By Marc Algernon. She woke to the sound of a slight tapping on her window sill. Her efforts to ignore it had passed, as the tapping echoed even in her sleep. Alicia reluctantly crawled out of bed and slipped on her bedroom slippers. She crept over to the window and what she saw there made her heart beat ferociously in her chest. – Messenger
There on her window sill was a bird. He looked like any ordinary bird. He was green with a yellow underbelly. But what surprised Alicia the most was his eyes. He had dark deep set eyes and he seemed to stare directly into hers.
“He must live in the Julie mango tree in the front yard.” Alicia thought, since the branches of this massive tree stretched all the way to her window. Alicia raised her hand and hit the glass and the bird flew off and perched itself on a branch not far from the window; Still staring. Alicia turned to go back to her bed… her undisturbed slumber. But before she had walked three steps there he was again on the window sill tapping even harder than before. “What a strange bird to act this way,” she thought. “Was he hungry?”
Not taking any chances with this strange bird
Alicia went to the kitchen and returned with a crix cracker crumbed in her hand. He flew off to the branch as she opened the window and he watched her place the crumbs the length of the window sill but Alicia was not taking any chances with this strange bird so she closed back the window lest he should have some crazy idea about flying into her room.
Alicia took a few steps back and sure enough to the window he returned. But he didn’t eat. Not one crumb, he just stared at her. Now she was getting anxious again. What kind of bird is this, for surely birds sleep at night; Birds whistle sweet tunes, they hop around and look for food, always hungry… but this one just tapped and stared… it was as if he was trying to tell her something.
She moved closer to her window and looked at him closely. He really was an ordinary bird; Nothing pretty or unique about him. He stared deep into her eyes tilted his head slightly to the side and screeched so loudly that Alicia withdrew so quickly that she tripped. Down she went onto her bedroom floor. She lay there and laughed at how big a coward she was. She lay there and tried to muster enough courage to get up off the ground and face her fear that lay perched on her window sill.
Who could possibly be calling at three am?
Ten minutes later she peeked up at the window sill but he was gone. She stood up and went to the window but he had indeed left. She looked at the mango tree and lamented on how eerie it looked in the shadow of night. It was while focused on this that she got her third fright of the night.
The phone rang and made her jump. She ran to it though being glad to hear a familiar noise. But who could possibly be calling at three am? “Hello?!” she half expected to hear a screeching on the other end thinking that the bird had probably decided to call instead.
“Alicia, Oh My God! Come down to the hospital quick. Your sister had a boy but there were some complications. She is very sick, we need you to give some blood.”
Death is a silent predator
The tears in Alicia’s eyes were making it hard to see the road and she must drive fast. What could have gone wrong? She had a healthy pregnancy. She pulled into the parking lot and ran up the stairs of the Port of Spain General Hospital. She started to cry again as the hospital smell filled her nostrils and she was hit with the gravity of the situation at hand.
As she approached her sister’s bedside on that maternity ward she already knew she was too late. Her mother sat on a chair sobbing. Alicia collapsed on the floor and cried and cried. She loved her sister dearly and wished she could have held her hand one last time.
Death is a silent predator. He takes no prisoners and he spares no one. He is the true definition of… sudden.
Junior became a man and moved out of the nest
Never had Alicia felt so sad. So confused. Seven pounds nine ounces, already you could see he had his mother’s face. “Junior” is the name that was chosen for him and he grew up with his aunty Alicia.
Alicia raised him as if he was her own as she could not have children. Junior grew up strong and well-mannered under the care of Alicia.
As all things change eventually Junior became a man and moved out of the nest and started a family of his own but never forgetting the love shown to him by his aunt. He borrowed Aunty Alicia’s car one day and she trusted him to be responsible. He was taking out his family and Alicia was happy to help.
Familiar tapping on the window
That night there came a strange but familiar tapping on the window. She had not heard that noise in many years. Since the night her sister died. It was a sad reminder this bird.
She got out her bed and walked over to the window much braver than her younger years. She actually spoke to him this time. “Hello my old friend, I see you’re still alive and haven’t forgotten me.”
