Goodbye Birdie

by Lisa Lerma Weber

The dead bird lay in the street gutter in front of the house. There was no blood coating its golden-brown feathers. No tiny protruding bones. It looked as though it had simply gone to sleep there. I used a dust pan to scoop it up and place it in the decorated shoebox my daughter had given me specifically for the purpose. She was the one who found the bird.

Once the bird was tucked in the box, I went to the backyard where my wife and daughter were waiting next to a small hole in the earth. My daughter was crying, her face buried in my wife’s yellow sundress, and my wife was looking at me, her large brown eyes glistening with tears.

I placed the box in the hole and covered it with dirt.

“Goodbye, birdie,” my daughter said, her voice muffled by cotton.

That evening I had a dream the earth was covered with dead birds. They were lying in the street, the gutter, our yard. Tiny feathered bodies everywhere. I searched for my wife and daughter and found them lying in holes in the backyard, their arms turned to wings. I woke up sweating, my heart racing, tears in my eyes.

I reached for my wife, but her side of the bed was empty and cold. I got up and went to my daughter’s room. There I found my wife, lying in my daughter’s bed, her slender arms wrapped around my daughter. Her long, golden-brown hair flowed around them both like motherly feathers.

In the morning, my daughter shook me awake.

“Daddy,” she said. “The birdie is alive!”

“What do you mean” I asked, half-asleep.

“The birdie is alive!”

I sat up and looked at my daughter. She was smiling, her large brown eyes sparkling. “Come see,” she said, tugging on me.

My wife was already in the backyard, and when I walked out of the house, she turned to look at me with frightened eyes. The hole we buried the bird in had been dug up, the box lying on its side next to a pile of dirt, the lid discarded a few feet away.

“See,” my daughter said, pointing to the oak tree near the hole. I looked up, and in the branches was a bird much like the one I had buried. It turned towards me and chirped. I took a step back and looked at my wife, her face pale. I looked back at my daughter. It was then I noticed her hands were covered with dirt, as were her pajamas.

“Did you dig it up,” I asked her.



“Because I wanted him to live.”

My head was spinning, the world around me a blur.

“Wake up Daddy!”

I sat up in bed, my heart pumping, my breath quick.

“Another nightmare,” asked my roommate. I didn’t respond.

“Third time this week,” he said.

I sank back into my bed and stared at the ceiling, the tears falling as I thought back to the last time I saw my wife and daughter. I’d had a shitty day at work and decided to stop at my favorite bar before heading home. Three whiskeys in and my cell phone rang over and over, my wife trying to get a hold of me. I knew if I didn’t leave, she’d probably show up at the bar to drag me home.

When I finally got home, my wife let me have it. I loved her, never meant to hurt her. But I was angry and drunk and shoved her away from me. The force sent her he falling backwards, and there was a sick smacking sound as her head hit the floor. Blood began to stain the white tile when my daughter walked into the kitchen.

“Get out,” I yelled. “Go!” But my daughter didn’t move. She looked at me, her eyes filled with pain and accusation. I backed away.

“Mommy,” my daughter said. “Wake up.” My wife stirred, then lifted her head and opened her eyes. She looked at me and I froze.

“I’m sorry,” I said, my voice trembling. “I’m so sorry.” She didn’t respond and I bowed my head and sobbed.

“Let’s go Mommy,” my daughter said. I heard them leave, heard the door shut, but I couldn’t move.

I drank myself to sleep that night. In the morning, I went to work as usual, hoping they’d be there when I returned home. But the house remained empty. Days passed. Eventually, people came looking for my wife. Her sister. Her best friend. The school called about my daughter. Then the cops got involved. They found a spot of my wife’s blood on the floor. I tried to tell them what happened. What my daughter did. How they just disappeared. But no one believed me.

Sometimes, when I’m allowed outside, I see two birds sitting in the old oak in the center of the yard. I whisper my wife and daughter’s names, tell them I’m sorry. The birds look at me before taking flight, their beautiful, golden-brown feathers shining in the sunlight.

Lisa Lerma Weber has the strangest dreams and she likes it that way. Her words and photography have appeared online and in print. Follow her on Twitter @LisaLermaWeber.
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