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Robin's Egg Blue
By Jill ONeill
Friday, November 29, 2002
My daddy was as good a god fearing Christian man as there was in the neighborhood. He worked hard taking care of the family, my momma and me, as best as he knew how. It weren't his fault though that times weren't good; but he had the backbone enough to take in an orphan child, adopted as his own flesh and blood, more than most people got the strength or gumption to do. Five days a week he would leave the home in the early hours in the morning, even before the sun would rise to light up the day, and go to work down at the factory. Then, after being away all day when the sun shone brightly, he'd come home, as the sun turned into a giant red ball settling low behind the mountains, all tired sweaty and sore. He would sit in his big easy chair with a newspaper and a beer, turn on the radio and listen to the news, relaxing before dinner. Momma an' me, well we tried to be quiet then. In the kitchen she would carefully prepare the evening meal, and I would hang around her apron strings trying to keep out of the way and avoid getting stepped on. Finally, she'd give me a cookie, and shoo me outside to play. "You go and play quiet so as not to disturb your daddy none. He's done all tuckered out, a little rest and he'll be right as rain."
Right as rain. I heard that a lot growing up. Momma'd say it. Daddy'd say it. Once I even heard the preacher saying it to old widow Johnson when she was selling the farm and moving out to the city to be with her daughter. Right as rain. Of course it weren't till later that we all found out what widow Johnson was really up to, an' I doubt if the preacher would have agreed with it being right as rain. 'Course that was later, an' the preacher didn't know at the time. None the less folks here would always be saying something, god willing, right as rain, what have you. Always a comment to help grease the wheels of civility. Course for us kids it was please and thankyou.
As the trees in spring leafed out, I would climb high into the branches, looking for nests. Sometimes, if I was real lucky, I would find a fresh nest, with eggs and the momma bird sitting on them. On this day, I got real lucky and found a robin's nest. You see, dressed in my nice and pretty robin's egg blue dress I was like the robins. Flying around singing and as pretty as a picture. Robins are real nice and happy birds, heck they don't even mind if it rains. Out they are in their little yellow boots pecking their way around the puddles. I didn't mind the rain either, out in my rubber boots splashing about in the puddles myself. Yep, right as a rain, a child and a puddle, just go together naturally.
She sat there, calm as could be, looking at me out of those blank bird eyes. The movement of her head, sharp tics, nods and turns, eyes looking all that time, searching for the hidden dangers. I sat on the branch, trying to be still and quiet, watching her. I was like that bird, cause when I am on the ground I am always looking for the hidden danger. You just never can tell what's gonna jump out at you. My daddy says that a person's gotta look out for themselves cause ain't no one else gonna do that for ya. An' iffin ya don't, well then ya best get ready for the calamity cause right as rain it's gonna come. Like I said, right as rain was big with my daddy, that and bird brained ideas. He'd say that was a lame bird brained idea when things went poorly, or when you sat there idly dreaming, he call it being bird brained. Daddy thought that birds were stupid, but they ain't ya know. Birds is smart, a lot smarted than people reckon on giving them credit for. Now how could I tell daddy about the birds when he's already made up his mind?
Robin's eggs are a pretty blue, like the sky. Ain't no mark on em to spoil it. No clouds on a robin's egg. Just smooth and blue. Pretty as a cloudless sky on a summer's day. So, that day that I saw the speckled egg in the nest, I knew that there was something wrong. Billy, he knew more than most kids about birds and stuff, so I went to ask him all about this speckled egg. Now Billy is older, and he comes back with me. I gotta show him the nest or he ain't gonna tell me nothing. Up there, high into my secret place, my private plce, he climbs, all the while talking about cowbirds, and what they's all about.
Yep, it's a cowbird egg. See Jillie, the momma cowbird lays her egg in another bird's nest, and then leaves. That way the momma ain't gotta do nothing cause every one knows that the momma cowbird is just a tramp. Yep, cowbirds is just whores. Now, by leaving her child for some one else to look after, the momma cowbird gets to go out and never think about her kids and play around all night, sort of like widow Johnson was doing. You see the other bird ends up adopting the cowbird's chick. Now, the cowbird chick hatches early, and grows fast, so when the other bird's chicks hatch, they's behind. The cow bird chick is stronger, and tosses the other chicks out of the nest jest so they can get all the food cause cowbirds is greedy. The real chicks, once they fall out of the nest, well they die. Only the cowbird chick survives. Cool huh? Course my paw says that we oughta shoot the cowbirds when we sees em cause they is a blight on God's green acre. Next year, when I'm thirteen I am going to get a rifle from my paw for my birthday, and then there ain't going to be no cowbirds left in these here parts.
I can still see the wide grin on Billy's face as he walked away dreaming about his gun. I didn't say nothing, jest let it sit in my mind. I knew that I gotta do something about that cowbird egg to save my robins. I went home, still thinking about what Billy had said about the cowbirds, widow Johnson, and the killing of the robin family's chicks. Yep, thinkin' about family; momma, daddy, and me, that's the family. Kept thinking about the cowbirds, and what the chick does. I'm adopted, an I ain't got no brothers or sisters.
Momma, why ain't I got brothers and sisters?
The eggshell broke, the insides smashed free and flowing out; the clear white, the small yellow yoke, and the tiny red spot. The blood. I knew that meant that the egg was fertile, and would have produced a chick. I looked at the egg, the mess, and suddenly I felt sick. My stomach hurt, churning back on my dinner, momma was going to be mad at me if I threw up her meal. Ain't no point in wasting food, there are children starving in China, or India. Always some far away place that ain't no one ever been to say iffin its so or not. Must be, cause all the adults say it, and adults know stuff like that. I fought desperately to hold back, all the while I was realizing that I had killed the baby cowbird, just like a cowbird chick would have killed the robins.
Dear lord, I'm an evil, ugly cowbird type person!
At that, I threw up all over my pretty robins egg blue dress. I weren't no robin after all, just an ugly old cowbird pretending to be a robin. Right as rain, I was born a killer.
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