He looked at her and tilted his head and she held her breath for the “loud screech” but it never came. He hopped around on the sill a bit and started to tap again loudly. “What are you trying to tell me little bird? I never learnt to speak bird in school”. He looked at her again. She felt like he was amused by her joke. Like he understood her…
He hopped unto the branch of that Julie mango tree that seemed to have gotten stronger with age. And he ruffled his feathers and screeched and screeched so loudly that Alicia turned on the light. He looked at her and flew away.
Maam, “Do you own a Ford Focus?”
Alicia got a funny feeling in her stomach when the phone rang ten minutes later. She answered with a shaky “hello”. “Goodnight maam, is this Alicia Tribune?” a male voice on the other end asked.
“This is she…” Alicia started to feel even more upset.
“Maam, this is Constable Sookdeo of West End Police Station. Do you own a Ford Focus, licence plate PBA 1496?”.
“OH My God!” All she could think about was Junior, was he dead!
“Your vehicle has been involved in an accident maam, we need you to come down to Wrightson Road opposite the Hyatt Hotel, immediately!”
Highway was almost deserted at three in the morning
“I’m on my way,” was all she managed to say. She felt like crying. What had happened to Junior? Was his family with him when the accident happened? She felt she should have asked the officer some questions too. Oh God please let them be OK!
The highway was almost deserted at three in the morning. She must drive fast. Alicia knew she was too late the minute she saw the mangled wreck that used to be her keskidee yellow Ford Focus.
Her hands shook, as she opened her car door, the tears were already welling up in her eyes as she thought about her loving nephew.
The car had lovingly embraced a traffic light. Glass was everywhere. Besides the officers present, there were four young men laying down on the ground, all with blood on their hands and face and all with broken or dislocated limbs. They were being attended to by the ambulance and Alicia looked desperately among them for some sort of familiarity. Where was Junior?
An officer approached her and asked her name. When she said, “Alicia” the officer knew who she was. He quickly retuned with Constable Sookdeo.
Constable Sookdeo quickly explained to Alicia that the driver of the vehicle had been under the influence of alcohol and that the car had been overloaded with passengers. None of which was her nephew. Since she was the owner of the car she was contacted immediately.
“Thank God you were not in that car”
She breathed a sigh of relief that Junior was not in the accident but felt heartbroken by the fact that her car had been broken beyond repair. She had so loved that car.
About an hour later Junior arrived and was completely shocked to see his aunt standing there after four in the morning. He knew he had to explain the events leading up to the fact that he was not driving the car that she had so generously loaned to him.
As he approached Alicia she slapped him… hard. Then she embraced him… tight. “Thank God you were not in that car, you had me so worried.”
Alicia mustered up another set of tears. This time for the love she had for her nephew. Her sister’s only child. The car was material, it could be replaced, Junior could not.
Later that day, Junior explained to Alicia that he had lent out the car to a friend at the end of the street to take his mom to the grocery. The friend however took the car to a party and left with his friends. Everyone in the car was drunk. The recipe was disaster… you know the rest. Junior agreed to work and pay back for the car and soon he and Alicia was as good as gold again.
The world had changed
As this story goes, many years again passed. That bird was almost forgotten and seldom ever talked about. Junior grew into a strapping man, in his late 30s. Alicia had aged well too and though the wrinkles of time showed on her face she was quick as ever.
The world had changed too. Governments had come and gone. Infrastructure and development had risen up all over. It was a time for oil. It was a time where merriment and revel was abundant. With such abundance came crime. The country’s murder rate had grown steadily over the last couple decades and showed no signs of decline.
Drugs were all over, gangs were formed and with it gangsters. Port of Spain, the nation’s capital, was a gold mine to anyone who wanted to make a dishonest dollar. The surrounding communities were capitalising on the opportunities and the gangsters started killing each other for sway over the very lucrative drug trade.
It was a time where “the wrong place at the wrong place at the wrong time” was an everyday phrase. The Government seemed uninterested by such developments, so long as they can dip into the country’s tilly, why worry?
Damien always had a hold on Junior
Junior had been no stranger to these changes. He avoided trouble as best as he could for as long as any man can. But he had always had a habit of letting his friends have the better of him. It could be said he was easily influenced but I cannot say for sure.
Long since Junior had bought a car of his own. His two daughters were older now and it was necessary now that they were going to school. So he dropped his wife to work and his daughters to school and he would work taxi with his car. Dropping people home and to the airport. Anywhere, once the price was right.
