The group of boys huddled around in a suspicious circle, their knees hitting together with excitement. Their bodies, small but all the same height, closed off any view of what they were craning their necks to look at on the ground.
Ever a curious child, never afraid of the curious cat’s fate, I wandered over to take a peak. I was lonely and bored, a bad combination for a child to be in.
A gentle bird lay flat on its side, the slow trickle of its internal organs sinking into the concrete. It kept its eye open, seeing everything clearly, as the rest of it had given up.
I stared at the little body, limp but still warm, and then up to the circle of boys, who had now taken to staring at me.
One of them held a toy gun out straight from his body, pointing the mouth towards the fragile skull of the fallen creature.
“Did you do this? I asked, in horror, trying to determine if the gun shot pellets or just made that engine noise when you pulled the trigger, but my words were lost in translation. I was spending the summer with my family in Sweden and often forgot that everyone surrounding me didn’t speak the same language .
I ran quickly to my Aunt Juliet to tell her, as I wasn’t aware of the concept of a tattle tale yet, and relished in the glory of having a riveting story to tell.
She came out with me, shooed the boys away with some Swedish words, although they seemed already bored of the situation. There is only so much excitement in death, then it’s just a waiting game, and not a very fun one at that.
She rung the Swedish equivalent of the RSPCA and talked to them for a long time in Swedish, which made me very frustrated as I should have been the person to know what was going on since it was my discovery. I watched the shadow of the body from the window, its wing soggy and decrepit. The life slowly draining from its tiny eyes. Too slowly.
We were told to go to a quiet place, place the body of the bird on the ground and drop a rock on its head. It was the right thing to do, apparently, it was in pain, we would be helping it.
I was thrilled with all this excitement, and imagined telling my whole class in school back in Ireland when I got home. I thought about all the description words I would use and how I would add in how I pushed one of the boys in the circle. My classmates weren’t here, they’d never know the truth.
There was a small wood behind my grandmother’s house, because Sweden is a lovely place where there are lots of pine woods everywhere. The bird, now resting in a small paper bag, kept its eye open, looking up at its saviours, its rescuers, its future murderers.
“This is a nice spot!” I said, as we came to a clearing with brown fallen pines covering the dark soil.
Juliet placed the bird on to the ground. It looked up at us, gasping for the energy to breathe as its little chest pumped slower and slower. But not slow enough.
My aunt found a rock.
And suddenly it was real. It wasn’t a story anymore. It wasn’t a something that I could use to make my friends think I was cool. It was real, too real. I covered my mouth with my hand and watched.
She handed me the rock.
“I can’t do it.”
I stood over the bird, its new God. I felt the weight of the rock in my hand and tried to let it go. To set it free into gravity.
I handed the rock back.
“I can’t do it.”
So we sat on the prickly ground and waited as gently, very gently, all the air left the thin ribs of the bird.
It let go, just like we had been unable to, and after covering it with a pine branch, we walked home. Our bodies stiff, weighed down by the smooth rock that refused to leave our palms.