The nurse called just as I coaxed the broken-wing bluebird into a box. “Your mother’s in poor health,” she said, “your mother’s dying, your mother’s dead.” I should call the funeral home, the florist, the gravedigger, but first I have to get this bird to the bird doctor, the fellow with the ostrich plume-design on his stationery. He specializes in bird repair. They come in broken and leave more or less whole. Some get artificial wings that beat by means of a hearing-aid battery, slung under the bird’s body like an amulet. Some get new beaks to replace those blunted by crashing into windows. The doc shapes the new beak from plastic, fusing it to the old beak-stump with superglue.
The doc is in. The bluebird perks up when I open the box and the doc’s big blond Viking-face peers in. The bird chirps, and then bursts into song. I think the tune is “That Old Black Magic,” but I haven’t heard it in that key before. “Nothing wrong with his beak,” the doc opines. He touches the bent wing and then flexes it. “Not broken, not at all, just sprained.” I’m so grateful. I explain that my mother is dead. “Everyone’s mother is dead,” he observes, “or will be. You could bring her in and I could try to fix her, but reactivation doesn’t always please the reactivated. Think of her happiness. If she returned from death, what would she tell the neighbors?” I agree to think. The doc poses the bird on his thick right forefinger and smiles at it. The bluebird launches into a Gershwin medley, rounding every note with a smile.