Page Fifty-six


Romeo. And what was his mate’s name? I’ll give you three guesses, and the first two don’t count. Can’t remember now, down the hallways of the years, why in 1991 when I bought this pair of birds, I decided to name them after the star-crossed lovers. Maybe I had devotion on my mind.

He was a white zebra finch, and if you don’t know what that is, it’s a tiny one-ounce bird that is native to Australia and has an orange beak. There’s some marking on the male that his wife doesn’t have, but I’ll be dadgummed if I can recall what it is. Romeo was the only white male finch I ever had, and I’ve never seen another one since he died twenty years ago.

It was a very short life, and I’ll never know why. I was new at birds then, and this was my first pair of finches. Romeo, who was no more than two monhs old when I bought him, only lived about six more weeks. It could be that I made some mistake of the novice that resulted in his illness, or that he had something congenital. But I was crushed when the little white boy died so soon, and Juliet wasn’t any too happy either. Though I would only find it out much later in my bird magazine, zebra finches don’t like to be alone. They can pine away and get sick and expire from the stress of it. Even though I didn’t know this yet, Juliet of course had to have another finch to be with, and this was done.

When Romeo got sick, I appealed to one of my Latin professors who kept finches. He told me how to make a hospital cage and keep the bird warm and that if the bird has really given up, you have to force the food and water on them. I did these things, and there were a couple of days when he seemed as though he would recover (birds do this quite often, and it’s very painful. they improve and improve and then suddenly they’re dead). But in the end it didn’t happen, and he died in my hand at the beginning of December. I was so depressed and was telling my professor all about it, and he said that even though he and his wife had many years’ experience with finches, the nursing saved less than half of the birds who sickened.

I had been studying Romeo and Juliet in the pet shop for at least a month before I bought them in 1990. I loved their tinyness, and the chattery little sounds they made, and their happiness with each other. I knew they would add a whole different dimension to my animal family and to my life. And I wasn’t wrong. For the six weeks that he lived, Romeo with his Juliet — their frisky, darting movements; their happy chatter —  made me smile (yes, I do smile sometimes, but generally only with animals) and be grateful for them every minute of every day they were together, even on my hardest, nastiest days.

Yesterday I walked by the spot where Romeo was buried, twenty years ago almost to the day. Me, the ghostwalker, the haunter and the haunted. Seeking out these memories of a way of life of which I’ve been viciously robbed. But not then, at least. On the day I buried Romeo, I hadn’t yet met the psychotic women who wouldn’t be satisfied until they’d taken everything that mattered from me.


read…   Spite and Malice…   Stolen stars

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all photos, graphics, poems and text copyright 2008-2012 by anne nakis, unless otherwise stated. all rights reserved

Published in: on December 18, 2011 at 4:44 pm  Comments (1)  
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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. thank you, Deidra.

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