Two in the Bush



Sam Smith


 
© Copyright 2021 by Sam Smith




Photo of a boy with a crow.

It was a sunny day in late April. My sister was at after-school swim practice, and I’d made a new friend.

Suddenly, I heard the front door squeak closed on the other side of the house, followed by the familiar clacking of my mom’s favorite heels. The clacking drew closer, then further, then further still as my mom searched through the house.

We’re in the sunroom!” My dad called out.

Then he turned back to me and snapped another photograph. The low whir of the polaroid was drowned out by my mom’s gasp as she stepped into the room.

She gripped the black leather straps of her purse so tightly that her knuckles turned white, and the purse straps rubbed together in a loud groan.

David!” She said. “What’s he doing with that?”

She directed her exasperation at my dad, but I could feel the fear and surprise coming off the same way you feel the chill of ice in a soda even before it touches your lips.

It’s okay, dear,” he said, pinching the corner of the photograph, and shaking it slowly.

My dad always called her that — dear — in sharp contrast to all the nicknames he had for me and my sister. To him, we were prince and princess, pumpkin head and pumpkin, buddy and baby sister. 

What do you mean?” My mom asked, the chill filling the room. “It could be sick.”

They tried not to fight when both my sister and I were in the room, but when it was just one of us by ourselves I guess we faded into the background — even though we were somehow the usual topic of argument. I watched them silently, like I always did. But this time I wasn’t alone, and my new friend didn’t seem to mind either the chill or the noise.

Then my dad turned to me. “Tell her, buddy,” he said. “Tell her about the bird.”

I paused, looking from one parent to the other, then down at the black bird I held loosely in my hand, it’s feathers rubbing softly against my dirty palms.

Well, I just picked it up,” I said.

But was it on the ground, sweetie?” My mom asked, switching to a gentler tone. “I mean, was it laying on the ground?”

I shook my head, keeping my hands very still so that I would disturb my new friend.

No,” I said. “It was hoping around in the backyard with some other birds.”

My dad beamed down at me and snapped another polaroid. My mom shot him a look.

But did you see it flying, sweetie?” 

I guess so,” I said. “I was playing on the tire swing and then I saw these birds that weren’t there before.”

It seems calm,” my dad said. “Tell her how you caught it.”

My mom looked at me intently, eager to hear how this black bird had found its way into her house and son’s hands.

Well, I wanted to see how close I could get to them. And I got really close. And I wanted to see if I could pick one up.” I raised the bird to show her that I had, indeed, been able to pick one up.

I think it’s a crow,” my dad said, looking at the photograph he’d taken. “A female crow.”

My mom completely ignored him. “And you brought it inside?”

I paused, unsure if I had done something wrong by bringing the bird in the house. We let our cats and dogs in the sunroom when we pet-sat for our family friends. Why not this bird? 

Well,” I said. “I wanted to show you.”

My parents shared a look that I didn’t understand. For a second I thought they were going to start fighting again. But they didn’t.

David,” my mom said. “Can you set a timer on that camera?”

You read my mind,” he said, turning a knob and placing the camera on a nearby chair. 

My parents crouched down on either side of me and my bird.

Smile!” they said in unison.

The camera flashed, and my parents stood up.

Okay, buddy,” my dad said. “Are you ready to let your friend free?”

I hadn’t thought that I had been keeping it against its will, but I nodded.

My mom opened the door, and we all walked together into the clover-covered backyard.

Now set it down gently,” my mom said. 

I mashed down some of the clover with my feet, giving the bird an easy takeoff spot, then knelt down, placing the bird’s feet gently on the ground. It let out a gentle squak, and I pulled back my hands. 

In two quick hops, the bird was neck-deep in clover. It moved its head around, looking up at the trees, then turned back toward me. 

I remained still, watching my friend while it watched me. 

It’s okay,” I said. 

The bird cocked its head to the side, and hopped out of the high clover, back toward me — into the space I had cleared. It let out another soft squak, shook out its feather, spread its wings, and sprung into the air. With a few quick flaps it was above me. I stood up, keeping my eye on the bird as it disappeared beyond the trees.

I think about that bird whenever I visit my parents’ house. Especially when I see a flock of black crows hopping around. I’ll even admit that every now and then I try and pick one up. I haven’t been successful since that time when I was a kid, but one of the polaroids is still on the fridge. And every year one of my parents says something along the lines of, 

Remember that time Sam caught a bird when he was a kid?”

And if someone is there that hasn’t heard the story before, they’ll ask if I used a net, or a cage, or some sort of trap.

My parents will smile, and say in eager unison, “Nope. He just picked it up with his hands.”


This story, which Sam recalls very fondly, seemed appropriate for the StoryHouse writing contest for nonfiction animal stories. He hopes you will enjoy it.

Sam enjoys writing for his friends and family, especially his partner, who sometimes collaborated with him on a lazy Sunday afternoon. He has never published any of his writing, but has begun submitting to a few contests as an exercise to improve something which brings him so much joy.




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