Esther came running into the kitchen yesterday afternoon, breathless and rosy, to tell me the funeral was about to start.
"What funeral?" I asked.
"For the bird that Jesse killed," she said.
Jesse, is the neighbor's cat. She spends a lot of time in this house, skulking around corners, crawling into drawers as if she lives here. I am forever shooing her out of the house and am amazed at how indignant she acts, as if I am in the wrong. I'm not a cat hater, by any means. But I'm also not a cat lover. Cat hair makes my eyes itch. Cat hair makes Isla's eyes itch, and water, and stuffs up her nose and causes her to wheeze. Allergies speak louder than lazy, strokeable cuteness.
And then there is that annoying tendency cats have to hunt beautiful animals, like birds, simply for the sport of it. Instinct aside, I have never found this little quirk all that attractive. And how to explain murderous feline behavior to my children, without turning them into cat haters--no creature deserves hate, except, perhaps, the Lyme-carrying deer tick--proves challenging.
Esther is angry at Jesse for killing the bird. When she and her friend Oliver, who owns the cat, spotted Jesse with the bird in her proud mouth, Oliver kicked a soccer ball at her to scare her away. When they got to the bird, Esther discovered it was too late.
When I got there, Essie and Oliver had already dug a hole, placed the bird in it, sprinkled it with wild violets, and were waiting for the mourners to come. Isla and I arrived, then Gail, Oliver's mom showed up. Just as we were ready to begin, Ian came around the corner, just home from work.
We stood, silent and reverent, around the mourning children, as they took turns covering the bird with soft earth. Isla kept letting out these sympathetic, disappointed, tongue clucks. "Poor poor birdy."
Since it was a French bird, we guessed, the rites were read in French.
"Dors bien, petit Oiseau."(Sleep well, little bird.)