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MAX BIRD—My Life
Translated by Janice Kimball
Robbed from our poacher for just a few pesos, we were in shock. My siblings and I had not even had a chance to utter a single squawk. Incarcerated in a strange man’s back seat, that reeked of havoc, along with a multitude of other feathered creatures whimpering with varying dialects, we were seemingly as one species, but each of us saw the others through foreign eyes. It is a wonder we did not all go deaf on that tortuous ride away from the tropical forest that nature had once provided as our home. The car vibrated fiercely as the motor roared like a growling monster, the sound of it only drowned out by our screaming. We screamed with a force unimaginable, from such tiny creatures as us, from fear and anguish, until we all lay limp, finally silenced by our own exhaustion. We arrived in a Mexican town, adjacent to a freeway.
He took us out of the car, our infant shape still bearing the form of the egg we came from, not yet in plume, and too afraid to whimper, as he placed us under a big shade tree in the plaza. We were no longer roasting in his back seat under the frying sun, for which we could have been thankful, we were horror stricken instead. There were a big lot of us birds, maybe 30, in our conglomeration of odd and beat up cages and handmade baskets piled up on the sidewalk on a crowded market day. We were almost stampeded as hundreds of huarached feet, cowboy boots, swishing skirts, dogs, children and marimba band bumped into us, as we blocked the sidewalk. He pulled serapes out of his trunk, covering us, so that our beating hearts would not stop in terror. It was also to shield us from the prying eyes of the law, which were designed to protect life such as ours.
He left us there, and in a time that was too short for him, returned. Word was out that the wildlife protection officials were in town. He could not make his customary visit to the cantina. Grimacing, while still clutching on to the bag that contained the huge syringe he had purchased to make feeding us faster, he snatched away our cover with flourish, feverishly tossed us back into the car and we were on the road again, his eyes slyly glancing from side to side and into the rear view window nervously.
We were unloaded into a chicken coop, vacant, except for some canaries, who were not singing. Weak and parched we were saved as the man’s wife and daughter dutifully dashed in with a pail of water and eye droppers filled with sugar water to revive us. The stop at the Farmacia (drug store) was at great risk, and he did it just to make their life easier, he told them handing over the bag containing the large syringe. They were not impressed, mumbling that they were tired of it all. In this atmosphere we waited for what else was to become of us, and I was hardly old enough to have my eyes fully open, but in the quiet darkness, our bellies full, we slept well that night.