“My daughter thinks I spend too much time with you, did you know that?” asked the old man.
The bird tilted its head. Blinked its eyes. Said nothing.
“What does she know anyway?” He slid his gnarled feet in his shoes. “She spends all her time at that job at the bank.”
The bird cocked its head the other way. “That’s right! A bank. What a joke. Most boring place in the world, a bank.” The old man filled a cup with water, fumbled with a small bottle. “Idiot that invented these dang bottles didn’t have arthritis, did he?”
The bottle popped open and spilled little white pills on the counter. “Ugh. Don’t you eat these now! Not for you. Not food!” He swept the pills into one hand with the other, put them all back in the bottle, except for two. Those he swallowed with the drink of water. “Taste like crap, my friend.” He coughed and spat in the sink.
“What do you say? Want to go to the park?” He pulled up the little bamboo birdcage and opened it.
Coaxed by a few seeds, the bird hopped willingly in the cage. Between snaps at the food, it chirped happily. “Better than those pills? Of course! You’re always right. Not much worse than those dang pills.”
The old man put on his old well-worn sweater and stuffed his favorite pipe and pouch of tobacco in the pocket before he left the apartment.
The park wasn’t far, but the old man moved slowly. The bird didn’t mind. The day was warm and bright.
People squeezed past one another on the sidewalks, busy, scrambling here and there. The old man took care not to be toppled in the press or let his little friend be crushed by accident. His shoes squeaked softly on the cobbles as he shuffled along.
The pair finally reached the bench in the park. The old man sat down, looked at the pear blossoms in the trees about the meadow. “Pretty day,” he said to the bird. The bird chirped in apparent agreement.
The man packed tobacco in his pipe and lit it. “Ah,” he muttered. “What do you say, Fung? Would you like to come out of your cage?” Fung perched on the old man’s hand, greedily searching for any seeds. Sweet smoke from the pipe billowed around them as they sat on the bench.
Little Fung warbled in a cloud of smoke, flapped her gray wings, danced on the man’s hand. The man cocked his head to the side and listened.
“I miss her, too. Yes. Li hua would’ve liked seeing the pears in bloom. You’re always right, Fung.” He smiled. A ray of sun caught a glint in the corner of his brown eyes. He exhaled another cloud of smoke and extended a sunflower seed to Fung.
Photo linked via The Heart of Writing.