The robin was reluctant to admit to his part in the affair: the things he had done, the words he had said, the actions he had taken and the others he had withheld; things which, collectively, had led to the arrival of the blue bud – a despondent bloom who did nothing but weep, crying over today as if it were the last day on which it were possible for such things to be shed. Such was the weight of his woe, he had quite saturated the garden, coming very close to drowning an earthworm and several small slugs. The robin sighed. How did one deal with such a creature? Should he approach with a handkerchief and attempt to wipe the stain from his nose? Or should he prepare a pot and serve hot tea instead? Whatever, whichever… he had to do something: the pathetic plant was driving him mad. Besides, he didn’t have time to indulge the dramatics of others, not when he still housed so many of his own. In addition, to future complicate, he had been raised to see all forms of weeping as weakness and displays of emotion as frail. Tears were for the faint-hearted, those who couldn’t function adequately or competently cope, the type who were afraid to go far and who would be fated to fail if ever they should. To show oneself in the company of strangers (most of whom would likely always stay that way) was both unadvisable and unwise. They might haul you in, examine your head, ply you with medication, lock you up… The bud was obviously unstable, in need of help. Anyone could see that. But he wasn’t about to be the one to give it, not now, not after so long… and he resented the feeling that was trying to make him believe he should.
The sun rose slowly, breaking through the blanket of white, weak rays caressing the darker, still shadowed landscape. It woke the robin, its glare gently tickling his eyelids. It roused the bud too, evicting it from its temporary respite, causing it to shudder and twitch as, with reluctance, it awoke. Lifting its head, it turned its face to its only companion, attempting a smile. Then, failing, as entirely as one might manage to fail when attempting a venture whose outcome they had vested an amount of energy and interest in, it looked sadly away. It knew it had to do better, figure something out, but how did one attempt to wrestle the weight of the world, placate the paralysis of problems? Did one? Could one? It wasn’t sure. Uncharacteristically moved, the robin asked if it was hungry and offered to get breakfast in.
While he was away, most likely foraging in another farmer’s field, the bud decided to confront the intruders, attempting to deconstruct the darkness in order to remove it from his life. Lifting a leaf, he poked and prodded in the space around his head, believing the problem to be in his stamen. But when he brought it back out, it was empty of defect and blight. Refusing to give up, he tried his roots, pushing another leaf down into the soil. Jackpot, immediate resistance; a creeping, crawling, carpet-skinned thing that felt like it was made up of hundreds and thousands of creatures. Ants? Beetles? Bugs? How undignified. And how horrific to have the source of his pain situated there, somewhere so far from his immediate person and in a region he couldn’t ever hope to visually reach?
The robin returned, presenting a slug. The bud faked grateful, forcing a smile, surreptitiously sliding the odious thing away. Didn’t the robin know that slugs were poison to buds, likely to remove whole chunks from leaves and half bites from heads? To eat it would lead to his destruction, a slow crunching and chomping from the inside out, him disappearing – bit by bit, cell by cell – until he was dry, brown and brittle, a hollow shell. Or maybe that was the plan? And if it wasn’t, then maybe he should adopt it as such? At least then he would have a choice. And being eaten by a slug was less intimidating and worrying then being possessed by beetles and ants. At least it would move on once he went away. The ants, on the otherhand, wishing only to torment, would stay, hanging around to forage and bring back to, running up and down, in and out, hiding, holding, until he found another conclusion to escape the confines of his life.
by Rebecca L. Atherton
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