“Johnny! That’s a baby bird!” He nodded. “You touched it!” Johnny affirmed with another nod and a bright grin.
“I saved him!”
“Johnny! No! Now the mother will never take him back! Your smell is on him.”
Johnny’s face sunk, and he held the bird closer to his chest. “But…”
“Wild animals are scared of humans, Johnny. You can’t disturb them, or touch the babies.”
“But he was gonna die,” he whispered, looking down at his hands.
“Where did you find him?” she asked, her voice now soothing and warm.
He looked up to her, his eyes nervous and uncertain. “On the ground under the tree in the driveway.”
“You didn’t see the mother?”
“No. I couldn’t even see the nest.”
“Hmm. Well, what do you want to do with him?”
Johnny’s eyes burst back to life. “Can we keep him!”
“I don’t think it would be a good idea to keep a wild bird as a pet, Johnny. He wouldn’t be happy living in a cage.”
“We could teach him to fly!”
His mother chuckled, then looked at her son inquisitively. “How would you do that?”
Johnny’s face scrunched up, seeking the elusive solution, grinding the gears of his curious little head with determined focus.
“I could throw him in the air, in the back yard!” he shouted out at last. “Gently!”
His mother chuckled again, gazing at him for a moment, thinking. “Hmm. That might actually work,” she replied with a smile. Johnny squealed. “And how will you feed him?”
Johnny was hopping up and down, overwhelmed by his own excitement.
“Worms!” he exclaimed. “Birds eat worms, right, Mom? I can catch lots for him!
His mother smiled and nodded. It was settled. Johnny took Mr robin under his wing, and so began the adventure of the boy and the wild bird.
His first course of action was to find somewhere safe to keep Mr Robin. Johnny’s house was home to many playful cats, and a dog- and he didn’t have a bird cage, or really any kind of cage at all. He carried the bird with him, cupped gingerly in his hands. He could feel its warmth in his palm, soft skin and down feathers tickling his skin.
The best place to look, he knew, was the woodshed. Out the back door, down the steps, and there was a medium sized cardboard box, already empty and waiting for him. He cheered in victory and brought the box back into the house. After he’d built a good soft nest with old rags, it was time to try to find some lunch for his new little friend.
Outside, the wind had picked up, the late spring coolness breaking through the heat of the sun. Johnny had his stick in one hand, and a small container in the other, and was on the hunt. He made his way toward the old junk cars near the back of the long, narrow lot, scrutinizing the grass for worms as he went. He slipped past his father’s favourite car, a 1972 Dodge Challenger, pearl white with a scooped hood and racing stripes, roaring beast of a machine, to a pile of rocks along the back fence line. He tossed the stick on the ground and bent down, placing the container in the grass beside him.
The first few rocks he rolled over yielded no worms- only bugs and beetles. He wondered if baby Mr Robin would like them, then decided against it, thinking they were likely too crunchy. Using both hands, he rolled over one of the larger rocks, instantly catching a glimpse of pink as it exposed the dark soil underneath and cracked into the pile of discarded stones to the side. Johnny was quick and dug into the dirt around the worm, gouging out a handful and dumping the entire contents into the container. The worm was small and thin, but it was still a worm. Juicy, delicious lunch for Mr Robin. Johnny rolled over a few more stones, and after finding nothing, decided to deliver his successful catch to his new friend, and headed back to the house.