[Salvaged from my early, now-dead blog]
“Don’t hurt it because it’s Jesus’ bird.”
So says my niece, her face pressing on the wire cage. She comes to our house with her father with that eager look that reminds you of a puppy. The niece, barely six, goes straight to my birdcage and begins admiring the bird. The bird is a dull gray sparrow that people with a more fabulous, impeccable taste would not care about. But the niece is so happy she’s making babytalk and dishing out to my little sister one clever hypothetical question: “What if it’s my birthday today and I ask for this bird as a gift?”
My little sister is speechless and looks at me.
The birdcage had been empty for months after its first occupant, a talking bird called martines, died of pneumonia and boredom. Well, okay, I admit, it died because I thought it had bronchitis and with my flawless wisdom and logic, I shoved a capsule meant for humans down its throat. The capsule cured the “bronchitis” but killed the bird by staying happily dislodged in the bird’s throat. I blame the capsule.
Besides, the martines was supposed to be able to talk but it couldn’t; I had been trying to make it speak human words like “conflagration,” “sadomasochism,” or “motherfucker.” But the bird would just stare back at me with those dumb, little eyes.
So after the martines died, I bought the sparrow from a street peddler who also sold colored/painted ducklings and quails and frayed-on-the-edges GI Joe action figures.
I asked for a sparrow with neon green feathers because why in hell was he selling pink ducklings and blue quails while the sparrows were left alone with their boring gray-brown coat?
The peddler said, Buy my pink ducklings.
I said, I want sparrows.
The peddler said, Buy my blue quails.
I said, I want the goddamn sparrows.
I don’t have neon green sparrows, the peddler said, but you can do the painting yourself, it’s easy and I can teach you.
I said never mind and bought the bird.
Now, this little niece who would rarely visit us declares her unspeakable intention to have my little birdie.
My sister is shocked with my niece’s impudence that she runs to me and whispers, “She’s asking for the bird.”
It wakes up my snarkiness. So I swagger to the niece by the birdcage and say, “You can’t have this. I’ve sentenced it to die.” And to further annoy her, I poke the cage with my pen and scream, in the way all those maniacs in Hollywood B-movies scream, “Die! Die! Die!”
My little niece screams and proceeds to Jesusify the bird: “It’s Jesus’ bird and now you’re dead because you’re trying to hurt Jesus’ bird. A lightning will strike you.” She tells me I’m a bad, bad, bad person and I won’t go to heaven for trying to kill, kill, kill Jesus’ little birdie.
I’m stunned with her for easily handing me eternal damnation that I gape and say, “Actually, there is no God.”
She looks at me and says, “You’re Lucifer.”
“There is no Lucifer, too,” I say. And to drive home the point, I begin laughing with a mad gleam in my eyes.
She backs off a few steps; now she’s convinced if I’m not Lucifer, I must be something worse, something with a heart so dark it makes you easily lose your faith in all humanity.
My little sister, so used to my antics, just giggles and tells the niece it’s all right, that I’m just kidding. But the niece is now so frightened she clings to her father’s shirt and tries to hide and repeatedly says and points at me, “He’s Lucifer! He’s Lucifer!”
After they left, I solemnly tell my little sister, “There’s no God.” She just laughs. I say, “No, seriously, there is no God.”
She laughs and says, “Who cares?”
I’m surprised. She’s eleven years old and already she’s a budding humanist.
As for the bird, it dies three days later of what I presume to be bronchitis. But something tells me I should blame the capsule, too.
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