The Robin And The Frozen Nest

The Robin And The Frozen Nest
By Chongchen Saelee

Miles Longman found joy bathing in golden yellow sunlight early in the morning overlooking his many acres of wooded land covered in snow. He particularly enjoyed the friendly robins chirping even in freezing temperatures, as though there wasn’t a care in the world. Miles would dress in heavy winter clothing and trek up the snowy hills to visit some local robin nests. The robins had grown familiar with him in their habitat that they expected him every morning. Miles had watched generations of robins grow in his backyard for over 20 years.

This particular morning, Miles found a frozen robin’s nest dangling off a branch. It seemed as though a snowball fell into it, melted and refroze as ice. The nest was pretty much an ice cube with tiny frozen blue robin eggs inside. However, Miles witnessed a strange phenomenon. The mother robin would continue to nurse her frozen nest. She would return with twigs or leaves and continue to build the nest. Miles heart would sink as he watched. He wondered if the robin knew her eggs were dead.

Later that evening, after gathering some fire wood, Miles told his wife Mary about the frozen robin nest. Mary seemed like a joyful woman. They have been married for over 30 years. It wasn’t that their marriage was exciting, but it was a good partnership, and they got by comfortably. The only problem was they seem to have had the misfortune of being a barren couple. They’ve tried to conceive children for the past 10 years without success. So it gave them joy to see those little robins flourish in their backyard. Mary always looked forward to hearing about Miles bird stories.

“You know what, dear, it’s the strangest thing. I just watched this poor mother robin nurse her dead frozen nest like it was nothing the matter. Broke my heart.” Miles said, sipping his coffee.

“That so, love?” Mary was stirring the deer stew in a big pot. “Poor thing. Did none of the eggs survive?”

“No. I’m pretty sure not. The nest was practically an ice cube.”

“And the mother robin just kept tending to it? My god.” Mary shook her head with concern.

“Yeah. Poor thing.” Miles stared out the window and sipped his warm coffee as the sun set.

For the next few weeks, Miles continued to visit the frozen robin’s nest. And every day, the mother robin would tend to the frozen ice block with tiny blue eggs inside. He never wanted to intervene, as he never felt it was his place to interfere with nature. He just watched and felt a great swell of pity for the mother bird, but also at times commending it for how much courage it must have to return every day and hope the nest was still viable. And other times he just wished it was as simple as the mother robin not knowing.

The last week, it was particularly cold, but Miles was determined to keep up his routine and visit the frozen robin’s nest. The snow was thigh high and the trek up the snowy hill wasn’t particularly easy. When miles reached the frozen nest, he found the mother robin lying on it’s side next to the block of ice. It was twitching and covered with dust of snow. It seems the harsh nature of winter had come to collect the robin’s life, just as it had her eggs.

But the mother robin seem to gather her last energy to perch and became attentive when it saw Miles approaching. It struggled to flap it’s frost-bitten wings, but it made a last-ditch attempt to fly towards its human friend. Miles was dumbfounded and stood still, trying to be like a tree stump covered in white. But the mother robin perched on Mile’s shoulder, more of a plop, and nuzzled his red swollen cheek. And if not even a few seconds later, the mother robin slipped off his shoulder limp and Miles caught the dead bird in his hands.

Overcome with grief, Miles slowly sank into the snow and cried uncontrollably.

Later that evening, Miles returned home drunk. He had sneaked off to tool shed and started drinking his homemade moonshine. He had spilled the alcohol over his shirt and reeked of sorrow and anger.

“Miles! Love! Have you been drinking?” Mary rushes to Miles’ side as he plopped himself on his favorite chair.

“She’s dead. She died. Along with the babies.” Miles slurred, not wanting to look his wife in the face.

“Oh no. I’m so sorry, love. No.” Mary tearing up, seeing how much the birds meant to her husband, hugging him deeply.

Mary tried to pick her husband up as he was sliding from his chair. He still didn’t want to look at his wife. And he just didn’t feel like anything. So Miles just slouched there awkwardly sideways in his chair with the look of 100 weights on his chest and the pain on his face to show it. He was crying dry tears.

Mary fetched him a mug of freshly brewed coffee, but Miles refused to acknowledge her when she offered it to him. Mary frowned, the mug trembling in her hand. She placed the mug aside and caressed her husband’s shoulder, but it didn’t help. Tears welling up in her eyes, Mary gracefully excused herself and left her husband in his chair to mope.

Mary retreated to their cellar where she began to cry heavily. She was wiping her runny snot with her apron. She fell to the floor and leaned up against the wall, pulled her knees into her arms and sank her head down into her knees and cried.

And the swaying, flickering lightbulb dangling from the cellar ceiling painted colorful shadows of kleidascope of preserved fruits, spices, and handmade jewelry. The cellar was Mary’s safe space. She kept her joys and even her sadness down there.

And deep behind the shadow of a shelf of jars of preserved apricots, the swaying light caught the highlights of something round, pale, and egg-like. There were other jars stuffed there, hidden in the nook behind the shelf. At first they looked like jars of yellow fluid and possibly preserved garlic or onions, but anyone would mistake it as such.

No, hidden in that shadow, there were 9 jars of aborted human fetuses. Mary’s joy and sadness. The fetuses looked normal and healthy, no malformations. They looked like they were frozen in time.

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