Saturday, April 21, 2012


                                                                  [photo permission: ???]

DOVE : (a true memory of childhood, evoked by seeing this lovely photo)

At the sudden flap and flutter ahead I skid the bike to a halt. A ring-necked dove, wing broken, gyrating awkwardly in the dust, stills at my hovering. I catch it in my clawing fingers and clutch it up. Its little heart beats wildly. “Don’t you worry. I’m going to fix you,” I coo, removing my shirt, a free hand at a time, and gently bundle it.
            As I at last let myself in the house, Ouma’s voice arrests me. Hoekom het jy nie jou hemp aan nie?”  She stands firm.
            “I’m sorry, Ouma, I took my shirt off to protect this bird. A dove. I want to fix its wing. May I keep it, Ouma? Once it’s better, I will set it free.”
            Her eyes shift focus. Her chin lifts and the corners of her mouth turn downwards, while she shakes her head. “You can try. But it is going to die! Why not just kill the thing now? You don’t know how to fix it in any case! And you have nothing to keep it in. But if you must experiment, then don’t waste any of my bandages. Now go make me some tea. And hay, make sure that you wash your hands first, hay!”
In the kitchen I gently put the bundled bird down on the chair, but while waiting for the kettle to boil I try to get a closer look. It struggles so much that I fear it’ll get free.
           As soon as I’ve delivered the tea I scoot back, but my shirt lies a little unraveled, like hollowed bread. The bird … gone! 
              I cast about, and then I see it. Huddled in a disheveled fluff of feathers it ducks, but freezes as my palm lowers over it. Yet as soon as I relax it’s off again, flit-flutting brokenly away. 
             At last I clutch it down. Carefully, I gather it up. Its tiny heart beats with severe little thumps. Gently, I extend its broken wing. “Now, little one, let’s see what we can do for you,” I say. But as I tenderly feel for the bones, the bird goes stiff, and begins to cool.
            Silently, I kneel beside it; my jaw clamped tight.
Then I rise, carefully cradle it in one hand, shrug back into my shirt, and let myself ever so quietly out of the house. Awkwardly, I mount my old bicycle, and pedal quickly back to the spot where I first found it.
  And bury it. But there are no tears. Not then.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this - tender moments are transported in time to soften present cynics such as this one.


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