(Part 2 of Hidden in this Picture)
"I know it looks white but he's a finch...or a sparrow."
You set the cage on your favorite book, with its broken spine, in the garden. Wood shavings on stone and short sudden movements within the cage. I hear you step - one, two - and see the light go from an open door as the sky slips into darkness and the flower fades from sight. I'm afraid the rats will get him but you say, "There are no rats in the garden." There are cats though, with their chests on the floor and their pawed arms stretched out. You tell me, "Go to bed." From my sheets, I check the window. The cage from up here looks like a cake pan and makes my belly weak and my eyelids soft. I imagine a hop and a chirp from the cage. A bird in the middle of the frame but the cage not quite centered and the cats and the rats and the thin wire bars, the only means of protection.
In the morning the wings moved through sunlight, past the rain, early morning dew filled its feathers, spread out in the opening air. Pants then shoes then the stairs and you - knowing I'll try to perch him on my finger, "He won't stay." I blink and look out the window at the survivor, fighting in the alley between orchids and azaleas. "He is just going to fly off your finger." I swear to keep my hand in the cage. "It doesn't matter," head shrugged, "he's my bird anyway." School prizes never last long and those goldfish won't last a week, but a class room market has eighteen choices. You brought something I made for Mom. Abigail brought feathers and a tail, a beak and movement. He hit his head on the top of the cardboard box and you swore not to open it 'til you got home.
You are older but by only a year and how heavy could cardboard and a bird in flight be? I hold the door, standing in sawdust. He flaps against the walls. Holding up the box, "How much for a cage?" Old white whiskers and ears lean over the counter to see your short voice. "Well, what kind is it? Is it in there?" I shout that its a dove and then, thud, with a box in my chest and a ruffle of feathers. "It's a small one. Ten dollars will do." He disappears slowly then three rise from the floor. "These are mine. They are old but it's what I can give for ten dollars. Which do you like?" The third sat rounded top and swinging perch next to the others boxes. "Let the bird decide." Peanut butter painted perches and a sprinkling of seed - I stood holding the glass door shut when you popped the box and the wings shot towards the door, then the window and then settled along the rafters. I peaked around corners. "Give it a second, He'll come down." You dropped your box to your knees and he glided in from the ceiling into the rounded metal cage, my cage, and stuck beak under wing.