Nana’s Got a Dead Bird In Her Freezer And Other Unprecedented Discoveries During the Summer of Covid-19

audrey wells

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Photo by Joshua J. Cotten from Unsplash

The days of 101-Ways to escape Triple-Digits are officially over.

As if to prove my point, my one and only grandson, Johnny James, was like so over it.

“Nana, I’m hungry,” Johnny announced from the couch.

“Hungry?! Didn’t you just enjoy my special three-egg, Denver-style omelet like an hour ago? Holy cow, you got a Hollow Leg or something, Johnny James?”

I can go for hours without eating. I don’t recommend it, but it has its perks, I suppose.

“Welp, buddy… check the fridge. There’s bound to be something in there for you to munch on, mister.”

“I already did.” He answered so fast, which we both know means he didn’t, but in his mind he did.

“Maybe check it again, then. I bet you missed something. Happens to me all the time.” I encouraged him even though I’m not the kind of Nana that has an ice-box chock-full of fruit cocktail Jello molds or Otter Pops.

I do have Medjool Pitted Dates, Verry Cherry Plums (their jolly label touting “a delicious new fruit… Part Cherry! Part Plum! and PRODUCE OF USA and if that wasn’t enough info… THIS FRUIT CONTAINS A PIT), and cheese… I’ve (almost always) got cheese on hand.

Johnny nodded with little fanfare from his spot on the couch.

He probably figured since I was a lot closer to the kitchen, I was closer to the fridge — and he’d be right.

But I was on a roll—tap-tapping the keys on my laptop from behind from my high desk—and I wasn’t going anywhere.

He kept sitting and I kept typing until he eventually… slowly… dare I say dramatically pulled himself up as if fighting a powerful magnetic field and not loose change and old popcorn kernels lodged between the cushions of my sofa—activating magnets—one in his right bun, one in his left—making standing up, well, extra hard.

“What. Are. We. Going. To. Do. Today. Nana?” he growled while resisting the gravitational pull of those damn Butt-Magnets.

And that was a very good question.

What the hell would we do today?

Probably what we did yesterday, Buddy. We’ll hunker down, inside my lovely but little one-bedroom apartment with Oscar and Clemmy who will need to pee and poop eventually, so we’ll venture outside for that. Otherwise, it’s gonna be The Disney Channel for you, and me banging my laptop keys with CNN streaming from my phone for Nana.

Welcome to another episode of ‘Another Hot Day in Covid-19 Summer and We Are Not In Paradise.’

Sorry, kiddo. The Grandkid Generation got dealt a string of bum hands—and by the way—good luck saving Mother Earth—we’ve worn her out and pissed her off.

Instead, I chirped, “Oh hell, we’ll think of something. We always do, don’t we?” Smiling widely because smiling helps me think optimistically.

Everyone knows starvation makes you walk funny so Johnny zombie-walked from the living room to the kitchen stopping to hit me with a Frankenstein-hug as he passed by.

“Nana. There isn’t anything to eat in here,” he said too fast which means he’d opened the refrigerator door, AT BEST.

“Aw c’mon, buddy. That’s impossible. I went grocery shopping two days ago!” No small feat during these Covid-19 days, mind you. “Check the fruit and veggie bin, look behind the eggs, and the kombucha and my wine. There’s FOOD in there Johnny-Moto!”

Oh, and did you check the freezer?

Of course, he hadn’t checked the freezer so he did and after another too quick scan at-best was ready to report there was certainly nothing there much less to eat behind either refrigerator door, top or bottom — or so he thought.

“Nana, what’s this?” I heard him say toward the back of my head.

“What’s what?” Resting my fingers lightly on the keys until he answered. I try to remember my time with my favorite, growing like a weed, and one and only grandson is limited when he’s “home” for The Summer.

No more key-banging, time to participate.

He stood with both doors of my smaller-than-average fridge swung wide open, hands in meaty fists resting on both hips—his eleven-year-old legs long and chubby-turning-to-muscle—taut, knees-locked, feet planted wide.

