It was a small bird, coloring to match hers. Wings sticking out of her mouth on two sides. Held gently, all things relative. (No doubt to prolong the utility of the still-living toy.)
It took some effort, but I got the bird, chased away the cat. The cat, ours. The bird, no one's.
The bird had a tiny wing wound, and a spot on her short, fragile neck where feathers were missing. I put a tiny spot of Neosporin on the wound, some vitamin E oil.
I attempted to nurse it to health. Put it in a box. With newspaper, New York Times articles referencing the disaster in the Gulf. A soft nest in one corner of paper towel. I took to calling it "her."
By morning, she seemed to be surprisingly doing well. She would hop a little, and chirp loudly, fly a short distance in the bathroom. Young, but feathered. Not a baby bird - but small bits of fluff still clung just under her wings. An adolescent that Annabeth dubbed "Fred."
While articles on the web seemed to align, faithfully telling me not to attempt to raise a small, especially wounded bird, on my own - wildlife rehab centers are closed on Memorial Day.
Annabeth was especially concerned. She didn't sleep the first night, convinced the bird would die. She said prayers, she cried, she woke up - propelled to find us two floors below - caught in an un-recountable nightmare.
I attempted to feed the bird - water, which she drank a little of; a watery cat food mixture, a tiny bit of mushy banana. She wouldn't eat. Her chirps continued, but her hops looked more enfeebled.
I was twitchy that second night. Job hunting online, unwilling - somehow - to go to bed. Eventually, I gave up. I opened the closed bathroom door, annoyed that the light had been left on. I looked in the box. She had given up, too. More thoroughly than I.
One bird. Taken by one cat. I dug a hole, chipping through Georgia clay and poorly disguised construction debris. Ten short inches down, maybe a foot. I said a quiet prayer. It was two AM.
When Annabeth wakes up, it will be June. And there will be no little bird to drive out to the rehab center - our one plan for the first day of the first full week of summer. She will cry, and I will feel responsible.
Innocent bird, gone. Guilty cat, here. It is her nature to feed on the small things, coloring matching hers. It is her wont to crouch in the grass, pounce, take, celebrate. We will love her no less, and we will mourn her next victory.