September 2, 2011

by Mr. W

It was when he was a boy, padding alone through the wind-whipped strawgrass by the shore, that he saw the heron snared in wire. The heron would beat its wings, rest, beat its wings; but make no progress to freeing its legs and body.

His sneakers sucked mud as he entered the shallow break water. The heron grew frantic, blurred wings and slashing beak; then, as the boy’s shadow draped the bird, it stopped moving. Resigned, perhaps, or hoping it was unseen.

The boy gave the bird’s back a pat. Glossy slick feathers; the heron flinched at his touch. The boy flinched back, afraid of the razor beak, the trapped claws. He could see how the wire was wound around the bird, could figure out the puzzle if the bird stayed still.

A few more pats, and the boy settled. He stroked the bird’s neck and back. He crouched in the mud to unsnare the heron and soon experienced something that would stay with him for the many decades of his life.

Deep-fried heron doesn’t taste as good as one hopes it might.