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  • Erin P. Griffith

The Dead Bird is Dead


It was unfortunate. It was sad. It was a bit unusual, but not unheard of. My students discovered the dead bird laying outside the backdoor of my classroom. He was laying on his back with his tiny little bird feet sticking up in the air, like he had just lay down for a nap.

In all likely hood, the bird had probably flown into the door and knocked himself straight to birdie paradise. Either way, there it was. Dead. Outside my back door.

Every period, one student would inform me, "There is a dead bird outside your back door."

I would reply (for 6 straight periods) "A raccoon, vulture, or other scavenger will get it." And assure them that "He probably won't be there tomorrow."

I was wrong. This bird must not have been appetizing, even to a lowly scavengers who eat carrion and roadkill on a daily basis. Because, the next day, there he was, still laying there, dead as a doornail...completely unnibbled. Maybe he was full of parasites or poison. Maybe he had been there longer then we thought and was all gross. Maybe he was like the Pope or the president of the redbreasted robins and needed to lie "in state" for a while. Or maybe the scavengers sensed the infestation of teenagers that lingered on the other side of the back door. Either way, nobody wanted to eat the redbreasted robin mcnugget.

The next day, my students walked to the back door and said, "The dead bird is still there!"

"That's ok! the groundskeeper will pick it up and throw it away!" I assured them.

I was wrong. The dead bird continued to lay outside my back door for weeks. Each day, some of my darling 16 year old students would venture to the back door. I finally asked them what they were doing.

"Looking at the dead bird." They said.

"Are you serious?" I asked "Are you expecting a resurrection?"

This became part of their daily routine: Come in. Set their stuff down. Check that the dead bird was still dead. Get out homework. Begin bellwork.

They would periodically give me a status report, "Mrs. G, the dead bird is still dead."

I would give their observations an enthusiastic thumbs up; because, I mean, it IS a SCIENCE CLASS after all; observing is like our "thing."

I began to look at it as our own little "body farm" except, it was a bird. And, it was winter (which slows decomposition). So..... dead bird pretty much looked the same each day. He was really quite well preserved.

Every week or so I would mention that if, at some point, they looked outside and the dead bird was no longer dead, then we had really big problems (such as violating the laws of physics, possibly time, and space; as well as, our understanding of life itself) and we should all reprioritize our life choices. I also mentioned that, we would also probably barricade the doors and start planning our escape from the herds (and...er...flocks) of zombie forest creatures that were possibly going to attack the school.

After weeks of keen dead bird observation...it happened. The dead bird disappeared. My students were so depressed. He had become part of their day. A steadfast reminder of life's fragility; as well as, an abiding reminder to always watch where you are going (or you might run into something and your dead body could end up being entertainment for a bunch of freshman).

They sometimes say, "I miss the dead bird."

Both touching and a little unsettling. No dead bird has ever been so loved and also found to be so "disgusting."

The bird might be dead, Mr. Yahy....yep, it might be dead. AND you probably don't want to ask yourself if you also want to be dead.

Laters!


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