The crying woke me from a deep sleep. I looked at the clock on my nightstand and sighed, annoyed. It was barely six in the morning. I felt like I had just gone to bed, literally as if my head had just hit the pillow moments before. Morning had definitely come too fast. “It’s too early for this.” I groaned. Somehow I managed to sit up and drag myself to my feet. The house was dark and quiet except for the piercing cries that grew louder with each moment. Melody was nowhere to be found though that really didn’t surprise me. The last few nights she had been staying at either her mothers or her sisters. The wails of distress, screams that disturbed the peaceful solitude of night, and foul odors that permeated the air were just too much for her to deal with. I wasn’t pleased about being left here on my own to deal with the situation, but what could I do really?
Another ear splitting wail rattled the glass and found me as I was entering the kitchen. I switched on the light and cringed at the noise. “I know, I know.” I whispered out loud. “Just give me a minute, I’m not awake yet.” I shuffled across the floor to the refrigerator, threw the door open and stared in at the vast empty space in front of me. “Damn it Melody!” I rolled my eyes then slammed the door shut hard. “This is perfect, just perfect!”
I made my way to the cupboard to the right of the sink and opened it. I found what I needed inside almost immediately. A row of freshly washed plastic bottles stared back at me and I grabbed one and sat it on the counter. I slipped a plastic liner inside of the bottle then added a mixture of powered formula and bottled water to it. I screwed on a top and nipple, shook the concoction, removed the top, and heated it in the microwave briefly. I replaced the top then sprinkled some of the formula on my wrist to check the temperature. It was perfect and just in time it seemed as the squalling coming from my bedroom was only getting louder. “I’m coming!” I called out, though knowing that it did little good to comfort my new born. I think somehow just hearing my voice let him know that he was not alone and not being ignored but I really didn’t know for sure. I started back towards the bedroom and the screaming baby when I heard something odd that immediately stopped me in my tracks. It was a soft tapping sound like something hard lightly striking glass. I looked all around me, trying to find the source of the noise when I suddenly focused on the window just above the kitchen sink. There, in the hazy light of the rising sun, I saw a small bird- a sparrow-pecking at glass. It seemed a little odd to me at first but I assumed that it probably mistook its reflection for another bird and was staking out its territory. I didn’t really give it another thought just then, I had a hungry, disgruntled, infant to cater to. I turned my back on the bird and returned to my room where I found my son laying in his bassinet, tears falling down his tiny cheeks as he reached up at me, almost pleadingly, and whimpered. His mouth was twisted into a worried little frown and his bottom lip quivered. He pulled his leg to his mouth and tried to suck on one of his toes when he saw me. I smiled at him then scooped him up into my arms. “I think what Daddy has for you will taste much better.” I said as I carried the baby into the next room.
I passed by the dining room and the large row of windows on the far wall. I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, the same bird I had seen earlier in the kitchen, now sitting on the window sill just outside my dining room. There was a huge tree next to that window so I figured it probably had a nest there that I didn’t know about. Nevertheless, seeing the thing sitting there was a bit unsettling. It wasn’t pecking this time; instead it just sat there as though it were staring at me, watching me almost. I may have been a little foolish but the thing was starting to give me the creeps so I reached over and closed the drapes as quickly as I could, shielding me and my child from the tiny peeping sparrow.
