Birds of a Feather
by Heart in San Francisco
by Heart in San Francisco
The bird flashed yellow against the picture window, thudded loudly and dropped to the flagstone terrace.
Lily, passing through the living room, perceived the sight and sound as two separate occurrences which conjoined in a quick astonished thought: "Finch."
The bird was unbelievably tiny to have hit the window with such a bang. It lay in Lily's palm, one eye open and the other closed. There was no mark on the perfect feathers; its beak was open, and its feet twitched slightly when she set it gently in her other hand.
She phoned the animal hospital that had sewn up the family Bouvier after his fight with a German Shepherd to see what could be done for the bird in case it was merely stunned.
While the doctor's receptionist relayed instructions, William looked up "finch" in Julia Child's French cookbook, then Elizabeth David's. Apparently unsuccessful, he briefly perused Claiborne as well as two volumes of Chinese and Japanese cooking.
Lily remembered a summer long ago when they had walked for miles along the shore at Fire Island, she greedily collecting shells, driftwood, and beach glass, discarding reluctantly to make room in her basket for better things while William considered to what degree everything was edible.
She folded a soft washcloth into a shoe box, which she set on top of an electric pad, and placed the bird inside. It was a beautiful bird. She stroked it lightly with her index finger, trying to determine whether it was alive.
William sighed from the library. "I guess it wouldn't have been worth the effort for one small bird," he said.
He had not replaced the cookbooks on the shelf. They lay on the library table, waiting for Lily to set things right, like his dishes in the dining room whenever he made himself lunch.
A woman with whom William had shared a group house on Fire Island before he married Lily had once told her, "William's idea of helping with the housework is to lift his feet so you can sweep under."
They had laughed together, but the remark had sunk heavily in Lily's memory, sending out ripples that never smoothed.
She quickly put the cookbooks back in their places. She had enjoyed cooking until recently, and had been proud of her talent with quite varied cuisines. Her interest had grown after William told her, early in their relationship, that he equated cooking with sex.
"I have never known a woman who was a good lay and a bad cook," he'd said. When Lily questioned him, somewhat fascinated, he'd allowed as how it was possible to be a good cook and a poor sex partner. Apparently, only the converse was true.
Lily had nervously honed both skills, and although she was never entirely confident about how good a lover she was, she was proud of her cooking.
Lately, she'd discovered Gorton's frozen fish, and she slept in the family room while William used their bed.