Nora G. Praml


I. Spring.

            The firsttime I saw the dove there were thick, blunt raindrops pelting the grassy frontyard and darkening the sidewalk that stretched languidly before our house andall others in the suburbs. I was ten years old, kneeling in front of a glassdoor and gazing out into the backyard. The bird stood on a railing connected tothe wooden porch, its breast painted a stormy gray, and ruffled, giving myyoung mind the impression that it was just a soft rock molded into the form ofa dove. I matched its stare, those sharp orange eyes as bright as fall leavespeering down at me while a single black pinprick disrupted each center.

            In thebackground the rain fell relentlessly upon the porch, but the dove acted as ifthere were no rain at all. It continued to watch me, and the pane of glassseparating us became a mirror; over time, it seemed as if I were staring atmyself. I fidgeted, gradually becoming unsettled by the strange bird's gaze;those eyes were more fit for Halloween, when seemingly every pumpkin's facewould glow with a grin.

            "Mom!"I hollered, brown eyes still trained on the dove. I could see, behind my ownreflection, when my mother entered the room.

            "Whatis it?" she asked, her tone shaded in half-interest. "Is theresomething outside?"

            "Yeah,"I whispered. "That bird." I pointed my finger at the railing, wherethe bird sat in silence.

            My motherchuckled, looking out toward the far reaches of our backyard. "I think Isee it over there, on that tree branch. It's probably trying to escape therain." She began to walk away; finally, I separated brown eyes fromorange, though inside I was still mesmerized. I watched her leave the roombefore looking back at the glass door—into the strange, verdantoutside—expecting to see an empty space where the dove once perched.

            It wasstill there, though, clasping the wooden railing that was chipped sofamiliarly. As it held onto the beaten wood, its eyes stared past me, gazingthrough the clear, glass mirror—looking inward.

II.Summer.

            From thenon I continued to see the dove. Those small, wide eyes would always be there,peering through the summertime heat; the temperatures were high, and yet thevery air seemed to be shivering. Days passed like that, with the bird clutchingonto one thing or another while observing everything from my own room to theneighbor's messy backyard. It remained as silent as still water, never singingor chirping like most birds do. It preferred to watch and listen, almostseeming human if it wasn't a dove and unaffected by the sweltering heat.

            I hadfew, but not many, friends. Whenever I had even one more companion with me, thedove would keep its distance; only on that spring day did the dove stay close,and my mother hadn't even seen it. No one ever has.

            Thiscontinued until I was sixteen.

III. Autumn.

            The lasttime I saw the dove there was a harsh, rugged wind that funneled leaves stainedcolors of brown, red, and orange across the pavement. I attended a collegepart-time, and on that day it seemed callous, lifeless; there were people thatI could see, however the distance between me and them felt larger than ever. Iwas walking outside, expecting to see the dove high up in a tree, or perhaps ontop of one of the buildings.

I had become a cynical being, one of the many American youthwho had grown disenchanted with humanity. My face was often frozen in a blankexpression that reflected my internal emotions, those of which brought gloomand hopelessness. To me, the world was bleak—television only depicted violence,while the radio was solely capable of coughing up bad news. Growing up in thisworld forced me into a state of stagnant melancholy.

            Somerogue, twisted gut feeling told me to look down. When I did, my bodyimmediately froze. The dove was lying on its front, dark gray wings foldedbeside it so naturally that it looked as if it were perching somewhere highabove. It's eyes were shut in a state of imagined sleep, and I could hear myheart pounding. I blocked out the trickling drops of denial that began seepinginto my brain like the last clean drops of water from a leaky faucet, knowingthat the dove had both died and been abandoned.

            Irestlessly stood guard in front of it. I hated the thought of people seeing itscorpse and recoiling in disgust. I hated how, if I left it there, the bodywould be on display for every pair of eyes that would pass. Without hesitance Ipicked it up, cocooning it gently in both hands as I began to jog away fromthere; as I went, someone happened to see me and they flinched openly.Eventually I stopped in the middle of a field and fell to my knees. Before Iburied it, I examined its neck. One fragile, pale bone stuck out from the insideof its throat, and with shut eyes the dove looked serene, that piercing look itonce held now gone. There wasn't a single drop of blood.

            Dirtcovered my hands as I began to dig. I thought of all those distant people thatwere unable to understand, and how they'd be frightened, revolted—tied up inknots trying to find a valid reason to do this. When I stopped digging I gentlyplaced the dove inside the hole and covered it up, hiding it from prying eyes.The grave looked too bare so I decorated it with a stick, two pine cones andsome pretty fall leaves. When I was finished, I looked up at the sky.

            Above mewere pale gray clouds, silent and still. I could see, in all directions, wherethe dark clouds ended—it was as if my sadness were so great that it hoveredhigh above me and stretched out for miles. Moments passed before raindrops fellcold on my face, as frigid as the clouds, and I shut my eyes in an attempt toforget the young grave at my knees.

IV. Winter.

            I stilllook back on it today, though with much more awareness. When it died, that dovebecame visible to humanity because death is something that people aredesensitized to. It had died because of humanity itself, so rotten andself-destructive; not at all pure. I truly believe that the bird was notphysical, but rather an otherworldly representation of purity and innocence. Itdidn't die from a broken neck, but from the horrifying state of humanity. Thebone that protruded from its throat was just a ruse, a messy disguise meant toconceal an ugly reality.

            No onecould ever see it—until me, that is. I can't give a definite reason why, but Ican just say that, if my theory is correct, then I understand its purpose.