The bird was dead before I got there.
I looked up at the heavy gray clouds, which were crying for the tiny brown-feathered avian life form that had been snuffed out in a manner unknown to me. I was hiding under a hard yellow plastic chair, trying to keep dry. It was melodramatic of me, and it wasn't stopping the rain from drenching my clothes. I was seven years old, so maybe I just didn't know better.
I studied the bird hard. Did the cold rain kill him? His dead body seemed lonely, just like me.
Rewind two hours. My dad dropped me off at the schoolyard, and neither of us noticed anything strange. I was late, of course, and both the parking lot and playground were empty. My dad gave me a bear hug, and I hopped out of the car wish a wet rubber squish. It had rained the previous night, and puffy coal clouds threatened a second round. I ran with that awkward side-to-side gait peculiar to young kids running quickly under a heavy backpack.
I speed-waddled up to the classroom door. Locked...pupil-free day. This is bad.
That's when it started to rain.
Two hours later, I was under the only shelter I could find. Actually, I think I sought out the hard yellow plastic chair because it seemed to be the most pitiful option, and I felt pretty pitiful. I found the dead bird there -a sparrow perhaps? - laying on his side under the chair, stiff as a board but whole. Did he die from feeling pitiful?
I knew my situation wasn't hopeless. Truth be told, part of me was excited that this unusual thing was happening to me. In my head, I half-hoped that this was the beginning of a magical adventure. I was always hoping during that time that a magical adventure would happen to me. That's probably why I buried the bird.
I carried him in my hand, over to the planter that housed the only tree in the otherwise asphalt playground. My fingers hit the hard earth, and I kept digging until I had a hole big enough for a little bird in the mind of a seven-year-old. I think it was about four inches deep.
Gently, gently, I dropped the bird friend I had never had into the hole and covered him up. I felt that I had done a good deed, that my time when everyone was gone at school had left a story in the black asphalt. I guess it did.
My Dad picked me up at 3:15, and did not seem appropriately horrified that I had been left alone at school all day. I didn't tell him about the bird, but now I can't remember why.