Junior had a close friend called Damien. He had been one of the passengers of the car the night it had crashed and had always been a friend that Alicia has warned him about. He was just “bad company”. Damien always had a hold on Junior as he had always looked out for him on the streets.
Damien had paid Junior five hundred dollars to drive him to a location to pick up a package and bring him back home. The five hundred dollars helped to quell the uneasy feeling in his stomach as he sipped on a stag and joked with Damien about school days.
They drove all the way up a narrow street, to the top of a narrow hill. They parked in a small dirt track just a little way off the road. Junior sat and finished his stag while Damien went to pick up the package. The queasy feeling was still in his stomach but it was too late to change his mind…
Bird hit the window until the glass had cracked
There was a loud “bang!” on the glass… Alicia jumped out her sleep, so sudden that her heart pounded in her chest. Less than a minute later there it was again. Something at the window?!
Alicia drew out of bed quickly and drew back the curtains. Could it be?! It was.
There he was, tapping loudly on her window with his beak. No not his beak… he actually had a stone in his beak and was hitting it so hard on the window that the glass had cracked.
Alicia’s face beamed with joy for a few seconds by the sight of her oldest friend but it was quickly replaced with horror by the thought that filled her head.
Her hands went up over her face, “Oh My God! Something has happened with Junior!” she whispered to herself.
Alicia had never seen that bird behave like this
She rushed over to the phone quickly and dialed his cell number but the phone only rang and rang. She dialed his house and his wife answered. “Hello?”
“Hey, sorry to call so late, is Junior home?” Alicia tried to hide the anxiety in her voice.
“No Aunty Alicia, I’m sorry. He went on a job with Damien and I’m kinda wondering why he isn’t answering his phone. Kizzy is up and says she can’t sleep till her Daddy’s home. It has me a little worried because she is usually snoring away by now.”
“I’m sure he would be home soon, nothing to worry about. Just let him call me as soon as he gets home. OK!” Alicia hung up and closed her eyes tight.
“OH, please God!”
Alicia had never seen that bird behave like this. It scratched, it screeched, it hit on that glass so hard that Alicia thought he would kill himself.
Tears were rolling down her cheeks now as she dropped to her knees in front the window. “What are you trying to tell me?” she cried loudly. He looked at her for the last time, tilted his head to the side ever so slightly, hopped to the branch of that Julie mango tree, he screeched loudly at Alicia and flew away.
She knelt there and cried. She knew what was coming next. In the depths of her heart she knew what was coming next.
The phone rang, she did not jump
As that phone rang she did not jump. She walked to it as if rehearsed. She stood there listening to what was being said but she was in a semi-conscious state. She collapsed to the floor at the words she dreaded to hear.
Alicia drove slowly up that narrow street, up that narrow hill. She knew she was already too late. People were everywhere, gathered in groups. The media was pushing lights and cameras in their faces trying to get a heads up. There was no need to find a place to park as cars were strewn all over the place. The narrow road had been blocked off and an alternative route had been found.
Alicia exited her vehicle and walked slowly towards the scene. She was neither living nor was she dead. She was what the medical society would later come to call “a state of shock”.
Constable Sookdeo showed her the body of her nephew, slumped over his steering wheel, one gun shot wound to the head and the body of Damien somewhere down the track, he had been shot 27 times.
She sat there on the ground, on the stony earth and she just let the tears flow. She thought about her sister, she thought about Junior’s daughters. She thought about that bird… he was the Devil himself.
She stood there in the funeral a week later and cried as she always thought Junior would be the one to bury her. Not the other way around. How wretched life can be.
Right after Junior died that massive Julie mango tree in Alicia’s yard turned brown and died. In the space of three days, it just died.
Alicia had become accustomed to death. She now sits on her porch, sipping tea, passing out her days. Remembering her life…
“Hello little bird, where did you come from?”
She woke to the sound of slight tapping on her window sill. She crawled out of bed and crept over to the window… “Hello little bird, where did you come from?” she admired his yellow underbelly.
The light in her room flicked on so suddenly that it made her jump. Her mother stood in the doorway. She turned back to show her the bird but he was gone.
“Come sit here on the bed,” her mother said. She noticed the tear in her mother’s eye almost immediately.
“What’s wrong mom?”
“Kizzy, your Aunty Alicia just passed away…”
June 2015 – Issue 16 www.sweettntmagazine.com
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