It was around 12:30am , and I was returning from my Saturday night shows at Improv Asylum. The shows had gone well, standing-ovation-well actually, but all I could think about was sleeping in preparation for tomorrow's 7a-3p shift. As I walked down my street, talking rapidly on the phone with Jen, about upcoming plans to see her, I had little else on my mind. But as I neared by house I heard fluttering and rasping, and paused the conversation to search for the source.
There, in the middle of the street, lay a small black bird on its back struggling to flip itself over.
Past my initial assessment (clear airway, pulse visible, no open wounds) I had no idea what else to do. I'm a people nurse, not a bird nurse.
I tried to help it flip over by crouching and using the edge of my foot. I got it onto its legs but then a spasmed wracked its frame throwing it onto its back again. It bit at my shoe angrily and I backed off.
"What now?" I asked Jen.
She looked up the number for Animal Rescue while I ran up the stairs to grab a pen to write with. I kicked off my shoes when I entered my apartment out of habit. As I wrote down the number I watched through the window with horror as a cat approached the helpless bird.
"Gotta go!" I hung up the phone and flung myself down the stairs at the cat. The cat stalked off, more disappointed than frightened. The bird eyed me suspiciously and stopped struggling. Playing dead, I thought, smart.
I called the number Jen had given me only to be directed to call the police for an emergency. "Please consider injured animals an emergency," a woman's recorded voice urged. Somehow still I doubted a small black bird counted. I settled for calling the next number listed on the recording: Angell Memorial. The woman who answered the emergency triage phone informed me that she didn't know anyone who would come out for the bird but that if it was clearly suffering, I could bring it to the hospital and they would euthanize it.
The bird at my feet decided I wasn't a threat and began fighting to get up once more. Euthanasia? I felt like I had seen more than one show on Animal Planet where a bird is nursed back to health by wildlife experts, but I was proving to be a poor resource for this case. Still, I couldn't leave it in the street to be toyed with by a cat or hit by a car. Yes. A quiet dignified death would be best. Now where did I put that shoe box?
As I stood there the bird suddenly flipped itself over. It looked right at me and then did an about face and started to walk down the street.
I called Jen back.
"It got up, and I'm now following it. I think it broke a wing, because it's hopping but it won't fly."
"You're following it?"
"Well, yeah." I explained my plan which was to try to get it into a box. If I could bring it to the hospital maybe they could keep it safe until someone could look at the wing in the morning.
"Do you have a box with you?"
I admitted that I did not, but it was trash night so if I followed the bird long enough I was bound to find someone with a bird appropriate container in their recycling.
Out loud the plan sounded less logical. Also, I was barefoot from when I kicked off my shoes.
"You know what, Jen, the bird isn't suffering any more. I'm going home."
And it was a good plan until I realized that besides removing my shoes when I get home I have two other very, very responsible habits:
Hanging up my keys and,
resetting the lock.
I tried several options for re entry including calling my roommate, and ringing the top floor's doorbell. No success. I even considered sleeping in my car*. Finally, I called Juan, my landlord.
He opened the door in his pajamas and, to make things somehow infinitely worse, a neck brace.
I felt myself blush. "I'm so sorry, I found a bird outside and I came in and then forgot my keys."
And all he said was, "Okay."
* An idea which was immediately dispelled by the less- than- thrilling prospect of having to show up for work the next day smelling like old hairspray, in post performance clothes, eyes ringed with mascara, barefoot.