I thought for sure she was dead

She was just lying in a heap on the bedding, I couldn’t detect any breath. Her sisters were milling all about her, stepping over her and on her, as if she wasn’t there. Dylan and I had opened up the cage to feed all of the chicks when we noticed her lifeless form just lying there, looking all strange and small as the other chicks, looking large and vital milled around complacently. There was that sick feeling of not knowing what to do. “Is she dead,” I asked, “for sure?” as Dylan gently probed at her feathered body.

Its the same feeling i had that summer at the Sweet Little Dude house when the random girl who nobody knew and had come into town with the strange boy that everyone regarded with uncertainty and a bit of caution, the pair in the middle of some confused journey, a whirlwind of love and madness, was standing outside of the house sort of pacing and looking at the ground. “You need to watch her and make sure she doesn’t leave or hurt herself,” my friend whispered as she went to call another friend to figure out what to do. Its the same feeling I had driving around a town I barely knew, trying not to crash or get even more lost while talking to a friend, miles away in another city, on my mobile phone asking her what to do. And after I hung up, the feeling of being half worried about not quite knowing how to get back to the house, and being half relieved that being lost meant a few more minutes of space from the tension and uncertainty at the house, and the concentration on trying to recognize landmarks meant a break from my imagination painting sad pictures of the scene that might be playing out when I arrived back at the house. And all these times, and all those same feelings of being scared and confused and feeling young and inexperienced and stupid, aren’t quite as bad as hearing that part of you that says, “you don’t have to deal with this.”

After the moment of paralyzed inaction that seemed to last an eternity, we decided that we would make a partition in the box to keep her safe from being accosted by the other chicks. She had a congenitally fucked-up beak, and we speculated that it put her at a severe disadvantage when it came to competing for food and water with the other 22 chicks. I went outside to look for supplies to build a partition. When I came back into the house, Eric was standing in the kitchen, holding the crooked-beaked chick in his hands. Dylan was giving her water with a little dropper when she jumped out of his hands to the floor. There was a horrifyed collective gasp as she hit the floor, but we were all relieved when she started walking around, all kind of puffed out, so unlike the limp flat way we had found her.

We eventually took a milk crate and put it in the chick box with her own food and water. Hopefully, with the extra space, food and water, she’ll make it.

I feel like if I told all this to a seasoned hand with livestock, they would think it was funny. All that fuss for one chick. Reading the literature that came with the chicks, it felt like there was this expectation that they wouldn’t all make it to adulthood. This is a strange thing, to think about raising things that move around and make a comotion, with the same statistical, cut your losses mentality that one would apply to the recently started seeds that occupy the other part of the living room.

I feel like the idea of nurturing things is suddenly all around me. The chicks, the seeds, Var and his partner, who are putting out the new Defiance, Ohio record just had twins. When I saw Sarah, who volunteers at pages, today, it was the first time she looked pregnant. It was only a week or so ago that I had overheard her telling some folks about her pregnancy and I was struck at how oblivious I had been to this thing that, for her and Chris, had to be the hugest thing ever. And watching Oliver with the girls, as Florence sits at the dinner table complaining about the awesome food that Oliver just made being too spicy, I realize that when you have kids, you don’t even get to contemplate the thought that “you don’t have to deal with this.” Or maybe you do, but the pressure, and the uncertainty, and the sickness you feel when part of you suspects you lack the fortitude to figure out what to do is just that much more extreme.

After the whole chick incident, I opened up ipodder and clicked randomly on a podcast I had downloaded.  It was an edition of WGBH’s Morning Stories, where a woman talks about the birds she had know and loved.