I took the baby and sat down in my favorite chair- a huge, soft, plush rocker-recliner. It was old, bought at a second hand store, but it was the most comfortable piece of furniture I owned and my two small children loved to be rocked to sleep in it. My son reached for the bottle as I brought it to his mouth. His eager little mouth opened at once and began sucking on the nipple. His eyes were wide with wonder and relief as he stared up at me. At last the house was quiet again. I brushed a bit of strawberry-blond hair from his face and smiled down at him. His tiny fingers curled around the bottle and lightly touched my finger as I held the bottle. My son was at peace finally and so I could relax a bit as well. While I continued to hold the bottle for him, I rested my head back against the rocker and closed my eyes. I pushed against the rug with my foot and rocked the chair back and forth slowly. It was almost hypnotic the way the chair moved. I could hear the clock in the background ticking softly. A dog barked outside somewhere. My daughter was still asleep upstairs and for that I was thankful. I fully intended to go back to bed once the baby had been fed and changed. I was still so tired, no, I was exhausted. The past three weeks of being woken up every two hours for a feeding was beginning to take its toll on me. My wife was no help at all. The first week she had been in bed the entire time and I had to wait on her hand and foot as well as taking care of our two year old and new born. I had taken some time off work so that I could help with the children but I suddenly found myself being both mom and dad. Melody was gone more and more now. She would either be out with her friends or over at her sisters and of course she left both of the children with me. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do when I did return to work. I didn’t like the idea of leaving my children with strangers, but I liked the idea of leaving them with their mother even less. The stress of my situation was really weighing me down. There were days when all I wanted to do was crawl under my covers and stay there, block out the world and all of my responsibilities but I knew that wasn’t even an option; I had kids to take care of. I pulled the bottle from my son’s mouth and he reluctantly gave it up. I sat it on the end table then sat him forward and patted his back till he gave up a little burp. I think the burp startled him because he looked all around as if he were trying to figure out where it came from. That made me chuckle some, seeing his wide and curious eyes scouting around the room. I laid him back against my arm again and offered him the bottle which he took happily. I really had to strive to stay awake. Every time I laid my head against the back of the chair I would start to drift off again.
I had just about fallen asleep when I heard a noise that snapped me awake once more. The soft pecking I had heard earlier had suddenly started again but this time it wasn’t coming from my kitchen. The bird that I had seen perched outside my dining room window had now moved to the living room. That can’t be the same bird. I thought. What the hell is wrong with that thing?
I started to grow a little concerned, not that I actually thought it could break through the glass and attack; I had just seen enough horror films with birds as the main antagonist, that my mind started making up all these extremely far-fetched scenarios.
Don’t be ridiculous. I scolded myself. It’s only a bird.
The baby in my arms pulled away from the bottle and yawned. I knew the look on his face, in five minutes he would be asleep. I burped him one last time then laid him on the changing table so that I could clean him up and put a clean diaper on him. He seemed content now that he was fed and dry. He closed his eyes, yawned again, and then stuck his thumb into his mouth. Gently, I placed him in the bassinet and pulled a thin blanket over his tiny body. My daughter would be awake soon I knew, but I still probably had an hour or an hour and a half to rest up before hand. I prayed silently that she would sleep in today.
Going back to my own bed I collapsed against the mattress, my legs hanging over the side. I was too sleepy even to cover myself up but it didn’t matter, the house was warm and winter was melting away as spring began to emerge. I pulled my legs up onto the mattress and straightened myself out so that my head rested on the pillow and then closed my eyes. Sleep would come over me quickly and I more than welcomed it. The rhythmic ticking of the clock in the dining room, along with the soft breaths of my son, were more than enough to lull me to sleep.
I was content, resting peacefully, but it was short lived. Once again I heard the sound that I was beginning to hate. Peck, peck, peck…it was growing louder now, almost as if the bird itself were getting annoyed with me. Peck, peck, peck! It persisted, demanding that I pay attention to it. “Oh come on!” I growled as I sat up in the bed. “Are you kidding me?”
Peck, peck, peck! The sound was echoing in my ears. “I hear you!” I yelled angrily at the window above my bed. “What the hell do you want?”
I bit my lip suddenly as the baby whimpered from his bassinet. Shit. I thought. Please don’t wake up, please!
As luck would have it, the baby didn’t wake. I turned to the window and glared angrily at the sparrow. “Go away!” I hissed under my breath.
The bird cocked it’s head to the side, starred at me, then pecked again.
“Oh for God’s sake,” I jumped out of my bed and stormed off into the other room. I could still hear the birds pecking in my head as I walked into the kitchen to get myself a drink of water. I was standing at the kitchen sink, glass in hand when I looked up. There in the window was the damn bird again starring at me. “Go away…” I hissed again. When the bird just sat there, watching me, I grew impatient and quickly opened the window and shooed it away. The bird fluttered its wings then flew off into one of the trees in my back yard. “Thank God.” I whispered as I shut the window again, relieved that the bird was finally gone. I put my glass in the sink, turned off the light and walked back into the dining room. I suddenly wanted to throw a shoe at the stupid clock. I went back to my room and back to my bed. Finally, I could get a little sleep, I hoped. I was about to lay back down when I heard it again. Peck, peck, peck…
I shook my head in defeat as I threw myself back against the mattress, “Why?” I whispered. “Why won’t you go away?”
