Just the Bohemian and I, driving at day’s end down our quiet country road. Half a mile from home.
It’s been exactly one week since we lost Merlin (the orphaned chick we adopted, and promptly fell in love with). We are not thinking of the day within this particular context, however, as a small brown spot of fluff appears within view.
As we travel at about 30 miles per hour, we pass a lone, baby chick in the grass, just a foot or two from the road.
“That looked just like Merlin,” the Bohemian says.
“I saw. Should I pull over?”
I ask and veer to the side of the road all at the same time.
Park. Turn off the ignition. “Could that be Merlin?”
The Bohemian is calm. “Maybe. Let’s take a walk.”
We leave the car and walk back along the road, eyeing the tiny chick ahead. There are no other animals around. It stands with its back to us, enough to show wings with golden brown feathers, so similar to Merlin’s. If it were to turn toward us and reveal a chest of white down, we would know for sure.
“Merlin…” the Bohemian tries his standard call as we approach.
The chick pivots to face us, and we know instantly it is not him.
Merlin or not, this little one is clearly orphaned. But before either of us can squat down low and say “ahhhh…” in its direction, the little peep has fled from our presence and scurried across the road.
Without hesitation, the Bohemian turns and moves toward the car. “That’s not our chicken.”
I know, and we are both walking back, side by side.
“He ran from us. He’s not ours.”
“Yeah, I know. It’s true.” I say.
It’s not that we don’t feel empathy for the orphaned chick we just came across. Hopefully, it will find its way. And if it doesn’t – at the risk of sounding cruel – we can trust that nature has a way of keeping some kind of balance in a booming population.
As we drive back home the Bohemian says, “Wouldn’t it have been crazy if that was Merlin? Just a short way from home. Standing by the side of the road, thinking: where are you guys? I’ve been waiting for you!”
Yes, that would have been a surprising twist to our Merlin the chicken saga.
But our hands are empty when we get home, and the house is quiet except for the sounds of song birds outside in the garden.
Looking back on that brief roadside moment with the maybe-Merlin chick, I’m struck with one lasting impression.
The chick looked so similar. About the same size, a similar chirp. But it did not at all feel like the bird we came to know as Merlin.
Merlin, he truly was a bird of a different feather.