Listen to them Birds—Pandors Andre-Beatty
Listen to them Birds
“Listen to them birds.” The old man who usually sits in the park all day, crumpled paper bag around his beer, now sits on the bottom of their stoop.
“Listen little man,” He points to the sky, now bright and clear.
The storm had passed. A soggy mess of trees and cars and salt water left behind in its wake.
“It’s a song of joy and praise. They’re telling us to wake up! It’s a new day!”
Behind the shuddered windows and sand-bagged doors sleepless eyes are rubbed. Powerless light switches flicked on and off and on. Cell phones checked again, but still no signal. Refrigerators dark interiors rummaged for something to eat, as long as it still smells good.
Slowly the boy emerges into the new day and hears the birdsongs reverberating through the still air. Their sound a cacophony of trills and chirps, uninterrupted by the sound of buses, or car horns or even the dull drone of airplanes flying overhead. Living in the city he has never heard the sound this many birds in his life. It fills him with wonder.
He watches the old man from the top of his stoop, noticing how his clothes hang wet and heavy.
“Where they go last night? Where they sleep?” he asks the man at the bottom of the stairs.
“I took them home with me and let them stay in the rafters.”
The little boy nodded. He didn’t know what rafters were but they sounded like they could float.
“I’m gonna go see if my mama has any food. You want some?” He stood to go back inside.
The man looked up at him and smiled. “I’m alright, little man. You’re still growing so you eat it all up.”
When he gets inside his mama is busy taking the cardboard off the windows.
“Who you talking to out there?” she asks the boy.
“Old man from the park.” He replies, picking up a cookie from the counter.
“Put that down. You need some real food. Old man probably needs some food as well. They sure put them out early from the shelter. At least he had someplace to go last night.”
As she turns to survey the inside of the fridge she looks out the now open window and sees a group of rescue workers coming up the street. She pauses when she realizes they are carrying a body in a long white bag. Turning quickly from the window she sees the boy.
“Here,” she hands him a cookie. “You stay inside now, ok?”
“O.K.” The boy happily takes the cookie focusing all his attention on it.
As she rushes outside she sees the rescuers placing the body onto a stretcher and loading it into the back of a van.
“Who you got in there?” she calls out to them as she comes down the front steps.
One of the rescuers turns to her as she approaches the back of the van. “Found this old guy down in the park under the tree that came down in the storm. No i.d. I’d say from the smell of him he was homeless. Probably passed out drunk when the storm hit.”
She stands in the street speechless, holding her sweater close around her, looking down towards the park where the big tree has fallen over the park bench. As the van pulls away she notices the thousands of birds that fill the downed tree’s branches each one chirping and singing with raucous abandon.
Shaking her head in disbelief she quietly says to herself, “Listen to them birds.”