“What’s what, buddy?”

“That,” he said pointing and staring at a black paper bundle held closed by one thin canary yellow and one wide royal blue rubber band.

“Oh, that! That’s my bird,” I replied, maybe also too fast and too matter-of-factly now that I think about it.

“Whaaaaaaaaat?!? Wait. Your bird, Nana?” he sounded fascinated and exasperated as he pointed at a black bundle held tightly closed by multi-colored rubber bands nestled next to the Frozen Ginger Cubes.

There was no getting around his unusual discovery, so I retrieved the frozen bird burrito from its years-long resting place—let Johnny *touch it* and popped her back in the freezer.

The look on his face read, Nana, you got some splainin’ to do.

I proceeded to explain my bird to Johnny.

About 4–5 months after The Break-Up and moving into the new-to-me circa 1930s 3-story 9-unit apartment building on one of Sacramento’s main arteries, unspectacularly named J Street, I nearly stepped on a dead bird.

In the midst of Boo-Hooing over The Break-Up and lugging my overstuffed Glad Tall Drawstring EXTRA STRONG! trash bag, full of holes and oozing God- knows-what considering my weird food proclivities—banging and leaking down my bare legs, as I trudged to the building’s smelly Giant Blue Dumpster.

“Wait what, Nana? You almost stepped on IT?”

“No Buddy! Geez, aren’t you paying attention?”

Feeling something wet and sticky filling my Birkenstocks I looked down just in time to barely avoided flattening her—this very dead bird lying on her side with the well-worn sole of my now greasy hippy-sandal.

There she was. A Western Kingbird —whole, full and so lifelike! There were no signs of trauma on her perfectly feathered body, yet she’d never sing a birdsong again. Obviously, she died of a broken heart. I can relate. And here she is smack dab in the middle of my new building’s busy walkway near a Dumpster.

Not on my watch, girl, not on my watch.

Now that I had The Bird inside my apartment, I had no idea what to do.

She appeared to be perfectly healthy. She was beautiful to behold which made the fact that she was very dead even sadder. I hadn’t lived in my second-floor flat long enough to bond with the feathered friends outside my window, but I was pretty sure she lived in my new neighborhood.

And whenever I have no idea what to do — I’m compelled to do SOMETHING.

I wound the last rubber band around the small bundle of bird swaddled like a burrito with growing layers—cheesecloth, Glad-Wrap, Reynolds Wrap, and a used gift-bag appropriately colored a glossy black, the handles tucked in, of course.

“You wrapped it like a burrito, Nana? That’s disgusting!” Johnny stated more than asked.

“And WHY WOULD YOU EVEN DO THAT, ANYWAY?”

Now that was a direct question.

Why I do things is almost always more obvious to me than to other people, even when the people asking are people, I think should understand The Obvious.

I couldn’t just leave her out there — she deserved a decent burial, duh! Sometimes Johnny could be such a little Dude.

“But how LONG have you, HAD IT, in your freezer?” Johnny demanded — opening the freezer as if to see if she’d moved—sticking his head in DEEP sniffing like a bird-dog with nostrils operating in stereo.

“Seven years.”

“SEVEN YEARS, Nana?!!? Wait SEVEN YEARS! So like since I was a baby, practically!” Apparently I had blown his almost 12-year old mind and like a lot of young (and old) men tend to be at once fascinated by little things and so righteously annoyed by anything no matter what size—if it doesn’t make sense TO THEM.

Johnny closed the freezer door as if to close the door on the subject.

“Hey, I thought you were hungry, buddy?

“No thanks, Nana,” he said a little softer than I expected, as he made his way back to his station on the couch.

He sat on the couch half-heartedly channel-surfing, gaming, and watching YouTube all at the same time.

“Hey buddy, wanna take The Shrimps for a walk?” I asked. “Let’s go for a quickie, whaddaya say?”

