THE LAST SONGBIRD
Bless you for stopping to give me a ride. It will only be a few miles. I am Akasha Tubourn, a doctoral student in the university Department of Environmental Conservation.
Please, I must tell you an amazing story about a songbird. Yes, a songbird. I will tell you why I am agitated, if you will just listen. I call her Shaherazad. What? What was her real name? Why do you ask… yes, yes, you are joking with me? But I tell you I just knew that was how her spirit was called. Listen to me.
I have been working for years documenting the land management needs of nearby woodlands, especially an area I discovered that was amazingly rich in songbird activity. I was an intern for the Fairbanks Development Company while working on my thesis but I swear I thought that I could do good things protecting the woodlands from within such a caring company. They asked for me after all. But it was the belly of an insatiable leviathan I am ashamed to say now. I was (how do you say it?) I was just a red herring.
Yes, yes, I am the “ungrateful agitator” you have seen on television. They say I blow whistles. I do not understand that insult. Is that like a “blow job”? Never mind. But you do understand then that Fairbanks wants to develop those woodlands completely. They think that a golf-course will replace the meadow and shrub lands. I organized a rebellion (no, what is the proper word?), a moral defense by students and environmentalists to halt the slaughter, yes, slaughter. Slaughter of Shaherazad’s queendom.
Shaherazad had not yet come to me when I organized the resistance to the development. We were joined by dozens of faithful who constructed a perimeter, a necessary evil against the bulldozers, and we were trying not to damage the woods by our very numbers. The college was threatening to expel me; Fairbanks had lodged formal protest with the Dean. After all, I am just a foreign student! The media made me appear like I ate locusts and honey and like I was against employment, your new graven image believe me. I was losing faith. I became fearful as one does without faith.
Only the bad publicity for Fairbanks from sympathetic reporters really kept the machines at bay, not any symbolic barricade. But the public sympathy was shadowed by the vultures of unemployment that circle over you. Yes, good joke, my friend: songbirds and vultures.
Then she came to me one evening as I prayed on the barricade. I heard her beautiful song, sweet and delicate but with the haunting sadness of a dove’s coo. I turned. I just knew it was a female. She resembled a golden male Warbler, with amber streaks and swirls, but she was not. It struck me how colorfully marked she was for a female songbird. She turned her head. That is when the name Shaherazad occurred to me!
For some reason I just held out my hand. She fluttered to my fingers and held on, fearless. I cannot tell you how astonished I was at this. I felt like I was dreaming but I had no reason to awaken. I was compelled to raise her close to my face. Her eyes were like two fiery emerald tear-drops. It was as if she controlled my hand and I brought her to my lips. I swear to you, she gently stitched my lips with pecks that I felt were kisses.
Yes, go ahead, look at me that way. But why would I sacrifice myself to such a lie? Can you understand me, before God, I felt… Love. Love commanding me from that tiny, gentle creature. How can we kill anything that sings? Would that not be even a savage’s first act of grace?
I am sorry, I am agitated. You have not heard yet what happened.
Some drunken men who had been out of work for several years got together and they went and set fire to those woods. They are blaming us. They set fires in so many places. The firemen said they could only contain the perimeter as it burned. How convenient, yes? Our barricade of rebellion kept the fire inside. I cannot believe them. Fairbanks must have controlled them all. Yes, I believe that. They are a big, fucking, employer aren’t they? Now they want to arrest me!
Of course I am crying, my whole world is burning. Wait! This is it. Yes, the Fairbanks Development Company. Stop and let me out here. You have been very kind and patient with me, bless you. You will be in no trouble.
I mean that I tell no one you helped me. Forgive my laugh. Yes, that was funny for me to say.
In a horrifying act of environmental terrorism, the Fairbanks Development Company was severely damaged when a young woman walked into the main lobby and detonated a home-made bomb that she was wearing. Apparently, the bomb had been packed with feathers as a symbol of environmental issues.
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