He lumbers across the dark parking lot Dragging his feet like bad dreams. The golden light of his youth feathered Through the leaves of the trees shading the stream. Those he came with; who had brought him, Had faded away; long-gone forgotten dreams. Caterpillars and ants fell to feed the trout, Or minnows which, in turn, feed the lunkers downstream. When he fought, as he could feel he would soon, His scarred knuckles pulverized the spots where once hung his dreams. There was a chessboard in the attic where an empty spool stood for a bishop And a plastic army man was the king-thrusting with bayonets and screams.
He was careful on the path down to the barn. The first snowfall-not yet finished-had made it slick and he had somehow forgotten his cane back on the porch.
Inside, the cows milled about desultorily eating the hay he had pulled down from the loft earlier. He loosened his collar a bit to suck in some of the damp warmth from their breath when he heard the unmistakable song of a blue bird. He scanned the rafters and immediately picked him out from the stray, gray sparrows and wrens that flitted about the place.
“What you do, little guy?” he asked aloud. “Miss the last train south?”
Up at the house he left his boots inside the door and peeled off his old coat. The glow of the television leaked out of the living room in back. There his wife sat in the chair that the medical company had sent over-the one that would help her get up and down.
“Saw a bluebird in the barn”, he told her speaking loudly.
“Oh?” she answered. “He shouldn’t be here now, should he?”
“Guess the weather had him confused. Now he’s stuck I guess.”
“Bluebird in the barn”, she said almost to herself in a sing-song childish way. Then, “I wisht I could see him.”
He glanced at the mute aluminum frame of her walker. “You’ll see him and plenty more in the spring. We’ll have them all over the place…”
She said nothing more, just looked out the window where the snow still fell and it was night-dark at suppertime.
The next day dawned bright and cold. He made his way unsteadily down the hill relying overmuch, he thought, on the cane he clutched firmly. He was kicking away snow from the sweep of the barn door when he saw the small splash of blue over by the trough. He walked over and scooped up the dead bird and a little puff of snow besides. It wasn’t cat-mauled or damaged at all. Just dead.
He didn’t realize he was crying until a heavy tear spattered on the tiny blue head.
“Fuck.” he whispered, chilled at using a word that hadn’t passed his lips since Korea.