I 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!
        It 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 mouth.
       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 dirty—like there was some kind of shadow, even over the Bird's brilliance.

     From 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 tutors—completely in the power of the Bird.

     But 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 with him.
      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 alone.
      The animal felt soft—friendly. It looked at me gently, and I embraced its little head.

     Many 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, too—Listen...

© 1992 by Max Reif



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