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A Captured Moment

by Alexandra Zeller 7 months ago in Short Story
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a photo can be damning

Photo by Magda Ehlers of Pexels

Iron and Wine's Flightless Bird, American Mouth blasted through my headphones. It provided a great sound barrier against the bustling traffic. One of the most unfortunate things about visiting Venezuela was that Santiago de León de Caracas is like any other stereotypical capital city. A million things to do and a million places to be.

I came here to find myself. I, like many others, fled my birthplace in search of something more. I was longing to feel wanted, needed, and appreciated. Albeit, I had that with a man- but he decided he no longer loved me. How was I supposed to be loved now?

I followed the crowd across the crosswalk and headed toward my apartment. Based on the numerous piles of mail that had built up outside of my door, people in Caracas were looking for me. Letter after letter was addressed about missing payments, threats of eviction, and numerous scams enticing me to join "lucrative opportunities".

After double-checking all the mail, I found a flyer that caught my eye. On it was a caged Blue and Gold macaw. Macaw's had always fascinated me, with their intelligence and boisterous coloring it always seemed like an honor when a flock of them would cross my path. It was especially prevalent on my impromptu sabbaticals. Heading into the more rural regions of Venezuela was always a treat. The Macaws, Parakeets, and Ibis were always the most treasured treats. I always made sure they were part of my photoshoots.

By Zdeněk Macháček on Unsplash

Photographing them felt like I was capturing a sacred moment. I had remembered seeing these birds back in America, but they were often hidden behind nets, cages, and glass. I had never seen these creatures up close.

Needless to say, this particular advertisement was much different from the others I had received. It seemed genuine in tone, pleading for people to help speak up about the illegal wildlife trafficking in Venezuela. It had some general contact information and was specifically looking for someone adept in photojournalism. Although it wasn't my forte, this was much better than working a dead-end retail job in the city- if I even had that job after going MIA again.

The next morning I contact the number. Although they were hesitant to bring on a photography student, after some in-person interviews and pleading, they put me on an investigation with more seasoned members to see how I would hold up. They had been tracking a flock of Blue and Gold Macaws but were becoming suspicious that they were also being tailed by poachers.

The time came for the stakeout. The plan was relatively simple, we lay low in the foliage during the time the birds are known to be out and about. If their suspicions were correct, these poachers should come by and lay glue traps, attempt to steal the eggs, and possibly use a few mist nets to catch any bird that flies in that direction.

Three of us set up our bunkers, each taking a corner a couple of meters away from each other around the tree that the Macaws seemed to favor. As soon as early morning hit, they were up and at it. It was gorgeous watching them fly above us, we even saw a Toucan lurking about.

By Chloe Evans on Unsplash

Not more than an hour later, the trappers were at work. One began to climb the tree, placing glue traps in tactical spots. This was to hold the birds in place so they could capture them when they came back to rest at night. Another began ransacking the nests, carefully plucking each egg that looked viable enough to hatch. The last one worked to string up a giant mist net. These were normally used by researchers to keep tabs on native birds, but the holes in this one were big enough to trap a macaw. If not careful, the scared Macaws could even injure themselves on the netting.

I ground my teeth in anger as I seethed in silence. My colleagues and I both knew interfering could mean death, so I was forced to silently document all of their doings. We had hoped to stay and scare the returning Macaws from roosting in the trees, but we were pushed out when the trappers were extending the trapped area too close. We had to leave.

When we regrouped at the rallying point, I was gripping my camera so hard it felt as if I could snap it in half.

"Relájate, chica," Alejandra chided. She put her hand on my shoulder and gave it a good shake. To be honest, I wanted to snap her in half. How could she remain so nonchalant?! Just then, James came up behind both of us, giving us a small shove.

"She knows what she was getting into Alejandra. She needs to grow up."

He tossed the equipment in the back of the truck as Alejandra got into the passenger's seat. I just stood there, fuming. Rolling his eyes, James pulled me aside.

"You need to calm down Lilith. Alejandra and I both knew this could happen. It's unfortunate, but we need to take this information back to the reserve. If anyone can help, it's them. Sure, this flock will likely suffer losses, but the quicker we expose this the more media attention it can get.

I nearly lost it there.

"Are you absolutely delusional James? Get it through your British little head, nobody cares! Nobody cared in American, nobody cared in Britain, and nobody is gonna get a fuck in Venezuela."

Alejandra got out of the car then, slamming the door behind her as she stomped he way towards us.

"You two are like... chamaco!" She shouted, lifting her hands in the air. "It doesn't matter if everyone cares. It only takes one influential person to notice for it to take off. Uno!" She shoved her finger in both of our faces and signaled to get in the car. This time, she was driving. Like two children sulking after being chided, we silently watched out the windows as she drove.

"Stop thinking everything is so black and white. The Venezuelan people will care that the beauty is being hoarded. Have faith in my people, and have faith in your own works." She scoffed before going silent. It was hard not to be hurt by her scolding. Alejandra had become a mentor to me, taking me in since day one of joining the reserve. She knew that I threw my heart into these things. If anything, Alejandra should've been a bit more compassionate toward my bleeding heart.

When we got back to the reserve, all was silent. James hadn't said a word and retreated back towards his bunkhouse. I helped Alejandra unload the rest of the truck before she abruptly pulled me into a big hug.

"I know you love the pájaro, Lilith. I know it hurts you. But remember, just as those birds are precious to you, your life is precious to me. We may have lost the battle, but we will win this war, mi hija."

She pulled me into a tight embrace. For the first time in years, I felt loved. I felt wanted. I felt needed. The birds needed me. Alejandra needed me. In a way, she was setting me free.

Short Story

About the author

Alexandra Zeller

A young adult still trying to find her place in this world.

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