Alex wondered why the sun was so bright. It wasn’t meant to anything but give light, and yet it had to do it well? Kind of like how he had nothing to do but hunt around his backyard for entertainment, and yet a force within him, one like nature, pulled him forth, asking him for the best of himself. He didn’t have to, but he did. He had to. He knew he did, so he did.
“Char-char!” He called, when he noticed that his puffy schnauzer wasn’t trailing behind. The little dog sniffed the ground where he’d been preoccupied with once more, before moseying over to Alex.
“Where is the mountain?” Alex asked the dog. Charlemagne panted and nuzzled into Alex’s hand which was searching the dog’s black fur for a source of tension to be scratched. The dog didn’t respond and Alex touched his head a few times in a staccato softness.
“I don’t know, I’m asking you.”
From the house, Alex’s mother Tiffany watched in quiet relief as her son played with his dog. It had taken years for him to finally open his mouth and speak, a sign of his autism the doctors had told her. She was a single mother, the man in her life who had given her Alex having left for another woman, who understood him, and wasn’t a terrible human being, as he had spat at her in those final days. Tiffany didn’t like focusing on those things. She preferred being happy for the simple complications of her son talking. Making thoughts into words. Even though he had trouble still with social relationships, she was happy at least that he was making progress. She had been happy to get the dog for him, as their most recent therapist had recommended they do. Alex had gotten gravely excited at the idea, a scientist discovering a new method, a new possibility. But Tiffany knew he was inside probably just as elated as she was. She sipped her coffee and smiled around the warmth, watching her son falling into a sitting position on the summer-yellow grass and show different objects to the dog that minded them dutifully.
Alex was having a moment of contemplation, something he often did, where he rejoiced in the purity of silence, and looked around. He didn’t care for the punishment of physical details. How numerous the grass was, how blue the sky was. He liked when things fell right in place, one right after another, and didn’t mind when the order was proposed and made onto them. He liked when some things meant things and others had different meanings, but, all things kept to those meanings, no matter what. It was in this state of mental proposition, when he saw a flash of color, dip into his vision, and then stay in it, like it was trying to attract his attention.
A bird. Alex had a slight affinity for things that could propel beyond gravity and fly. Birds were no exception. He and Char, they had to walk on their legs, face the ground in fierce submission that no human nor other creature alike could deny. But birds… they could fly. They could trace clouds and tame shards of sun onto their feathers for the keeping. They could go anywhere, see anything from any angle, perceive any happening that was feasible to their abilities.
Alex was quite envious of them. He wished on several occasions to die and be reborn as a bird. How easy it would be to escape when scared, and live when wanting to live in any particular way he could imagine.
“Hi,” He said, even though the bird was now distracted by the coiled blue hose on the other side of yard, hopping around it, its head twitching as it heard and saw all it did. “Have you seen heaven?” Alex was only seven, but he liked asking questions he was sure people who didn’t seem like him didn’t ask. “Bird,” he protested, standing up on his skinny legs, Charlemagne staring up curiously at him. The bird, as he walked closer, started to take notice of him, and hobbled away, making Alex a little angry. Finally, the bird knew it only had one moment of escape, and chanced it, soaring up and disappearing into the dark fringe of forest that appeared like a wall of finite mystery on the far edge of Alex’s backyard. Alex was frozen for a minute, staring after where it had gone. Although his ego was small and hardly existent, he felt it start to go purple on one facet, like a diamond encountering a bruise. He wanted to know where the bird was going. It must’ve been somewhere worth while, if it had to go there when fearing capture. A home, perhaps, to loved ones, things Alex had seen in movies. He didn’t really fit into any force of love. It was to him as gravity was to the bird. Inconsequential and undoubtably a gray area.
With one last look to make sure his mother had gone to do her laundry and other household chores, Alex dashed across the grass to the woods, and called for Charlemagne to toddle behind. The dog was old, but wise and always willing.
“We need to know, Char,” Alex whispered, wondering if the bird was listening. “We need to know where it lives.”
