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Trauma Clean Part Three

by Michelle Mead about a year ago in Short Story
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Part Three of a Three Part Story about Life, Death and Beyond

“How much of a coincidence does something have to be before you see it’s not a coincidence?”

These were my father’s frustrated words to me every time we argued about his irrational beliefs.

They ring in my head now I’m looking at a parrot perched near a break in the ice on a frozen pond. It looks like the same kind an older cousin of mine had growing up, an African Grey.

Roy and I have followed the voice we heard screaming for help, only to discover it belongs to this bird. Teaching the bird to say “Help! Please! Get me out of here!” must have been somebody’s idea of a joke. Roy isn’t at all amused that the bird has lured us out of the house we're supposed to be cleaning and into the cold, and I can’t say I blame him.

We are just about to head back to the house when a small hand reaches out the ice, then slips back in again.

“Oh my God, a kid’s fallen into the ice!” cries Roy, bewildered.

Roy is six feet tall and weighs one hundred and thirty kilograms. There is no way he can safely go to the kid in the ice break. It’s on me, with my mother’s small, light frame, and even for me it’s a risk.

I cross the ice on my belly to try and distribute my weight across a wider surface area. I’m still in my Tyvek wannabe spacesuit, having had no time to grab my jacket first, so the cold as I slide myself along like a baby harp seal is excruciating.

The little hand keeps reaching out and slipping back into the ice, and the top of a head bobs up as the child fights to escape the freezing water.

At the edge of the ice I can see the boy just below the surface. I have to put all my father’s nonsense about water demon drowner spirits out of my head as I reach for him. The stabbing chill takes my breath away as I plunge my hands in to grab him, then work every muscle in my upper body to its limit to pull the kid out of the water and up over the lip of the ice. I keep my hold of him, feeling us being dragged back towards firmer ground as Roy grabs my ankles, and pulls me away from the edge.

Roy grabs up the kid and sprints to the house with him. My arms and legs are frozen numb and feel like jelly, but I still tail him as fast as I can.

The kid is blue and shaking to the point of convulsions but, miraculously, he’s still breathing.

All our careful protocol is broken when Roy grabs a blanket from the woman’s linen closet and burrito wraps the boy in it, because hypothermia seems like a far more immediate danger for him than pathogens right now.

Roy is calling an ambulance, and I’m trying to keep the child warm and calm, when the screaming from the pond starts up again.

The boy, who is lucky to be alive himself, becomes frantic about his pet parrot’s welfare. He fell into the pond trying to chase the escaped bird home.

I placate him by volunteering to go outside now and rescue the parrot, secretly knowing I’m probably the worst possible candidate for task. I do not have a good track record with birds, especially parrots. I still have a scar on my hand from when I ventured to feed my cousin’s African Grey, at eleven, and it bit my hand so badly it took nine stitches to repair it.

Thankfully, the parrot is now away from the pond and close to the house. I brace myself for what I anticipate will be an ordeal retrieving the bird, but am wholly surprised when it simply flies to my arm when I hold it out. Maybe it’s just tired and cold and lost, seeking any port in a storm, but it nestles into me, even seeking shelter under my arm.

The Egyptians loved parrots, especially the talkative African Grey. For the Egyptians, birds were winged souls, and the hieroglyphic sign for a person’s soul is Ba, a bird with a human head. Birds have strong links to the Egyptian afterlife. Some birds were even gods. Nekhbet, the vulture goddess protected Upper Egypt; Horus, a falcon, protected living Pharaohs; and Thoth, an ibis, was the god of wisdom. Parrots are actually considered to be lucky in lots of cultures, associated with happiness, life and good fortune.

These are all things I know because my father took interest in them and encouraged me to do the same.

The boy is taken to hospital by ambulance, while his parrot is taken home by his aunt in some kind of perspex travel cage.

After the day’s drama, Roy and I decide to finish up early, and rest some before we start back on the job tomorrow.

I’m about to drive home when I notice a grey feather has stuck to my sleeve.

As I hold it out to look at it I remember that grey feathers are supposed to promise hope and calm at a trying time in your life.

I decide to take it as a sign, because I know by now it’s a decision to do that.

I could say to myself that the fact that this woman’s house is filled with Marigolds and my father also grew them is just a coincidence.

I could say to myself that a woman having a mummified bull in her house tops the list of weird discoveries, but still doesn’t hold any cosmic significance.

I could say to myself that the child today wasn’t “saved” by the bird he taught to talk because he was only out on the pond because the bird escaped anyway.

But, honestly, I so badly need to believe my father is happy now. That he escaped the forces of darkness that were drowning him, and made it to paradise.

So, I’m making a rational decision to see all the signs from the universe that he has.

Short Story

About the author

Michelle Mead

I love to write stories so I keep doing it, whether it brings me fame and fortune or not. (Spoiler alert: it doesn’t, but that's okay).

I have a blog, too.

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