This story is the earliest surviving piece of my writing that I have. It was written 15 years ago, and the events it describes were 16 years ago. My little sister Emily is now a 19 year old medical student.
Hope you like it.
The day the bird died (Emily's story)
When I was seventeen my mother remarried and had a baby girl called Emily. I left home to go to University soon afterwards so I wasn't able to spend much time with my new sister. I did, however, return 'home' every Christmas holidays. This story is about one Christmas holiday I will never forget.
It was Christmas 1991 and Emily had just had her second birthday. She talked well, and understood more than most people gave her credit for. At the time she was being introduced to two new characters - baby Jesus and Santa Claus. She found them both very interesting, but was inclined to get them confused. For instance, on Christmas Eve Emily was asked to put out some strawberries and beer for Santa Claus. She did this dutifully and the next morning was rewarded with an exciting abundance of presents. Perhaps hoping for the same result from Jesus she deposited a small quantity of her favourite 'man lollies' at the feet of each character in her Nativity set, including the cows and sheep.
After Emily's Christmas was finally over her life reverted to normal. She did, however, now carry with her some vital new information about the mysterious entitities Santa Claus and baby Jesus. She talked about both constantly, the interest evident in her voice.
But neither Santa nor Jesus claimed her affection more than her beloved pets. My stepfather had a dog called Bob. Bob was a brown kelpie. He and Emily were devoted to one another. Every time my mother took Emily shopping in the pram Bob ran beside them, barking at every passerby who so much as looked at Emily.
Emily also had a cat called Caffa. This cat was actually her own pet, although she used to be mine. Unfortunately I was not able to have pets in my new flat, hence the change of ownership. Caffa was a very beautiful long-haired tabby. Emily adored her, although I never knew whether the feeling was mutual. Emily was inclined to be rough in her affections, and thus received many well-placed scratches.
Last, but not least, of the pet brigade, was a blue budgerigar called George. George had somehow learned to say a few words, which he usually said at the most inopportune moments. He provided much amusement for the family because of this. Sometimes George could also be coaxed out of his cage to have a fly around the room, and a cuddle with Emily.
One day, just after Christmas, Emily had succeeded in persuading mum to let her take George out of his cage. She had decided to put him under her jumper because she thought he might be cold. She was stroking his wings tenderly so mum decided it was safe enough to go into the kitchen and make herself some coffee. I went out too because I, also, am partial to coffee. My brother Adrian was playing on the computer downstairs. My stepfather had left the house early to go 'fishing'. Everything was quite calm. Mum made the coffee and we both sat down to drink it and have a quiet cigarette.
From what I gathered from the noise George had escaped and was flying around the room. Mum had to dart in and 'help' Emily catch him. Finally he was caught and resumed his royal place under Emily's jumper. Emily decided, since she was so glad to have him back, to give George a big cuddle. A big, strong cuddle.
Emily came into the kitchen with a look of astonishment on her face. "George not moving no more," she said. Mum told her to give her the bird. Mum took one look at him and started crying very loudly. "George is dead. You've killed George!!" she told Emily angrily. Emily, apparently, had heard the word 'dead' before and knew it was something very bad.
"Can he have one last fly?" she asked in a break from her tears. "No!! George can't have one last fly. He's dead!! He''s never going to be able to fly again. HE'S DEAD!!!" Emily cried louder.
After a while mum had calmed down a bit and it was decided that we were going to have a funeral. Adrian was sent to get an appropriate 'coffin' and I went to get a Bible. Adrian returned with a Community Aid Abroad box. It had a sticker on it which said, "A girt that gives twice." He thought that was very funny but no one else laughed. He had also brought his little Gideon's Bible. I think he brought it to make up for the fact that he'd told me a couple of days previously that the New Testament was written ten years ago because the church got sick of the old one.
When we had all gathered together again we proceeded to a patch of the garden. Adrian dug a hole and put George in the box. I read the twenty-third Psalm. At least I tried to but Adrian kept interrupting to tell me that the words in his Bible were different (he didn't understand about translations). Mum started crying again and Emily followed suit. Mum sprinkled some dirt on the box and Adrian helped to cover it up. We tried to make a cross out of some sticks but it wouldn't stand up straight. In the end we just put two sticks flat down on top of the mound in the shape of a cross.
Mum then explained to Emily that George had gone to birdie heaven with Jesus so it was all alright now. Emily seemed to accept this as she stopped crying and went off to play with her toys. Emily explained to me later that George was nice and safe now in the box with baby Jesus.
A year has passed since then and Emily is now three. She still remembers George and talks about him whenever anyone mentions death. It was a new experience for her. She has also learnt even more new concepts. This was apparent in a letter I received from mum last week. The last few sentences read: "Emily said the other day that you can still love people even if you can't see them and they are not here, because she still loves you and Adrian. She was climbing a tree (at her Burnie home) at the time to see if she could see Hobart."
.............................................Hope you all liked the story.