When Grandmother came at Christmastime, she got a room at the Omni, in the
I never noticed before but the
Submerged, I pushed deep into the deep end. I banked frigid against the far wall and came back to shallow water, Grandmother and Henry hooting loudly. May clutching at her mother's side. My foot thumped on the pool floor and I felt it reverberate, like a drum. I felt the bottom with my foot; it was steel plate, painted white. The sides of the pool were metal.
I realized in a moment, that myself, that all of us were swimming in thousands of gallons of water, suspended four stories up by what was essentially a steel pan welded into the ribs of a building. Nobody else seemed concerned with my discovery. Henry with his water-wings and Grandmother's thin arms under his belly. I thought about the welds holding the sides together, the welds stitching the tub to the beams, the beams, whatever was directly underneath. The five of us were laughing to keep warm; splashing in the steel pelvis of what passes for a skyscraper here.And it held us up.
I went back Sunday to finally fetch the sparrow carcase; a hatchling lying under a copper downspout at the head of the alley on Davis, a block up from Henry's school. I had been eyeballing it since it fell, rain water washing the tiny body clean. We'd walked past it for months though I hadn't pointed it out to Henry. Two days before the last day of school we'd run past it at a full sprint in a heavy May downpour; him clutching onto my back, my arms behind me holding him up, both of us laughing. Last week I finally showed it to him.
"What do you want it for?" he asked.
"I save them for mommy, little bones. Do you remember the duck skull we had?"
"Yes," he said
"And the bat in the glass box? I found that in an attic I was working on."
"Oh." There were roly-polys crawling in the rib cage, cleaning the last of it. All that was left were a few stems from the base of the feathers and the feathers that make up the wing.
"Is that okay if we bring it home? Does it make you nervous?" I asked.
"No, it's okay. It's cool I think."
It was nearly free of anything other than it's small skeletal mass. The impossibly fragile skull spread thin and open with vast vacancies through it, a perfect arch drawn by it's spine on the cement, each vertebrate the thickness of a nickel.
The last day of kindergarten we saved another baby sparrow from a cat on Stuart. It was pinned down in the gutter by the holly bushes lining the Fox playground. We found a trashed plastic cup in a tree well and Henry helped me gather it from under a van. In the cup it stopped crying but still heaved with it's beak open. I thought the bird was wounded, but it was just flared raw pink showing through new grey feathers set on end. We set it high in a Holly and both hoped it would be okay.
I almost didn't show him the bird in the alley. In Tennessee we lost too many animals. At four he helped me bury our dog Cleatus under two poplars bought at Lowe's for the occasion. Henry helped dig. Ralph dragged himself howling around Henry's room by his forelegs the night I had to drive the cat to be put down in Kingsport. He named Gidget's kitten Hammer four months before she was killed by dogs inside our ancient garden shed. A year ago May, Grandfather was killed in an automobile accident, a month later he almost lost me. He still says he doesn't remember the month I was gone.
Saturday it stormed, a torrent that lasted most of the night. When he rose the next morning I told Henry we ought to go get the baby bird for Mommy. He looked worried. I asked what was wrong. He said "I don't want to pick it up, Dad." I told him of course not, he wouldn't have to touch it. I crunched down the gravel by myself through the alley behind our house.
The bird was gone. Finally washed away, or crushed by some careening drunk. I knelt over the worn white gravels embedded in the concrete to see if i could find any part of it. A kid swung around the alley in a hurry, parked behind a house there and started loading up. He regarded me twice or more, I just about told him to fuck off. He was quick and jerky, agitated in his movements, I expected young woman to come throwing clothes off the back porch. There was only the back half of the pelvis left, with a few knuckled segments of the spine. The skull splintered, it's sparrow frame scattered, I had wanted to weigh it, to think about what remained. I had wanted to think about the socket that held the eye, the space created by the ribs, the ribs like hardened hair. I had wanted to think about it's short story. I had wanted to give it to my wife.