© 2011 Jeanne E Webster. All rights reserved
It was a miracle she wasn’t dead, a thought that sludged through her semi-consciousness as she dragged her minuscule body across the jagged, gravely road on this sultry July day. She knew her immediate need was to escape further peril from those enormous noisy machines called vehicles by heading for the woods nearby. Throbbing pain and oven-like heat merged into an unbearable foe, forcing her to struggle forth on purely survival energy. She couldn’t give up; she wouldn’t give up. Her two little ones were awaiting 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 challenging 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 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 area off the upstairs bathroom of a broken-down bungalow, the house as derelict as a 60 year-old structure could fare. Though stifling in the afternoon, it cooled quickly in the evening; the leaky roof offered some protection from most of the elements.
Crawling now inch by painful inch, she scuffed her way over the rough terrain, first on one side and then the other, drawing closer to home. She could almost smell water as the vapors in her nostrils exposed the presence of a shallow pond not far off, her vigor nearly exhausted. A few drops of liquid and she’d be able to regain some strength, perhaps enough 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, sprawling awkwardly 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 torn 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, numbed to the core. 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 fluttered home and lived to raise her brood and 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.)