Christinia Robertson

© Copyright 2021 by Christina Robertson

Photo by Victor Sauca on Unsplash
For that one moment, we were all saved.

I pulled up to the curb and saw my neighbor standing, wrapped in a sweater, outside her house. “Thank god you’re home”, she called as I got out of the car. “I need help.”

Chris had been ill. Cancer had returned after fifteen good years. Living alone, tolerating treatments, she was prone to episodes of stone cold fear, florid loneliness. I sympathized, truly, but hadn’t wanted to establish myself as the person on call, the one she would rely on, didn’t want that intimate responsibility. Still, we had been neighbors for nearly twenty years and I liked her, enigmatic, sensitive soul that she was. I hoped maybe she just needed to talk, some reassurance, or, perhaps, had simply locked herself out of the house. But, here she was, tears streaming down her face, begging my assistance. I was worried it was something I wouldn’t be able to fix, I wouldn’t be equipped to handle. I was right.

I don’t know what to do! There has been a tiny bird sitting on the rose trellis outside my window since last night…all through the rainstorm and wind and cold, it hasn’t moved! I’m afraid it is dying! I can’t bring myself to touch it. I thought you might know what to do!”

Looked upon as the neighborhood encyclopedia on birds, I am really just your average appreciator. But, as an amateur gardener and overall Nature lover I’ve somehow managed to become the go to for the definitive word on anything that grows or creeps around. Chris believed I would know just what to do in this situation and I certainly didn’t want to let her down. I was, however, filled with trepidation because, in terms of animal behavior, I am basically clueless.

Nervously, I left the sidewalk and tiptoed carefully through Chris’ frontage, a tangle of Bridal Wreath and climbing roses, making my way slowly toward a very tiny gray tuft atop the iron trellis that leveled itself at the base of Chris’ living room window. I was hoping to find it to be a clot of earth and grass, or maybe a scrap of wet newspaper that blew and caught in a funny place, plastered onto this trellis. But as I got closer, it did appear to be a bit of fur. It was a field mouse, or so I thought, and it had died, right there, frozen to the top of the iron perch, perhaps in the surprising cold we endured in the early November blast last night. I drew closer then and noticed it had no ears or tail that I could determine. The odd little creature was sopping wet. It seemed to be moving slightly, tottering, in the way I had seen our old parakeet rock on the perch before it dropped to its death. This weird little scrap of flesh wasn’t dead, not yet.

What kind of bird is it?” Chris called out.

I’m not so sure it’s a bird,” I said, “Could be a field mouse or a vole…” But what would either of those critters be doing at the top of a trellis in the rain? On the other hand, I’d never seen such a minute bird, nor one that would ride out an overnight rainstorm out in the open.

It’s a sweet little bird, I know it.” She repeated, convinced.

Sure enough, as I stood motionless and stared, it turned its head slightly and I glimpsed a long, black, needle-like bill. Goodness, this tiny being was a hummingbird! But what was it doing sitting in the cold rain, unprotected?

I turned to look at Chris. “You’re right. You won’t believe this, but I’m pretty sure it’s a hummingbird! A very wet hummingbird!” The news only made her begin wringing her hands.

What do we do?” Her voice was shaky, pathetic. I was picturing how weird this whole scenario might look to someone passing by.

Well, we probably should just leave it alone,” I said, “Let Nature do its thing…I’m sure it knows what to do for itself.”

This was not comforting to Chris whose face was shiny with tears beneath her limp, thinning hair. “But it may have gotten too cold last night! It may be too weak to fly. There has to be something…”

Seeing how distraught she was, I threw myself towards the first idea that came to mind, regardless of its clumsiness or silliness. I ran up the stairs into my house, found an old wool sock of my husband’s and rolled it, fashioning it into a nest. When I emerged again with my man made nest, Chris was disappointed. She voiced doubt it would work, even that I would be able to succeed in picking the tiny thing up and depositing it inside the cup of the sock without dropping it or scaring it to death. “It’s too fragile!” Chris warned.

I had no idea what to do. This woman was counting on me and I was drawing a blank slate. I felt stupid and inept. And though I was compelled to try something—anything—I was also afraid that whatever attention I paid to this delicate, drenched pixie of a creature, the interaction itself would prove fatal. That certainly wasn’t what I wanted poor Chris, in her own life so alone and afraid, to witness. I knew there was a lot more riding on this mission than met the eye. The outcome here, if I succeeded, could deliver much needed encouragement to Chris. It had to do with faith.

I set the sock nest aside on a step and scanned her garden, then mine. An inviting twig? But then what? Should I try to build a shelter for it, maybe with leaves? I knew these ideas were foolish. I spotted my last chance. Somehow my potted Lantana had survived into November. It must have been that it was in a very sunny spot, close to the house and its ambient warmth. I knew hummingbirds were attracted to the color red. I remembered that from a funny encounter with a Ruby Throated Hummingbird who hovered close to me as I sipped my coffee on a screened in porch once on vacation. I’d been wearing a bright red T-shirt and my host explained this phenomenon to me as we giggled in amazement, watching the hummer watch me. I went over and plucked a tiny florette from one of the deepest orange clusters in my plant. I prayed my version of a prayer.

I couldn’t have moved any slower. My approach to the shivering hummingbird was stealthier than a cat’s. I was holding out the teeny vermillion florette between my fingers. Closer, closer. I didn’t even breathe or blink my eyes. The tiny being, itself, blinked, and, to my utter disbelief, pointed its needle-bill toward my fingers. A long, black, threadlike tongue unfurled from the bill and reached out to my offering, reached and entered the tiny cup of the flower and drank from it. I got a chance to see that my fingertips were bigger than the diminutive bird’s head. When it finished sucking the mini dram of nectar, the little thing shook itself dry. It was warm gray and soft, likely a female. She looked this way and the other, then leapt off the iron trellis, hovered for a second and darted across the street into the trees.

Chris and I stared at each other. Our mouths were open, but speechless. I was more surprised than she. I hadn’t thought something like that was possible. I hadn’t thought anything would or could make a difference. I hadn’t even wanted to get involved. Chris had been the believer. For that moment in time, we were all saved.

I am an ex-therapist, ex-floral designer, writer, and bird nut (I even embroider them on commission) living in Evanston IL. My MA and professional background in psychiatric settings developed in me a fascination for Nature's terrible and phenomenal beauty within people. Since retiring, my childhood fascination for other creatures has come back to me. I am a member of the Off Campus Writers Workshop and my fiction and creative nonfiction pieces have appeared in a number of print and on line journals.  While I am a published author I have never made more than $500 a year at the craft.

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