Black-capped Chickadee

This is the 22nd school shooting in the United States in 2018.


Submitted 8 months ago
Created by
Amy C. Braun

The girl on the news...

The girl on the news, the one being hugged by her mother — the one they showed after the latest shooting in Texas— has eyes like one of my sister’s childhood horses. Not the color, but something I can’t explain. A veneration, perhaps.

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My sister Sheila’s horse got colic because it leaned over the fence and ate pig feed. The vet said it might die. “How can I save it?” My sister asked.

“Just keep it moving. Walk it. It needs to digest,” he said.

On May 19, 2018, a teenage girl from Texas said to the camera, “I was at school in first period and the fire alarms went off. We all thought it was just a fire drill so we evacuated outside.”

This morning, the day after another shooting, I lie next to my open window. In near dayight, a bird cries out, “Phoe-be… Phoe-be.” Still groggy, I think, “Hermit Thrush. Vermont state bird,” but it isn’t.

This bird calls its name: “Phoebe,” I tell myself as I open my eyes.

Sheila with curly hay-colored hair wore cutoffs, a white tank top, big boots, untied. I envied her legs, longer than mine. Thinner.

CNN news said: “Ten People were killed. Another ten wounded.”

I search from my second floor window for Phoebe, but as I draw the blind, the bird ceases singing. Chickadee rings out: “Chickadee-dee-dee-dee.”

Sheila and the horse used our lower meadow —fenced in, marshy after a rain— to walk. Around and around along the edge they walked. For hours.

The girl’s teary mother said, “She called me and she said, ‘Mom, there are shots,’ So I turned around and hauled it all the way to the school. Thank God I was close. Just kept telling her to listen to her teacher. Be quiet. Stay down. Stay on the phone with me.”

Phoebe is gone. There’s another bird. This one sounds like a car alarm. It’s not. There are three birds, each crying out in a different way.

Sheila guided her horse by its bridle.

A helicopter flew overhead. Students lined up. Dumped backpacks. “All the teachers were just telling us, ‘Run! Run! Go!’ Like Run!’ Me and my friend ran to the forest so we could get shelter. And that’s when I called my mom.”

Lilacs in bloom with flowers the same color as her fingernails. And when she ran, did she hide under a bush to blend in? Can lilacs grow in Texas?

They walked all day and through the night but early the next morning the horse stopped. Sheila couldn’t budge it though she leaned back on the bridle. She pulled and pulled, but weighed about as much as one of its legs.

The suspected shooter was identified as 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtis.

What are birds saying? Maybe ‘snow has melted.’ Maybe declaring joy about a new day.

The horse reared. My sister dropped the bridle. Backed away.

“All I can tell all you people out there is ‘Pray. That’s what we need now, guys. Just pray for Santa Fe ISD and all the schools. All the schools. Just pray for our kids.”

There is no wind on this spring morning in Vermont but there are two lilac bushes. The second one is pinker, the shade of lipstick I wore in high school. Maybe it was called “Lilac.” I don’t recall; it was so long ago, but we had a lilac bush not far from the field where my sister walked her horse.

It kicked its front legs. Shrieked. Landed. It collapsed to the soil and died.

This is the 22nd school shooting in the United States in 2018.

Birds keep singing. “Phoe-be.” “Phoe-be.”

Phoebe

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