Lorraine came to live with me 2 weeks ago, having been brought here by a mutual friend. She’d injured herself trying to start a fight, as she had done several times before, and it seemed like she just needed a safe place to convalesce. So I let her move in. Perhaps hanging out in a warm kitchen, with good food and mellow company would help her mend not only her bruises but also her fighting ways.
She’s been great company right from the start. We cohabitate well, and not once has she tried anything with me. I don’t expect her to: she doesn’t have issues with men. Her issues are all female-based. I know better than to get in to the middle of all that. She knows where the problem is. She doesn’t need me getting on her case about it.
Sure, I have encouraged her to be nice, but that’s all. I don’t make a big deal of it. She came here to heal, so my words to her are of that nature. The bellicosity in her blood needs serious therapy, not well-intentioned rambling from me.
We have greeted each other first thing every morning, politely, warmly, even affectionately. We have signed off each night the same way, as I pass her bed on the way to mine. I make sure she is comfortable, and that all her needs have been met, and then say goodnight. Half asleep already, she’ll mumble the same to me.
Between “good morning” and “good night” there is a lot of activity. As I work in the kitchen, she’ll be right there watching me, wanting to help, but not sure what to do. She follows me if I leave the room, and stays near the work island if she knows I am coming back. Her curiosity has taken her all around my work and life. Needless to say, we have bonded in just a matter of days.
We have talked a lot. She can chatter non-stop at times, getting things off her chest, needing me only to listen. I have chimed in with a word or two when she’s been open for it, but mostly I’ll just nod or gave quiet assent.
Trouble came a few days after she moved in. For some reason we still don’t understand, her right leg stopped functioning. I first noticed it when she was sitting awkwardly. She tried to cover it up, but there was no way she could control that leg, and it just splayed out so very un-lady-like. It looked a bit comical, but this wasn’t something one should laugh about. It was obvious there was a problem.
Our mutual friend Abbie, being more familiar with medical matters than I, took her to the doctor a time or two for tests and observation. At this point, we still don’t have an answer.
And as we’ve waited, her condition has worsened.
She was able to limp around with some agility the first few days. Her curiosity was still high, and she expressed the same interest in my work. But there was a sudden deterioration a few days later, and then another.
On a day or two, I’ve taken her to the garden with me while I worked there. How she has enjoyed that! Even with the pain of her debilitation, she would play and dig with gusto in the beds. As I watched her the first time, I saw what an extraordinary being she really is. Beneath all that domestication, underneath all that careful and targeted breeding which produced her line of fighting chickens, down in her heart and soul she longs to be back in the jungles of India. She scratched and flitted her way through one bed, then the next, then another, catching worms and bugs and nibbling on tomato leaves. With temporarily renewed vigor, she became a flaming streak of burnt orange, shooting across the path, through the drainage ditch, and over to the defunct potato tower. More crickets and mealworms!
She rested for a while there, then wandered back over to where I was working. The fresh air and natural foods gave her the ability to be her social self again, and we chatted as I finished clearing the beds. She napped again in some tall grass, then I tucked her under my arm for the walk back up to the house.
Today, I noticed another bothersome development: her left leg is now showing signs of dysfunction, and her overall strength is failing. Her chipper voice has given way to what can best be described as resigned sighs. I fear she might be gone soon. But I am happy, extremely happy, that we’ve had time together. She had a warm place to rest and heal, and as the weather turns colder I realize just how deep a blessing this must be for her.
Not to mention a blessing for me, too. I stated earlier that we bonded, and I wasn’t just saying that. We’ve truly enjoyed being around each other. She followed me around the house because she really wanted to be where I was. She really knew when I was leaving the room for a while—in which case she’d follow me—or if I were leaving for only a moment—in which case she’d wait for my return. She didn’t just casually watch me as I worked. She was attentive.
I learned her vocabulary pretty quickly, those unique sounds for “I’m hungry,” and “I need to get out of the pen now,” and “Can you put me back into the pen?” Lots of “Hey, watcha doin’?” and funny sounds that would equate to the human “Yikes!” And she has various ways of chirping her delight.
She has always said “hello” every time I’ve passed by, and I have done the same. And now, sadly, “hello” is more frequently replaced by “Can you help me?” The last few days, her requests have become more frequent, and convey such thoughts as, “Please move me. I’ve relieved myself but can’t get away from it.”
Her balance is gone now, and she flounders just moving across her pen to get a drink. I know she is saddened by her loss of elegance. Truly, she has been such a gorgeous and elegant bird. She still preens, trying to keep herself together the best that she can. She’s going with dignity and the closeness of concerned friends.
The last couple of evenings, I’ve made it a point to have dinner right next to her. I’ve talked to her and told her how beautiful she is, and what a great spirit she has. She’s chirped back as best she can. Her “hello” as I pass by has lost its strength, but not its depth.
As I put her to bed this evening, I told her once again that it’s been such a pleasure getting to know her. I thanked her for her trust in me. She replied in kind.
Lorraine is asleep now, and I will be soon.
I’ll listen for her soft “hello” in the morning, but I must be willing to accept silence.