Hid Beneath The Yucca Plant

After much anticipation, Saturday came; my first day out of the house—inasmuch that I was on my own in some muted form of society—had arrived, and I had been looking forward to it for a number of weeks. It was the earliest I had woken up since before lockdown started, as I had to catch the 08:05 train for London, although I would be alighting, halfway, in the county capital.
 At first I pulled my book out and tried to read, but then my curious eyes… I must look out of the window and see the scenery for the first time in so long! Because spring had passed us by, everything was in full summery bloom, the grass, the trees, the crops in the fields that stretched patchwork out into the distance. The train was mostly empty, although busier than expected, and one could spend a great deal of energy not getting angry at those who flouted the rule on facemasks. Nevertheless, it was a pleasure staring out the window; despite having seen those views hundreds and hundreds of times, I found a new wonder in them, a freshness, as though I were venturing through some foreign country. The small city was quiet at that time of the morning, not yet awake. It was a warm, still day, grey and without a wind. In the hairdressing salon it was busy and, although precautions had been taken, it was clear that—already, at five-past-nine—they were beginning to be ignored. It is strange but the hands of some girl barely out of school were the first on me in four months, except for members of my own family. She washed my hair as I stared at the lights on the ceiling; six out of nine lamps blown. All of my hair—and there was so much of it!—came down and landed all over me and the plastic sheets and my facemask. Six months’ worth of hair, back from when I got it cut to go to visit H—, and how different things were now to then.
 I walked out of there much lighter than when I went in. It was imperative I leave town before the pubs opened; although they were permitted to begin trading at one-minute-past-six in the morning, many were not opening their doors until noon. Already queues were beginning to form outside. Many shops were still closed, everything else was in a confusing mess of rules, so that one never really knew what to do. The charity shop would only allowing two people in at a time, but then loners stood there talking to the clerk and others were walking around freely, having been told to use the hand sanitiser by the door. In the camera shop, all the men stood around, unprotected, talking about memory cards. No one paid any attention to the arrows on the floor directing people which way to walk. I wandered around for an hour, trying to make the most of things. I drank cappuccinos; I had missed them so! I went and bought some popcorn, and a handful of books, but, in my excitement, accidentally bought one I already owned.
 On the train home, I looked at the opposite side of scenery. Either from lack of sleep, or my confrontation with minor civilisation, I found myself in a most sour mood, taciturn, unable to answer coherently when I got home and faced a barrage of questions from everyone about what it was like out there. I had not eaten and had drunk too much coffee, I was quite nauseous. I sat down and fingered through my books, feeling perspiration break out all over me.

 On Monday, the start of the week, I awoke feeling slightly better that I could get back to writing. During my first cigarette of the day, I heard a commotion from the bushes. Going over to investigate, I saw that a blackbird chick had fallen from its nest. It hid beneath the yucca plant. It stared up at me with wide eyes and thick yellow lips around its tiny beak. My mother was hanging out the washing; I told her to watch out for it. The chick’s mother was fluttering back & forth, tweeting frantically; occasionally the chick would tweet back, but it stared at me in terror. ‘I’m just worried about the neighbourhood cats,’ I told my mother as she gave it some distance. The neighbourhood cats, two of them, are not the most accomplished hunters but they are eager. Fortunately, from the desk where I write, I am able to keep a careful eye on the garden. So it became my mission to protect the chick. I could not locate the nest, but looking out for the little thing was the least I could do. Around midday the cats were out, prowling their routes, and if they were sneaking up on the chick then they were hidden from me. Suddenly, the mother blackbird flew into a frenzy and began making a hell of a noise, flapping her wings and there was a scuffle underneath the yucca plant. I looked and the cat was chasing after the chick, having it in its mouth and then losing its grip. The chick flapped and scrambled away. I leapt up, ran out and chased the cat—Peggy—away into the bushes. She looked at me angrily—‘You bastard! That was mine!’ I chased her further until she had left the garden. The chick had made it to our house and was trying to jump in through the window, beating against the glass. I took a garden waste bag, brought it near and soon the little chick jumped in, staring at me, seemingly protected, with the same fear in its eyes. The mother was still nearby, at a loss, not knowing what to do. She perched on the gutter and looked down at the garden waste bag. I took some rolled oats and blueberries and, very carefully, threw them into the bag. For the rest of the afternoon, I sat in watch.
    ‘I have to go for my walk now, but please keep an eye out for that little-bastard-cat,’ I asked my mother; although she was playing piano, she did not like the cat (since she had stepped in its shit a few weeks ago) and wanted any excuse to chase it away (something I usually objected to).
    When I got back, the chick was still in the bag. You could see its eyes. I think it had eaten one of the blueberries but who knows how much of the rolled oats it had taken. I sat down with some coffee and watched the bag. It started to shuffle, the bird was trying to fly and made it up and out, then scrambled back under the yucca plant. The mother arrived and fluttered down. The cats were nowhere to be seen. For the rest of the day I kept an eye out, but when night came they had the advantage over me; even with the bright stars above, I could see nothing in the bushes, and the cats were in their element. I could hear them stalking, the rustle of dry leaves, but otherwise they were silent. As they passed, they watched me and I watched them. ‘Okay,’ I said—‘There is nothing I can do now.’
    The next morning, I could not hear the chick. The song of blackbirds often fills the air and they flutter about during the day, amongst the wood pigeons, robins and swifts. I bent down and looked under the bushes, searching for a body or bones or torn feathers. There was nothing to be found underneath the yucca.