Fiction   Essays   Poetry  The Ten On Baseball Chapbooks In Memory

J. R. Salling

Bird in the Grass

The chalk outline nearby was not of the sparrow, but it might as well have been.

"Is it dead, mommy?"

What a beautiful day at the park, the sort of day that people who design parks always sketch to sell their idea. I did not want to answer the question and spoil the picture; however, my little girl was waiting.

"Yes, I believe so."

I tried to think of some way to distract her attention from the subject—cotton candy perhaps—something light and sweet and colorful. While I scanned the park for a vendor, she slipped away.

"Jenny, come back here!"

From her backward glance I knew she heard my call, but she climbed over the short wall anyway. She wanted to examine the bird, I figured, maybe bury it. Dead things needed burying. And then I remembered that dead things could carry disease.

"Don't touch it," I called after her, and gathered my things together in order to follow.

I stopped at the wall, wondering if I should cross over as well. "Come back or you're in big trouble," I tried, with little hope of success. She had already squatted down beside the creature. Its head and speckled wings were tucked under its body so that it resembled a toad.

As a typical parent, I suppose, I admired how cute she looked in her white sandals and blue top, and how her damp blond hair curled from beneath her cap. She was so officious in her examination. She'll be a scientist, I thought. But when she reached out to prod the bird, my muscles tightened. Her back blocked part of my view. Then her head jerked. Something was wrong, I decided.


My little girl could not hear. She began to make an odd gesture with her arms, like she was scooping sand at the beach. Then I understood. Responding to her encouragement, the sparrow hopped away, and then, with a quick flutter, took to the air again. The collision with the baseball had merely stunned it.

The crowd cheered and she turned to me, joyous, amazed at what she could do. She did not even seem to notice when a member of the grounds crew lifted her up and carried her back to me. She clapped along.

I clapped too, until she filled my arms. Because that's what people do when one of the injured leaves the field, or when they witness magic.

"Play ball!" the umpire shouted, satisfied that the game could resume.

And they did. They played all afternoon.

©2005 by J. R. Salling

J. R. Salling is a teacher, a rare book appraiser, and a former apartment mover. Publication credits include Pindeldyboz, Opium Magazine, Flashquake, Yankee Pot Roast, Zygote in My Coffee, Poor Mojo's Almanac(k), Insolent Rudder, Journal of Modern Post, Rouse Magazine, Dead Mule, uber, Ten Thousand Monkeys, and Thieves Jargon.

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