I was 5 or maybe 6. The day was overcast and gloomy, intermittent drizzle sprinkled the morning. I was on the boulevard across from Charles Street near Boyd, with a couple cousins and a pair of friends from up the street. There it was, flat, pressed against the short grass of the boulevard, a lump of orange and brown feather. A small cushion against the earth; out of place.
“Is it alive?” my cousin asked. She slid behind me for protection, incase it rose from its supine position in a fury, disturbed that we had interrupted its rest. But it was not in the short rest of sleep. It was in the long rest.
“It’s a bird,” I said. “It’s dead.”
They all looked at me. I nudged it with my toe. All eyes turned to the bird, anticipating some response. My cousins fingers curled into the skin on my arms, clutching like tiny claws. I nudged it again; still it did not move. I crouched for a better look. Wesley crouched beside me, leaned in and blew on the still feathers. Nothing. I reached over and poked a cautious finger onto the breast of the small creature. It was hard. Nothing. My cousin squealed and ran behind a nearby tree.
“It’s dead,” I said again.
“What should we do?” my other cousin asked.
“Its dead,” I said. “We should bury it. You bury dead things in the ground.”
“Where?” Wesley asked.
“Here,” I said. “Right where it died.”
Wesley scraped at the earth with his fingers.
“The ground is too hard to make a hole,” he said. “I’ll go get something to dig with.”
We waited. Droplets of rain rolled off the feathers of the bird. Wind blew on them, ruffling the plumage so it looked to be moving.
“It’s alive,” my cousin screamed from behind the tree, then fled across the street to the safety of our grandmother’s place.
Wesley returned with a garden tool from his mother’s shed. A three tined fork like implement, kind of like a small pitchfork, something that a midget devil might use instead of a trident. Wesley dug. We kneeled beside him and scraped at the earth in the hole, now softened by Wesley’s tool. The earth was black and moist and loosened easily once the surface was broken. Wesley plunged his fork into the hole, flipped a chunk of dirt, revealing a fat severed earthworm, squirming and wriggling in the light of the day. He pulled one half from the chunk of dirt and flicked it at my cousin. It stuck momentarily to the front of her shirt then dropped to the ground.
“Dink,” she yelled at him.
“Now what?” Wesley asked.
I drew a deep breath, reached over and picked up the dead bird with my hand, I held my arm extended, away from my body, incase there was disease on the bird. My grip on it was just with the very tips of my fingers, so I could release it quickly if it suddenly came back to life. I lowered it into the hole, then slapped my hand across my pant leg to cleanse myself of any possible contamination.
We pushed dirt over the bird corpse until it was completely covered, then stomped the earth flat over top of it.
“What if it’s not really dead?” my cousin asked.
“Of course it’s dead,” I said. “We just buried it.”
“But what if it was just sleeping and it wakes up under the ground and it’s not really dead?”
We all looked at each other, considering the possibility that we had just buried a living creature that wasn’t really dead, just sleeping. After a minute of consideration I took the fork digging tool from Wesley. I crouched over the newly made bird grave and stabbed the ground, deep, all the way to the bird corpse. I stabbed several times then stomped the disturbed earth again with my sneaker.
“It’s dead,” I said, and we went to play at Wesley’s house.
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