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Station 13. Monica is taken down from the cross

Wood carving by Susan Hagen, story by Mike Walsh

One afternoon Monica found three baby mockingbirds in her backyard. The pink little birds had very few feathers and couldn't fly or walk. They flapped their fuzzy wings and peeped for food, but their mother was nowhere to be found. Monica assumed that they had fallen out of a nest, but she couldn't find a nest in any of the trees in her or her neighbors' yards.

Monica and her boyfriend Brian, with whom she lived, gave the birds some small pieces of bread soaked in milk, which the birds consumed ravenously. Then they put the birds in a box and put the box on the roof just outside their bedroom window. Within a few hours, the birds' mother flew to the box, fed the baby birds, and started building a nest in the box. Brian and Monica were so happy they jumped about gleefully.

Each day Monica checked on the birds whenever she took a break from her painting. Often she sat in a rocking chair in the bedroom and watched the birds through the window. Sometimes she sat in the chair for hours. She thought of herself as their protector. She felt a bit ridiculous, but if a predator tried to hurt the baby birds, she was prepared to fend it off with a tennis racket she kept near the window.

For weeks she watched as the birds grew and their feathers filled in. Occasionally one of the birds jumped out of the box and hopped about the roof. Monica always ran outside and stood under the portion of the roof where the box was located. She was determined to catch the baby mockingbird if it fell off the roof, but it always hopped back into the box.

Monica found that sitting in the rocking chair watching the birds was very relaxing. She hadn't been able to relax much since having a miscarriage a few months before. Monica wasn't certain that getting pregnant had been such a good idea in the first place, and she had ambiguous feelings about the miscarriage as well. Maybe it had been for the best. After all, she and Brian had always had a stormy relationship, and they had broken up several times during the seven years they had been seeing one another. Once they had separated for over a year.

Deciding to become parents had been a big step for both of them. It had taken her almost a year to get pregnant, and she and Brian were very excited when it finally happened. Since they were having a child together, Monica thought that they might get married. She had no idea what would happen between her and Brian now.

The miscarriage had caught her completely off guard. She had just begun to believe that she was pregnant. Until then it had seemed like a dream, and the miscarriage came like a cruel joke. She was so humiliated she could barely face Brian, much less discuss it. It was as if she had done something terribly wrong. He told her not to let it bother her and that they would try again later, but they hadn't tried again. They hadn't discussed marriage or their future together since then either.

For months afterward Monica was depressed. At times she felt light-headed and fatigued. On some nights she couldn't sleep. Days went by when she couldn't eat. She had stomach cramps and headaches.

But then Monica had gotten a solo show scheduled at a local gallery, and she immediately started on a new batch of paintings. The show had come at a good time for her. The pressure of it had taken her mind off her problems, and had motivated her to paint. She began to feel much better about herself.

She worked long hours almost every day to prepare for the show. She had several large paintings to complete by the opening. Brian complained that she was working too hard and that they never went out, but she didn't want to let herself stop working. She was afraid that if she did she would fail. She wouldn't feel confident facing the world until she was armed with her new paintings.

As the weeks went by the baby mockingbirds got better and better at jumping and flapping about. They were such beautiful little birds that Monica often sat in her rocker doing drawings of them. One morning Monica noticed that the box was empty. All three of the baby birds were missing. She became frantic looking for them. They weren't on the roof. Then she saw them in the backyard. Evidently, they had jumped off the roof.

Two of the mockingbirds jumped from the ground up to a tree branch and then from one branch to another to the top of the tree. The smallest of the three, however, couldn't jump high enough to make it to the lowest branch. It squawked and hopped about excitedly. Monica saw why the baby mockingbird was so agitated. Her cat was slowly creeping across the lawn toward it.

Monica immediately ran downstairs and outside, but she was too late. The cat had the smallest mockingbird in its jaw. Monica screamed. The cat dropped the bird and ran off.

Monica knelt and placed the bird on her lap. It didn't make a sound. Its head fell back and its wings fell open. She knew it was dead. She started weeping and couldn't stop. She told herself that it was just one of the birds, that the other two had survived, but she couldn't pull herself together.

She was still extremely upset when Brian came home from work. She showed him the bird as if she hoped he could somehow bring it back to life. They wrapped the dead bird in a dish towel and gently placed it in a shallow hole in their backyard which they had lined with rocks. They placed rocks on top of the bird too so their cat wouldn't dig it up. The burial made Monica feel a little better, but she was still intensely upset, and she knew it was for things other than the bird.

The next day she went back to work on her paintings with renewed energy and focus. She took very few breaks and worked on the paintings as if she were possessed or angry. She had little patience with minor distractions. She was determined to work as hard as she could and as much as she could until the paintings were finished.

Stations: [Contents] [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11] [12] [13] [14]

See more of Susan Hagen's artwork or Mike Walsh's writing on missionCREEP.

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