As I turned and looked at the window, locking eyes with the sparrow, my phone suddenly rang. “You’re lucky.” I growled at the bird.
Sliding out of my bed once more I rushed to the phone to answer it before the ringing woke either of my children.
I was surprised to hear my mother’s voice on the line. I’d had a falling out with both of my parents a while ago and hadn’t spoken to either of them in months. I left a message with my sister asking her to tell my parents about my son’s birth but that was weeks ago and I found it hard to believe that my mom would be calling me now, after so much time, and so early in the morning just to congratulate me on another child.
She wasn’t calling me about my son though. She sounded tired and her voice cracked as though she had been crying. I asked her what was wrong and the line went silent. I could hear her breathing so I knew that she was still there but for what seemed like a very long time she didn’t speak, or couldn’t. Then, very quickly and abruptly, she said the three words that have haunted me for many years since that day. “You’re dad’s dead.” She whispered into the phone.
I was dumbstruck. I literally didn’t know what to say, or how to react. “What?” I asked her, “What did you just say?”
“You’re dad’s dead.” She repeated.
I sat down on the bed and took a deep breath. So many thoughts were going through my mind right then. My hands were shaking and I could feel the tears coming. My dad was, for many years, my best friend. We had been very close but over the last year and a half he’d refused to even speak to me which totally broke my heart. Even when my sister told me that he’d had a stroke followed by a very bad heart attack and was in the hospital he’d refused to see me. I stood outside his hospital room arguing with my mother about it but in the end she turned me away as per my father’s wishes. I was devastated. I had so much to say to him, things I wanted to tell him, things that I needed to apologize for but now, now it was too late. I started sobbing into the phone and I began asking her all sorts of questions. How, when, what happened? I was practically yelling at her through the phone. “Hold on.” She said to me, “I can’t handle this.” She handed the phone to my brother who did his best to answer all of my questions though it must have been hard to understand me through the sobs.
“Come to the house,” He told me, “If you want to see him before he’s taken to the funeral home.”
“Okay.” I whispered through my tears. I thanked him for calling and told him that I would be there as soon as I got the kids dressed then I hung up the phone. I sat there for a long time and tried my best to process what I had just heard. My father had passed away that morning, sometime after six. My mother had found him and called 911 but he was already gone by then. They figured he’d had another heart attack and passed away quietly in his sleep.
I glanced up to my bedroom window, expecting to see the sparrow still sitting there but it was gone. The first time I’d noticed the sparrow and heard it’s pecking was sometime after six while I was making my sons bottle. Was it trying to tell me about my father? Had my father sent it? Was that bird the way he planned to get his final message to me? It seemed entirely likely to me. My father was an avid outdoors man. He loved hunting and fishing and when I was a child we would often take walks in the woods or near the lake. He would point out different birds to me, tell me about them, and occasionally snap pictures of them. So why not send a bird, a creature that he so admired, to tell me of his passing?
I forced myself to get up, shower, and get dressed and then I woke both of my children and got them dressed as well. An hour later I was at my parent’s house saying good-bye to my father and regretting that I never got the opportunity to say more to him while he was alive.
When I returned home that evening I was heartbroken. The one person that I admired and respected more than anyone else in this world was gone. I’d never felt so alone in my life. I looked for the sparrow over the following days but it never returned. The message had been received, it’s job was done, but a small part of me still finds comfort in thinking that perhaps my father, whom I missed dearly, still loved me enough to come to me in the form of a tiny bird to say good-bye. I suppose I’ll never really know for sure, but I still cling to that memory and to that belief. Sometimes it’s the only thing that gets me through the day, thinking, hoping, in some small way, that the bird that came to me that day helped to mend the rift between us, and allow my father’s spirit to move on in peace.
Story Submitted by