That morning, Sue found the fledgling blue bird, or was it a jay; she could never tell. She had just lugged the long hose across the driveway, her oldest son guiding the warm rubber hose through the heavy pots that littered her patio and the fresh ground cover she'd planted the day before as she moved, when the small blue ball jumped in front of her.
"Hey baby," Sue cooed, watching the small bird hop into the shady patch of grass next to the tall oak tree. She continued showering the potted ferns and pulled weeds that had popped up around the newly planted crape myrtle. She tossed the weeds into the full garbage barrel and wiped her hands on the small orb of her belly that had remained present on her body since the birth of her last son nineteen years before. When she turned back to make one last look over the work she had been doing since the summer began, Sue's eyes fell over the small bird, and she felt it look back at her.
Inside, Sue washed the muggy morning out of her hair and scrubbed it from under her nails. She shaved her legs and checked the polish on her toes, deciding it could last another day. She dried her hair, masked her face with the foundation powder that had come in the mail, and pulled on an Ole Miss t-shirt and khaki shorts, stretching the elastic over her waist.
"Can you make the pasta?" Sue asked her oldest son. "I've got to go."
"Yes," he started.
"The meatballs need to be warmed up and don't forget to salt the water. You can start without me," she said as she opened the front door.
She climbed into the white van and eased slowly out of the driveway, stopping by the oak tree. The blue feathered ball sat in the same spot, its head turned to stare back at her.
Sue took her usual seat next to her mother in the nursing home's dining hall. The white haired woman patted her thigh with one of her knotted and clenched hands as Sue crumbled a square of corn bread into the bowl of beans on her mother's plate. She mashed the crumbles into the liquid, churning the beans into a paste. Sue filled the plastic spoon with the bean mixture and lifted it to her mother's mouth.
"It's beans and cornbread," Sue said. "You like it."
"Oh, yeah," her mother said, letting Sue's words fill in the gaps which worsened everyday. The elderly woman raked a small bite from the end of the spoon and dropped her head to rub her thumbnails against each other.
"You're eating like a little bird tonight," Sue said, working more of the beans onto the spoon. "We had a little bird in our yard this morning."
"You did?" her mother asked.
"He was just hopping around, enjoying the sunshine and my pretty flowers!." Sue lifted her voice, hoping to keep happy images around the two of them. She lifted the spoon back to her mother's mouth and watched her take a bigger bite of the beans and cornbread. She placed the spoon back in the bowl and helped her mother with the straw as she slurped the cold tea.
When she returned home, the bird was still planted firmly beneath the oak tree. Sue stood over its small blue body encouraging it to fly, or even move, but the bird remained still.
"Do we have any plastic cups?" she asked.
Her oldest son pulled one of the red cups from the top shelf in the pantry and watched her cut enough off of the bottom to hold a few ounces of water. She led him outside in his bare feet to place the water near the bird. The two of them waited, and were joined by the other boys as the summer sun began to set. Sue finally set one of her wire baskets over the bird and asked the lord to keep it safe over night while her sons rolled their eyes.
The next morning the bird chirped as Sue removed the basket, but it remained still, turning an eye on Sue as she watered, waiting.