It was one of those sunny days you dream will last forever. Gulls spiralled effortlessly on unseen thermals and the air buzzed with stifling hazy brilliance. Somewhere, someone was listening to the Beach Boys.
I sat on the doorstep drinking cold beer and watching the children play in the yard. They were absorbed in sowing dreams; digging holes and carefully planting invisible seeds. My wards for the day were my girlfriend’s kids; a ragamuffin boy with wingnut ears called Ross and his runny nosed, pouty lipped cherubim sister Kerrie. It was Kerrie who seemed to officiate over the cultivation, holding the watering can and instructing Ross in the digging of holes with a small trowel. Both were smeared in mud which had caked dry into their clothes and over their smudged faces.
Suddenly Ross stood erect and picked his way through the flower beds treading on a few sleeping bluebells and pansies on the way. He dropped his trowel and stooped to pick something up and made his way back. He was now completely absorbed in the object he cradled in his hands, he had found a dead bird. He approached me on the doorstep and held out a dead Starling; his black plumage reflected with green and purplish metallic sheen in the bright sunlight, his breast was spangled with small pale creamy spots, and his bill was lemon yellow. He was altogether beautiful and he was altogether dead.
“Fix him” Ross said.
I smiled and told him regretfully that I could not. Ross had a concerned expression of deep felt compassion on his streaked and muddy face, he was not about to take no for an answer,
“Fix him” he implored.
“I can’t” I replied, “Once a thing is dead, there is nothing can be done to fix it.”
Ross was unconvinced and holding the bird out to me said,
“Then take him to Kevin.”
“Kevin?” I enquired.
“Take it to Kevin,” repeated Ross.
He expected me to take possession of the bird, which I did reluctantly. Ross knew nothing of death or of germs – I was a little ashamed of my aversion to the poor creature.
“Who is Kevin?” I enquired.
Ross rolled his eyes and told me in a slightly exasperated tone what everyone else patently knew,
“When you die,” he explained patiently, “You go to Kevin and he fixes you and sends you home!”
I smiled and Ross did too, now that I understood it would surely only be a short time before his little friend would be restored to health and on his way home. I sat there before the expectant gaze of brother and sister at a complete loss for words.
I knelt before the grave of ‘Birdie’ flanked by the two solemn mourners. Ross seemed quite sad, but Kerrie appeared more curious than sad,
“Will he grow again?” she asked.
“Maybe,” I replied.
Ross gave me a quizzical look.
“Maybe his soul just flew away and he’ll be reborn as a baby bird in another nest somewhere else.”
This answer seemed to cheer them and after crudely replanting some flowers on Birdie’s grave they had returned to their games having forgotten the entire episode. At least that’s what I thought, until a couple of weeks later when Ross called me excitedly outside. There on a fence post at the end of the garden a starling sat singing his heart out in the afternoon sun, “It’s Birdie,” beamed Ross, “he’s fixed.”