Wandering Thoughts

March 20, 2010

The Magpie and the Bush Vet

Filed under: Going Places,Staying Places — terence @ 8:43 pm
Tags: ,

It was a lazy thwap. On the quiet suburban street, in the leafy morning light. It seemed too absent minded, too inconsequential to be what it became. But the collision was an uneven one. A big white ute, with its big white driver, ugly, a motherfucker, that just kept on its way. And a magpie, whose way was ended, with a bounce, from flight, onto the road, where it flapped like a torn flag.

We stopped our bikes, and Jo, who’s always better at these things, took my shirt and carried the bird in it from the road to the grass. At first the Magpie’s movements seemed to ebb, blood seeped from its bill.

I think it’ll die soon. I think we can just wait here. It won’t be long.

But instead it revived. And when it did, it made to fly away, to safety. But there was no flight. No safety. It’s back, or some other integral part, was broken, and all it could do was haul itself along the grass with its wings, frightened eyes staring at us.

We can’t leave it suffer.

I called directory. And then the RSPCA where I sat on hold as my credit evaporated.

As we waited there, Jo standing and me pacing, the bird lying on the grass, another magpie flew in, with a cry, over our heads, alighting in the tree that stood above us. Then another magpie followed it. And then the strangest thing happened. Birds of all sorts began to gather in the tree – magpies, smaller myna like birds, and colour-splashed Rosellas. They filled the spindly pine like Christmas decorations. An avian deathwatch, quiet, watching, waiting, looking down, as I alternated between anthropomorphising and trying to figure out what on earth to do.

“He’s a bush vet. He’ll probably wring its neck, but it’s just down the road, and he’s helpful.”

Jo had ridden home, got the car and come and collected me, my bike and the bird, before asking our landlords’ advice on where we could get the bird put down.

I doubted the bush vet bit. The bush is never that far away in Australia. Biding its time until it gets to reclaim the suburbs and upend the asphalt. But we were in the middle of well-heeled Ainslie. A poodle vet maybe, but definitely not a bush one.

I was wrong of course, like I’d been all morning. The  clinic was an old brick building with a sign that was almost swallowed by trees. The vet had an old leathered face that was almost swallowed by his beard.

“What? I thought was finished for the morning?” He was complaining, but not unfriendly.  His shirt and jeans were grubby, and his boots dusted with red dirt. We might as well have been out the back of Bourke after all.  What mattered though, is that he took the bird. And was kind about it. No need for payment. Promising to help if he could. And to end its life quickly if he couldn’t.

And so we offloaded the broken magpie and set off, on our way, after our plans for the day.

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