Making a Pee-Run in the late-morning, pre-noon-day blaze with the dogs sound like more than a hot-trot around the block — was the kind of B.S. I try to avoid feeding my grandson, if and when I can help it.

The Shrimps wiggled their hairy Shrimp-rumps, wagging scythe-shaped shrimp-tails, ever-delighted for a stroll on their long, retractable leads—no matter what the weather—trotting, pecking, and whiffing—while Johnny and I followed—walking slowly side by side on too-hot-too-white and baking cement.

We were about half a block away from “Home Base” and Johnny, not a chatterbox but not eyes-downcast quiet either—hadn’t said one word.

“You’re awfully quiet, buddy. What’s up, kiddo?”

Looking down at his feet, he kicked at a dirty plastic drinking straw and a few chipped rocks blocking his path. “What about The Bird, Nana? What are you going to do about The Bird?!?”

My grandson teaches me something new every time we hang out.

So when vexes like five months of lockdowns, openings, closings, home-schoolings, Zoomings and now Summer’s hell-fire heat—Johnny’s got a dead bird freezing his brain.

Damn if kids don’t think the darndest things! Yet I’m still caught off balance and a bit by surprise.

“Nana, what are you going to do about the bird?” he made sure he repeated.

“We’re going to have a funeral. That’s what we’re going to do.”

We’ll kill two birds with one stone!

It’s been seven long years—I need the extra space in my freezer and Johnny, and I need something to do this afternoon.

“Let’s go back inside, Buddy. We’re all sweatin’ balls out here, hey?”

“When are we going to have the funeral?”

“Huh? Well, I don’t know exactly. I wasn’t going to invite anyone were you?”

HAHA, NANA IS SO FUNNY.

“Very funny, Nana. What time? And WHERE are we going to bury it? You don’t have a yard, Nana. And we don’t have a shovel.”

Wow. Johnny was making some excellent points and not things I’d considered although to be fair—not until I’m asked to be specific, that is.

“Don’t worry. We’ll figure it out. We always do, right Buddy?”

I said this confidently. Always confidently. Because in fact in my head it’s figured out until it isn’t and he’s not old enough to understand that yet.

Only he is plenty old and wise, and he just stared at me like I had sprouted horns.

And frankly, sometimes I do, and thank goodness. I don’t always know what’s best for me.

“Do you think we should just go ahead and have the funeral for The Bird, now, instead of waiting?” I asked him, hoping, the expression on his face would change.

“Do you?” he asked.

Followed by a more pointed query: “And I mean why would you want to wait anyway?”

And since I didn’t have any answer other than I hate saying good-bye and because that’s a lousy answer—we got ourselves ready to bury Our Bird.

We stood on the sidewalk looking down at the small hole I dug using a borrowed garden spade while Johnny held the deceased and likely rapidly thawing bundle.

We stood staring at the hole. It wasn’t particularly deep. It also wasn’t on my property, so there was that.

“Nana! The hole isn’t deep enough.” He stated flatly and I'm pretty sure he rolled his eyes.

Using our borrowed in theory garden spade, I pawed deeper and wider wondering if training the mutts to dig holes on command might be something to do in my spare time while in lockdown?

“Nana! It’s fine! It’s good! Stop digging!”

“Do you want to say something?” I asked him, noticing he held the bundle with two hands like he was presenting a small loaf of bread to someone but no one in particular.

“That’s ok, Nana.”

Nana’s rarely at a loss for words so on behalf of both of us—we thanked that bird for being a friend all these years. We hoped we were burying her near her family and friends both feral and domestic which we called on to look after The Bird.

“We should sing a song.”

And now, he’s definitely rolling his eyes.

I don’t know any funeral songs.

“Actually, I don’t either.”

But I do know ‘You Are My Sunshine’ (only the first two stanzas), so I sang that, and we went back inside and carried on with our day.

AMEN

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East coast roots—West coast spirit. "Tell the truth and shame the devil." ~ Françoise Rabelais Writer, artist, proprietress and antique peddler with reverence for the past and aspirations for the future.

Sacramento, CA
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