Alex was rarely struck by this kind of feeling of importance. Rather, little wisps of it clung to his skin or his hands or his thoughts, but hardly ever stayed. He liked the buzz of want, of need, for knowledge and the conclusion of a chase. He didn’t want anything more than that kind of relief. To know.
The sun poked in from up top above the tree’s stately forms, creating a scattered path for him to follow on his hopeful feet. He didn’t enjoy how every animal who lived in this green enclosure had to chirp and sing so much, the sounds all grappling with his thought and causing him the feeling of claustrophobia that other children did when he tried to be around them. They were too loud, too much. He liked loneliness. Why couldn’t the bird be lonely like him? Why did it have to be so utterly surrounded by its fellows?
Char was complacent while jogging along, stopping to mark his territory every once and a while, or whenever Alex would stop, search for the blueness of the bird by turning in a complete circle, and then call for it and wait. He was a trusty companion. Old, but not ready yet to stop his adventures. He enjoyed the business of Alex, how Alex never ended his conversations, or never started them, either. He just was, and so was Char, and Char preferred that very much.
Alex then got to a part of the forest where he couldn’t see back to his home. This made his heart jump up and down like it was on a motorized pogo stick. How one of those was in his chest made him a little scared. He put his hand over his heart, pledging an allegiance to his mission.
He raised a stick off the ground, and used it like a scanner, waving it around in a ruled pattern, like he would find the bird with ease this way.
“Bird!” He cried. It was nowhere. He felt suddenly an odd depth from within. Like he’d stepped over too soft a ground, and he was now sliding into an animal’s sophisticatedly dug out dwelling. His eyes began to sting.
“Char, it flew off.” He said, in a voice that he didn’t recognize at first because it sounded like it was hurt. He’d been so good, his mother had told him the other day, about controlling himself. Controlling his emotional meltdowns lately. He was defying that now, and he was even more unappreciative of this than he would have previously anticipated.
He fell onto his behind, and crossed his arms over his face, leaning over his knees. He was kinder to the darkness than the light. He wished though he had Char with him for comfort. That he could cut out all the rest and only Char he would see. When he looked up to find his dog, Char was nowhere to be seen. He grew panicked, his heart picking up its entranced chaotic pace.
“Char!” He cried. He heard muted noise, a dog’s bark. He chased after it, using his acute hearing in order to find his dog.
When he found his dog, he wished he hadn’t. The bird was now in pieces scattered on the ground. Char was focusing on its body, chewing up the blue feathery breast with his small teeth. Alex ran at the dog, shouting cruel hurt, until it ran away a few yards, face guilty.
Alex dropped down, examining the damage.
“Bird…” he mumbled. “Oh, your wings.” the birds wings were dismembered, one a few feet from the other.
Alex had so wanted to keep it. Note it, track it, survey it. Now he could not. It was dead and Char was at fault. But he loved the idea of an end, and he loved Char. His mind disturbed itself, toggling from one peace to one destruction, back and forth and back and forth, until he cried.
His mother crashed into the clearing then, looking worried and wide eyed.
“Alex, you can’t run off like that!” His mother said, her tone going too high for Alex, who curled away, crying louder. His mother noted the animal lying in pieces then.
She closed in on her son in quiet hesitation, sitting down and patting his back. She understood the ferrel minded passions of her little boy. The way he could have absolute cherishing focus for one thing, and then no feeling for it the next. He fell as hard as he rose.
“He did nothing,” Alex said. “He was just a bird, mom.”
“He was more than that, Alex,” his mother said, rejoicing that he son was allowing her to comfort him, had called her ‘mom’ and not ‘Tiffany’. “He was so much more than that, I promise.”
Char watched them both from across the clearing. It grew peaceful as the grief drained out of Alex like blood from a nostalgic wound. Char rested his head to his paws, and feeling safe in the company of his family, wished that Alex knew everything that was innate to other humans. Char hoped that one day, his lessons would bequeath unto Alex some sort of intuitive knowledge.
That he would too know he was more than just a bird.