping into the side of the sill before it hit the open air and lit out for the second story balcony.
And that was it, really. All we could do was watch this tiny animal before it died, alone and lost, going from to window to window in the hope that one of them - the right one - would open up. I liked the situation better when it was a giant moth.