do not know how to relate the story I have to tell you: how to begin,
or how to make you believe, once I've begun. I can sometimes scarcely
believe, myself, what happened so long ago: but, you see, I was there!
began when I was eight years old. Until then, I have only the gentlest
memories of life: Father, taking me fishing in the park on Sunday
mornings; Mother, bringing me back little books as presents every
time she had to go out.
It was when I was eight that the Bird
came. One afternoon, when I got up from my nap, it was perched on
the windowsill in the room my brother and I shared. I rubbed my eyes
and blinked, but it didn't go away!
How can I describe this Bird that so
dominated my life for so many years? It was huge and menacing; it
hovered; it stunk. It looked like it was waiting, waiting to devour
me whole with the giant daggers I was sure it kept hiddeninside its
The coloring of the Bird was
the most amazing thing about it. Its plumage seemed to consist of
every color of the rainbow, and to shimmer and change hypnotically.
But the colors all looked muddy and dirtylike there was some
kind of shadow, even over the Bird's brilliance.
that first moment, the Bird's presence dwarfed everything else in
my life. It stared at me, followed me everywhere, emitted a constant,
piercing whine, so that I couldn't even hear my own thoughts. Yet
no one else even seemed to be aware of the fiendish creature!
The day the Bird came, our whole family
life also changed. Arguments suddenly began breaking out like fires
at home, whereas our life together had always been peaceful before.
My parents noticed before long that
I was "not myself". At school, too, my teachers began asking me, "What's
wrong?" But the Bird so dominated me that I could scarcely hear them.
After a time, the school Principal
called my parents in to see him, and recommended that they take me
out of school and get me a private tutor. I spent the rest of my childhood
and adolescence shut away, perfunctorily seeing doctors and tutorscompletely
in the power of the Bird.
then we heard, through a young man who had grown up across the street
and was back visiting his family, about a certain healer. My parents,
who could scarcely make ends meet, drew from their small savings to
fly me to the city where this man lived and book me an appointment
I checked into a hotel, went to sleep,
and the next morning took a taxi to the address the healer had given
us, which turned out to be a medium-sized apartment building near
the center of town. The man worked simply, out of his own home.
I knocked on the door with the number
on the healer’s card . A kind-looking man with a handsome, salt-and-pepper
beard answered the door. Smiling, he pronounced my name and asked
me to come in.
I was shaking and sweating, and I could
hear the Bird's horrible whine behind me. The animal had been growing
lately. I felt sure it was about to finish me off.
The healer beckoned me to sit on a
chair near his.
"What are we going to do about that
bird?" he asked, straightaway.
"H-h-how do you know about him?"
I asked him, for no one had ever mentioned the Bird before. To be
sure, I had never told anyone, either. I simply had not felt free
to speak of it.
"Oh, I see him," he answered.
The healer rose out of his seat and
walked to the window sill where the Bird was perching. He slowly moved
his hand up to the Bird's head and rested it there.
For five minutes, he kept his hand
on the animal's head. The two seemed in deep communion. I saw shadows
beginning to stream off the Bird's body. Its features grew brighter
every moment. Its whining ceased. The entire room seemed to be emptying
itself of ancient shadows.
I felt a poison draining off inside
me, as well. In a few minutes, I realized quite suddenly that without
my even noticing it, the joy I had last known as an eight year-old
child had returned!
The healer beckoned me over to the
windowsill and placed my hand in his, on the Bird's head. He began
stroking the head with my hand, then removed his and left me to continue
The animal felt softfriendly.
It looked at me gently, and I embraced its little head.
years have now passed since my healing. Peter—I’ve given my bird a
name—is still with me. His ever-changing rainbow plumage soothes me,
eye and spirit. I love to open the window, watch him soar up to the
top of the sky, plummet down like a projectile, and then raise himself
up again just before hitting the ground, and fly back in my window
of his own free will.
Oh, and he sings now. Such wonderful,
original music! Many nights, I just sit here and do nothing but take
in those glorious sounds. Sssshhhhh…he's in the middle of a composition
now. You can hear him, tooListen...
© 1992 by Max Reif
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