By Susan Farrell
I could not bring myself to do it. The chick repeatedly opened and closed its tiny beak, hungrily searching for yet more regurgitated worms from his mother.
I watched him for a moment or two, his two siblings rolled and cavorted around the neatly woven nest, tumbling over one another and making a happy racket.
The third little fellow, however, sat perfectly still with his half-naked head, pockmarked with the promise of feathers yet to grow in, cocked to one side.
I breed exotic birds for the pet shop market. My birds are in high demand and I make a solid living from breeding and rearing them for my clients.
One factor that counts more than any other amongst my discerning group of collectors is the perfection of the bird: color, bone structure, and an overall look of wellbeing. Alas, this was where this little fellow fell short. He had been hatched blind in one eye.
I hadn’t been sure at first. I had kept an eye on him, hoping for some sign that his sight would become fully functional. But today, I finally had to accept that this particular bird would never be sold and that I would have to do away with him.
“Daddy, daddy, I am home!” Brian turned to see his eight-year-old daughter come barreling through the door to the wooden barn where he operated his business from.
She had spent many hours beside him over the years, cleaning out nests, pouring water into containers, and scooping seed into the little troughs hanging from the side of the cages. She loved to patiently watch a clutch of eggs until they hatched, and then he would smile as she did a jig of glee all around the barn as though she had caused this miracle all by herself. She took a keen interest in each little chick. He called her his pint sized “mother hen.”
She gave her father her usual bear hug and turned to where “the pirate” (as she had dubbed him) stood in the nest looking for all the world like a lopsided sailor.
“Daddy, will his eye ever open?”
“I am afraid not, Felicity, and as much as I hate to tell you this, we will have to put him down. No one will buy him.”
“But, Daddy, couldn’t we keep him? I promise to look after him!”
Ben looked down at his daughter and, smiling fondly at her, said, “Alright, smidgen, make up a nest for him in that old birdcage hanging from the rafters. But promise me that you will make sure that he has everything that he needs without me nagging you?”
“Sure, Dad. Come on, Captain Cook, let’s make a ship for you to sail in!”
“Be careful as you take down the cage, Felicity,” her father warned. “That nasty storm last week really shook the barn!”
Ben quickly forgot about “Captain Cook.” His daughter would sometimes bring him to perch on his finger when they were busy with the other birds, and Ben had to admit he was a fine fellow. His feathers had grown in and the blue and green hues, tinged with a dusting of sunshine yellow, were soft and luxuriant. Pity about the eye, he mused. Oh well, Felicity loved him very much, and that was all that really mattered.
One evening, Ben was busy cooking dinner when he looked up to see Captain Cook furiously pecking on the window pane of the kitchen.
What on earth, he wondered? Tap, tap, tap. The bird seemed to be really agitated. Ben turned off the stove and walked into the adjacent barn. He couldn’t see anything amiss.
Then, he heard a muffled noise. He saw Felicity lying on the floor with blood running from a cut above her eye. Just above her head, a rafter hung by a single nail whilst another lay across her chest, pinning her to the ground.
“Felicity,” Ben called urgently, “don’t move, I will come over to you. As I lift the beam lying across your chest, try and pull yourself free!”
Ben walked carefully over to where his daughter lay shivering uncontrollably from shock. He firmly grasped the end of the beam pinning her to the floor, being extremely careful not to touch the second one threatening to come crashing down on them both at any second.
He lifted the beam and urged in a tight voice, “Now. Felicity, now!”
The brave little girl did as she was bid and as soon as she was out of danger, Ben lay the beam on the floor, just as the second one came crashing down, missing him by centimeters.
Ben pulled his cell phone from the pocket of his jeans and dialed nine-one-one for medical assistance.
While father and daughter waited for the ambulance to arrive, Captain Cook flew down and landed upon Felicity’s hand. She caressed him, saying, “Captain Cook to the rescue, hey, Dad?”
“Not bad for a one-eyed pirate!” her father agreed.