My six year old came tearing into my office. “Papa! Come quick!” She took my hand and led me to the backyard. “Look, a bird!” There, sitting on a rock and surrounded by blood and feathers, was a robin.
“Is it dead?”
I nudged it and it lifted its head and let out a sound that cut through the soul, the universal cry of pain and torture. Clearly, the poor thing had spent the last hour or so as entertainment for one of the neighborhood cats. Probably ours, which took great pride in demonstrating its high degree of skill in hunting and catching the snakes, mice, and birds that live in the area. Casting a quick glance around, I spotted our cat intently watching us from behind a tree.
“Oh, Papa, it hurts! Can we take it to the doctor?”
I surveyed the bird. It was mortally wounded. One wing was mostly detached, its legs looked broken, and it was covered with blood and torn flesh.
“There’s nothing they could do.” I took a mental inventory of what I had that would make a suitable weapon. I went into the house and got a hammer. Inadequate, but nothing better was available.
I came back out to find my little one examining the bird closely, hands carefully stored in her pockets. She looked up and saw the hammer. “What are you going to do?”
“I have to kill it. It’s going to die anyway, and this way it won’t hurt for as long.”
“Can I watch?”
Hmmm. “From over there,” I pointed, fearing that blood may splatter.
I knelt down beside the bird, whispering “I’m sorry, fella.” I raised the hammer and took a deep breath. The bird twisted its head around so that one eye stared directly into mine, then it emitted a strangled, drawn out cry. Something connected between us. An understanding. I brought the hammer down on his head.
I rested for a minute, shaking. Silly me, he’s only a bird. I did what I had to do. It was for the best. All the truisms seemed flat and meaningless. I had killed a brother.
We decided to bury him in the yard, and as we laid him in his grave tears swelled in my eyes.
My baby hugged me and said “It’s OK, Papa. He talked to you. Did you hear what he said?”
“No, honey, what?”
“He said thank you.”