Yesterday was HOT. Ninety-five degrees hot, to be exact, and I told Liberty she could swim when we got home. We walked into the blessedly cool house, but when I opened the shades on the back patio doors, I realized Liberty would not be swimming for a while.

A largish, pure white bird was sitting in our kiddie pool.

I stared at it for a moment, trying to classify it in my mind. It was about the size and shape of a pigeon. Ruffled feathers and a strange bump on it's beak made me hesitate to call it pretty. It must have been residing in our pool for most of the day; multiple bird droppings marred the liner at the bottom of the pool, and small floating feathers and crud swirled around the surface of the water.

Liberty and I pulled up a dining room chair and discussed the bird for several minutes. I slowly wrapped my mind around the task ahead: empty, scrub, disinfect...and even then, I wasn't sure that I would let Liberty swim in that pool again. I pondered the power of bleach, all the while dreading the energy required to bend over my enormous belly-bump AND keep Liberty away from the pool AND work in the 95 degree sunshine. Finally, Liberty insisted on going out. I hesitantly opened the door, ready to grab her back if she appeared too close to jumping into the contaminated water.

I expected the bird to fly away in a flurry of feathers and rushing noises, and I prepared myself not to flinch. (I am scared of birds...blame Alfred Hitchcock.) Instead, the bird just stared as we slowly slid the patio door open. Liberty squealed and ran onto the deck. The bird just stared. "Hi!" Liberty proclaimed to her new friend, and she ran over to the pool. The bird looked very nervous and poised for flight but remained in place, just staring. The two of them were less than two feet apart, and my warning radar jumped into full alert mode. Birds SHOULD be afraid of people. Birds SHOULD fly away immediately, and it scared me that this one did not. I pulled Liberty back inside amidst much protesting.

I sat back down at the patio doors, and watched The Bird. That's when I noticed the blue rubber band around one of his orange legs and the white band with tiny marks around his other leg. I decided to call a wildlife preserve a few miles away from our house. Rick answered the phone. After I described The Bird, he thought it might be a homing pigeon or a carrier pigeon.

A Carrier Pigeon! For the tiniest fraction of a moment, I considered checking that white band around his leg to see if a secret message was being carried by The Bird. My adventure radar and imagination were in full bloom. But my fear quickly tackled that thought and shut it down. America could be taken over by terrorists, and I would not lift one finger to stop them as long as they used birds to frighten me into submission. (Unless I had a gun.)

I'm sorry! Birds scare me. I enjoy them from a distance or with a protective barrier in place, but too close is entirely too close. When I was about ten, I watched a group of blue jays peck my brother's skull repeatedly until he ran into the house crying. And this was my tough brother. And he hadn't done anything to them.

Rick then asked the unthinkable. "Why don't you go out there and tell me what the markings on the white band say?"

"Uh. NO. Can't you come out here and do that yourself?"

"Wal," he drawled, "I could, but I would have to charge you for it."

"Oh." He didn't seem very interested in the possibility of a rare and glorious creature being recaptured and put back into it's natural environment. I hung up with nothing accomplished. I flipped through the phone book some more. Then I called the local animal clinic.

My new best friend Bev was enthusiastic about the whole situation and eagerly peppered me with questions over the phone. I just as enthusiastically answered them, thrilled to finally have someone who seemed as excited about this fun happening as I was. She decided it was probably a dove released at a wedding and lost. With this new insight, I examined The Bird again...through the patio doors. "Is it a dove?" she asked.

"I don't know. I always pictured doves as prettier than this. But maybe." The odd bump on the beak and the out-of-place feathers gave it a scraggly appearance. Then I noticed the strange dark markings on the chest. It looked like a spatter of mud or blood had hit The Bird squarely in the center of it's chest and then leaked in irregular lines down the front of its body. I strained to get a better look. I told Bev about it. "I wonder if it might be hurt." Small stirrings of sympathy struggled to slip free in my heart.

Bev and I chatted in some detail for a while, but she could not leave her clinic, and I was not about to collect The Bird and take it to her. She suggested I call the state wildlife department. I did. They were closed. She suggested I call the police. I did. They didn't plan to come out to see a bird...not even if it could have been a jailbird. (I'm so funny.)

Bev and I hung up, and I continued gazing out the window at the motionless bird standing in our pool.

Jeremy came home. I excitedly informed him of The Bird trapping us in our house. He wanted me to leave the window and begin making supper. I explained to him why that would be physically impossible. "But I can't watch him if I'm making supper. That would require me to step away from the window."

"Is he doing anything?" Jeremy asked.


"Has he done anything in the entire time that you've been staring?"


"Then you probably won't miss anything if you decide to make supper." He pointed out so logically. I sighed and left the window.

For 23 seconds.

I couldn't help it. I was drawn to The Bird. Even Liberty had stopped being fascinated long before this and gone to the living room to play with her toys. Why couldn't I?

I forced myself to stay by Jeremy's side as we prepared supper, but every so often I would make a quick dash over to the glass doors to check on Fred.

I had to leave the house to pick Kimmie up from work several hours later, and on the way home, I told her all about our new pet Fred. We eagerly ran to the patio doors as soon as we got home to check on him.

But he was gone.

I checked the yard, my body in a permanent ducking position in case he dive-beaked me from the sky. But it looked as though Fred had flown the coop.

Now, I just have to deal with his poop.

Maybe I'll buy a new pool.
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