Against all odds she shouldn’t have made it this far. It had been a very close call, a miracle she wasn’t dead. Dragging her tiny body along the jagged gravely ground, she knew her immediate need was escape from the danger. Her pain and the oven-like heat combined to make her struggles more unbearable. But she couldn’t give up; she wouldn’t give up. Her two little ones were waiting her return with growling tummies and parched throats.
“Where’s Mom? Why has she been gone so long?” they wondered. “We’re hungry!” They hadn’t eaten since early morning and thought about calling to her but knew it would only make things worse. Mom had taught them early on to stay quiet whenever she was away.
Life was hard this summer and it was becoming do-or-die for many a family. “Maybe we could go for help,” the youngsters brooded together, trying to be brave. “No, Mom said never to let others know if you are weak. That’s dangerous.” Snuggling close, they decided to stay put and wait. “Mom will be home soon.” Their home was a small space off the upstairs bathroom. Though hot in the afternoon, it cooled quickly in the evening; the leaky roof offered some protection from most of the elements.
Crawling now inch by aching inch, she scraped her way over the rough terrain, first on one side and then the other, drawing closer to her goal. She could almost smell the water as the vapors in her nostrils told her the shallow pond was very near; her vigor was almost exhausted. A few sips and she’d be able to regain enough strength to make it home. One more lunge and then another…she was finally there.
Softly she placed her head down in the warm water and slowly drew in the life-sustaining fluid. “Oh my, what sweet water! I must rest now; I must rest.” Her bruised body slid into the shallow water, reclining as she soaked for what seemed but a moment. Soon she was fast asleep.
Startled out of her slumber, she felt her vigor returning, her senses stepping out of a fog. “I must get home; I must get home. My babies need me.” With great effort she rolled her tired body from one side to the other in the soothing waters, soaking up every last ounce of moisture for the homeward trek. Her wobbly feet shook and tickled as she stood erect. She shuddered as her memory returned.
“The accident; yes, I remember now.” A car had veered in front of her as she was crossing the street. The forceful blow had knocked the wind out of her and nicked one of her feet. If she hadn’t dropped to the ground, she would have been killed. Close to losing consciousness, she had wiggled over into a nearby clump of grass on the side of the street. She rested there for a long time, knowing she had to find water; the blazing sunlight was dehydrating her lithe body. She crawled into the brush and headed for a small pool she remembered was nearby.
That’s where this story began, a wounded mother scrounging food for her little ones on a blistering hot day, using all her survival skills to recoup from a hit-and-run accident. Her mind was clearing now and after flexing her body and limbs, she took comfort in knowing she would soon be back with her sweet little darlings. With uplifted spirits and a joyful heart, she soared home and lived to see another day. Such was the life of a rock dove in a big city one hot summer day a few years ago.
(The thought for this story came from a true experience with an exhausted rock dove floundering in my ground-level backyard bird bath, one hot summer day a few years ago.)
~copyright Jeanne E. Webster