The Nest

by Misty Swift


I wake. Clang, clang. It must be my mother's second cup of coffee by now. I enter the kitchen. A bird hatchling sits in a nest made of toilet paper, cotton balls and twigs -- all held together by wire.

"Good morning, my baby," my mother says to me. She maneuvers into the breakfast nook where the bird and I both take in the almost blinding light. Her big hard belly presses against mine as she makes a squashed kissing gesture in my face. Her breath is coffee and cream. Her hands, onions and garlic.

"He'll die like that," I inform her.

"He knows I wouldnıt hurt him, and he knows he would of died out there."

"Itıs too hot for him in the window sill. The sun is too strong. Also we're not supposed to touch them, if they get our scent on them, theyıre screwed," I tell her.

"Don't talk like that," she says, holding the nest in her big hands and working the wire, pulling at the tissue.

"We should call someone," I tell her.

My mother's green eyes fix anger on me for an instant. "I made you eggs."

I think of getting up but sit motionless. She scurries off and returns with two fried yellow suns, a massive baguette loaded down with butter and cheese, and coffee. "Don't say I never did anything for you," she laughs.

I see the anger passed through her. Thankfully, she's more in-tune to her silent, dying friend. The bird, the eggs, the grease -- all turn me queasy inside. Iım not hungry.

The bird's nest is put back on the windowsill. I look over at him almost nervous to breathe on him. Heıs a light gray color, and soft down covers his little body. He shivers, his head tucked in close. I think heıs not getting enough warmth in his makeshift nest, but I canıt touch him. I'd hate to hinder his chances of going back home and being a regular bird.

I call the Humane Society and they connect me with a bird rescue center. The woman on the phone sounds slightly agitated as she asks me what type of bird it is.

"I don't know," I tell her.

"Well what does it look like?" she asks, slightly annoyed.

"I think he's really pretty young, heıs gray and has soft peachy down on his body"

"What size?" she asks. She's probably not too good with humans.

"Maybe the size of the center palm of your hand," I say looking at my open hand.

"Inches?"

"What?"

"How many inches, approximately?"

"Three and a half," I tell her.

"He's a North American Gray Beard Swallow," she says. "We don't house that bird. Too common."

When I ask her who houses these types of birds she says, "Probably noone because we save our resources for birds who are environmentally challenged."

"What do I feed him?"

"Earthworms."

"Just dig up some earth worms and feed them to him?"

"No, if it's as young as I think it is you may have to get some worms at the pet supply and then squash them with some bird formula in a syringe."

"Thanks a lot." I think for a moment maybe she does have a heart for humans, for birds. I try to give her the benefit of the doubt. "Well, I appreciate it."

"It'll most definitely die," she says before hanging up.

"Why did you call?" my mother says from behind me. I wonder how long she was standing there.

"To help the bird."

"You didn't seem to give a shit before, but then you hop on the phone to see who can take him?"

"It doesn't matter, Mom"

She charges closer to me. "What do you mean it doesn't matter?"

"They won't take him anyway. I just wanted to help because I don't know what to do."

My mother sneers, "Don't you think maybe you should have left that up to me? What if the state came over here and took him away? How would you feel about that?"

I have that smirk again. I tell myself to stop before it reaches her. "I hardly think that's what would happen, Mom."

"How do you know?"

"It just doesn't make sense that anyone would come out here because a bird fell from a tree. If he were a Bald Eagle they would have, but he's just an ordinary bird."

I wonder if I should hunt out the earth worms out back. I know I've seen worms out there. No, I'll take the car and get some worms and talk to someone who can help me. Squash the worms, kill them then, I'm definitely not eating today. My coffee must be cold. "Iım going to go and see about getting some worms for him and seeing if we can construct a better nest."

"Hey, I'm proud of the nest I made him. You should have seen how easily I picked him out of his old one and put him in mine," she tells me.

"What! Where is it?" I run outside as my mother follows. At my feet is a broken nest. A hundred finely meshed weavings, lovingly tucked with bits of twig and grass, little bits of feather.

"That's the old nest," my mother says. "He had brothers and sisters but they were already dead. I think the cats may have gotten to a couple of them before I came out here."

"Mom, look at this!" My mother goes to grab it, but I yell, "Cover your hands first!"

She goes inside and returns with plastic grocery bags over each massive hand. Carefully, she picks up the nest, which upon my inspection, only needs minor repair. We hurry inside. The bird doesn't seem to shiver so much. My stomach lets out a big growl.

"He must be starving to death. I'm going to hurry off to feed him." I grab the keys and run to get my shoes on. I haven't washed my face nor brushed my teeth. I run towards the door.

"Don't you even notice how you talk to me? Youıre so fucking insensitive, just like your father."

"Mom, I need to hurry".

"No," she says. I find her right up on me in the hallway, pressing my body tight against the wall. Our noses nearly touch. "Don't talk to me that way, like I don't know what I'm doing. I'm your mother and I deserve a little more respect than that you understand"?

"Youıre right Mom, I'm sorry, I'm just preoccupied." It feels insincere. I want to push her fatness right off of me.

Before I can say anything else her large hand smacks my face and my body goes numb from the force of it. Then the burning starts. I run to the bathroom; she's right on me and quickly I shut the door. I wash my face and tell myself I'm too old to cry.

My mother bangs on the door but I drown out the sound with my whole head under the faucet. I envision myself barefoot running on the lawn and disappearing out of sight. But there's no money in my pocket and no where for me to go. I need to hurry. I brush my teeth. I have one goal now: feed the bird.

I open the door. I know sheıs there. My mother rushes in. She presses and squeezes me tight "I'm sorry," she says. She feels light although sheıs grabbing at me. It's nice to feel her light and faint, if for only a moment.

"I know," I tell her. I go to the front door and hear my mother's sobbing coming from the breakfast nook.

"Stop. Nevermind," she says.

And we stop.


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