The cat ran past me, his tail flicking back and forth in agitation. He turned, dropped the brown bird, and ran behind a chair, watching and waiting.
For him, it was a game. For the bird, a life-and-death struggle. While the cat hid, the bird heaved and then sighed with resolution as the old dog came to look him over. The dog poked, sniffed, and prodded. The bird’s chest rattled. He couldn’t hide. The cat had ripped off one leg, exposing the intestines. The bird tried to fly but had no balance. The dog lost interest and left.
I picked up the little bird, held him gently in a rag. There wasn’t much blood but what did exist stained the white towel. First a tiny dot and then spreading. I filled an old syringe with water. It last housed an antibiotic curing strep throat. Now I hoped it would bring comfort and some needed fluid.
I rubbed his head and under his chin. He gurgled and heaved with each breath. That should have been a clue. I hoped it meant he was hanging on. I was wrong.
He had been still, not trying to leave me but then changed his mind and fought. I tucked the towel over his head, hoping to calm him. It works with the cat when we carry him in the car.
He stopped moving. I pulled the towel back and he had closed his coal-colored eyes. His chest was still. The life force had left him, rushing away from his now useless body.
Emma and I buried him, building a little cairn over his grave, pointing the way for him.