April 16

Easter

 

Today begins the season of hope and rebirth.

Faye always remembered the message her parents repeated for the Easter holiday.  Once, when she was six years old, Mom and Dad gave her a special present that further reinforced the holiday’s message.

In addition to a basket of chocolate eggs and jelly beans and plastic grass, they gave her a live baby chick.

The tiny bird was her favorite color, pink, courtesy of a dye injected into the egg during incubation.  She held the animal in a cupped hand, and the sharp feet scratched gently into her palm.  The bird trembled and shook, and it chirped constantly.  When she ran a slow finger over its feathers, the nervous shaking began to calm down.  That convinced Faye that her new pet liked her.

Mom ran water in the tub, and she set the newly christened Pinky into the water.  That’s when the chick really came alive,  It had a cute beak and pin-point eyes — nothing in its face to express emotions.  But from the way it moved in the water, Faye could tell the baby chick was happy.

“Is it a boy or a girl,” she asked her father.

“I’m not sure,” Dad replied.  “They didn’t tell us at the pet store.”

Faye ran another slow finger over soft pink feathers.  “Pinky’s a girl, I think.  Or she’d be blue, right?”

Dad laughed, said “Sure,” and let her play with her new pet.  Her parents also gave her a wire cage, with a food and water tray.  She put the cage next to her bed, poured heaps of food pellets into the tray, then went to sleep.

Early the next morning, the chick cheeped and cheeped to wake Faye.  It had grown larger — which was natural for a young thing, she thought — and she gave it more food to quiet it down.

As Faye later learned, her parents had bought the chick as a novelty item, not really getting significant instructions from the pet shop.  They left the baby chick in the care of a six year old child, and after several days, her poor bird died from improper feeding and lack of exercise.

Not really the Easter lesson her parents intended.

 

#

 

Twenty years later, Faye’s parents are gone, and the world is mostly empty of life.  She recalls their words about Easter, repeats it as a kind of mantra or prayer, hoping there’s some magic in it.

Faye holds an oval-shaped stone in her hand.  She rubs the surface of it, the oils of her fingertips smoothing the surface, making it soft like feathers, like the unblemished surface of an eggshell.  Faye imagines life in it.  Holds it up to her ear, shakes it.

She’s holding a plastic Easter egg, blue and hollow with a faint crack around the circumference.  Years ago, her parents would have hidden candy in it for her to discover.  Faye shakes the plastic egg, hears the candies rattle inside, imagines shiny foil-wrapped chocolates, sugar treats in bright red and yellow and orange.

She’s holding an actual egg, an off-white shell with faint brown speckles. The egg wobbles gently in her palm, perhaps her own tremor, but perhaps something inside responding to the incubating warmth of Faye’s hand.  She imagines a tiny beak breaking through the shell, a baby chick emerging, its feathers a natural color, without the awful mutating effects that have plagued her world in recent months.  Once it’s born, she will know how to feed and care for it.  This time, it will live longer than a week.

Today begins the season of hope and rebirth.