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Sparrow 1

One morning in the fall, as I was drinking my coffee and staring at the gardeners blowing leaves around on the Quad, a sparrow flew right into my office window, and landed, immobilized on the ledge. It sat there twitching, and I thought it was surely a goner. Dammit, I thought. A freaking bird right into my window? I had been having such a pleasant morning. Got up early, ate granola and yogurt after a bike ride along one of the many prairie paths that wind their way through the grasses just outside of town. A crisp autumn breeze was at my back the entire way, it seemed. I hadn’t had a single negative thought all morning, it felt like. And now this animal, its little heartbeat shaking its chest, was slowly expiring on the ledge. How heartbreaking. I turned the crank to open the window and removed the screen. The bird lay there. I stroked its breast with the back of my index finger. Dammit. The fragility of life and whatever. I thought for a second about just flicking it off the ledge. How quickly would I forget about having done so? Probably not fast enough for my day not to be ruined by that kind of act – which would undoubtedly be perceived as an act of brutality. Though, who I would tell was not exactly obvious. No one was in the office yet, I thought. Except then, I heard “Hey Joel.” And Riga was standing behind me as I was leaning out the window, stroking the bird. “What are you up to?” she asked. She had a way of catching me in compromising poses and situations. She came into the staff kitchen and caught me using someone else’s mustard. She definitely saw me pick my nose on the one occasion that I had done so since age four. And now she stood behind me as I pondered euthanizing a bird to spare myself the sight of it dying and then being consumed by a squirrel on my ledge (that, I assumed, was what I would be saving it and myself from, by flicking it over the edge). “This bird is going to die,” I said. “It flew into the window, and I was stroking it a little. I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you come in. Poor bird.” She looked at me with understanding and affection, as if in my act of gentleness had obviously succeeded in obscuring my true intentions. “Tell Helen!” she said, “Helen takes care of birds for some, like, suburban Audobon chapter.” I thought about the dying bird. Save it? The thought hadn’t even crossed my mind. Would it take any of my time? Would I have to miss my 9:30 AM meeting with the attractive young budget office person? At once, the idea of having to perform any kind of labor to save this idiot bird, which had flown into my window, seemed appalling.

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