The Bird Cage
Feathers quickly ruffled and a bell lightly rung inside the white bird cage. Doreen couldn't help but turn her head to look at her mint green parakeet perched on its swing. She smiled happily awaiting the arrival of Maggie. Today was Maggie's day to clean out the bird cage and do a few other things around the small house for Doreen. Her house didn't seem much now but it had served her and her family well. For a minute, she closed her eyes and remembered moving in all those years ago. She could feel the energy and excitement that day had brought to her and her family. A new house, their very own house, she imagined and could almost hear the back door slam again as her two boys, so small at that time, ran out into the backyard giggling. A carefree moment for them that at that time hadn't seemed so fleeting.
Now, her legs ached and cramped each day and it was hard to get around as much as she used to. It was all part of the process for an old woman but she didn't feel that way on the inside. If her body would allow her to do as she felt than she would be as energetic as ever but that's not how it goes. As the clock chimed in, interrupting her thoughts, Doreen glanced up noticing that it was now 3 o'clock. She knew school hours were up and she counted on the fact that it wouldn't be long now for Maggie to arrive. It was a bright spot in her week and something to look forward to. She wondered briefly how Maggie felt about coming but then decided that it might not matter. It was enjoyable to Doreen and hopefully that would be enough. Although, there were times she wished that she could take care of things around her own house she was wise enough to realize that her independence was slowly vanishing. She was grateful that she could at least live on her own for the most part and she wanted to reside here for as long as she could. It would be harder to leave her tiny home, she thought.
"Hi, Mrs. Oliver, Maggie said as she quietly entered in the front door to Doreen's home. "How are you today? I'm pleasantly at your service."
Doreen fought back a smile and looked up at Maggie mischievously as she handed her a handwritten note.
Maggie took it and started to read what she'd be up to for the next couple of hours.
"Alrighty then, Mrs. Oliver, I'll get started cleaning out Minty's cage first."
Doreen grunted or it could have been a slight giggle but Maggie wasn't sure. She had her suspicion that the elderly lady liked her but it was always unclear with Mrs. Oliver. All that she knew for sure was that there was a little list to occupy her time and in the end she was sure it helped her out. For some reason, whether it was getting out of her chores at her own house for a bit or forgetting her troubles in her teenage life, it was a nice little moment of time for Maggie to spend helping Mrs. Oliver. It was enjoyable for Maggie and hopefully that would be enough.
Soon Maggie had all the chores done on the list.
"Will there be anything else for me today, Mrs. Oliver?" asked Maggie.
"Yes, let's sit and play a few rounds of the dice game before your mother arrives." Doreen simply answered.
Maggie retrieved the dice from the kitchen table and she sat on couch in front of the coffee table facing Doreen. They silently played a few rounds of the dice game, Doreen only interjecting a few times to explain the rules or mark down the score in the same little red notepad that was always used for that purpose. Maggie realized it must have now contained a listing of all the dice games that they had ever played.
"Maggie, if you could refill my mug with some ice water, I'd appreciate it."
Maggie obediently refilled the mug than came back to sit down on the couch. She started nervously talking to Doreen about her day at school as she waited for her mother to pick her up. It seemed like a long time but it was only a few short minutes and Maggie heard the familiar honk of her mother's van. Maggie stood up and Doreen held out her hand for a simple handshake. For some reason, after Maggie shook Doreen's hand she couldn't help but give her a slight but warm hug as well. Doreen received it but said nothing.
"Goodbye, Mrs. Oliver. I'll see you next week."
A few days later, Maggie was studying in her room and her mother came in.
"Maggie, I have something I need to tell you."
"Alright, Mom, what is it?"
Her mother's face fell and her voice grew serious, "Maggie, Mrs. Oliver passed away this afternoon."
Maggie couldn't say anything.
"She left you this note and her son said that after you read it you could call the number within to coordinate with him when you pick up whatever the note says you could have of Mrs. Oliver's. I haven't read it so I don't know what it says."
Her mother handed Maggie the note and then left.
Maggie's hands trembled slightly. She opened the note and read the few words that it contained:
I'd like you to have Minty, my parakeet.
My son has handwritten his telephone number at the bottom so you can call him for pick-up. He'll have a brown paper bag for you as well.
(signed) Mrs. Doreen Oliver
Maggie simply couldn't imagine what Doreen would have in the paper bag. She was surprised enough to inherit the parakeet. She dialed the number on the phone.
A couple of days later, Maggie's mother took her to Doreen's house a day before she usually rode the bus from school to arrive there for her normal time to help her out. Doreen's son was waiting on the front porch holding the bird cage and a brown paper bag which actually looked full of groceries.
Doreen's son greeted them.
"I'm not surprised my mom's giving you this little bird. It always drove me crazy when I came to visit. Here you go."
"Thanks a bunch." Maggie said brightly. "I'll take care of it."
"Okay, you're welcome."
Maggie carried the bird cage to the van and Doreen's son carried the paper bag and placed it down on the van's floor alongside the bird cage then Maggie sat down.
Maggie's mom drove off.
Maggie couldn't wait to be alone in her room and open the brown paper bag. She set Minty carefully on the small table she had prepared for the cage. The white bird cage looked very nice on it. Maggie sat down and opened the up the bag. First of all, it was full of all the things that the parakeet would need but at the very bottom she noticed a tiny black velvet bag. Maggie opened it expectantly with some knowledge that it contained the dice they always used to play the dice game with but there was something she hadn't expected to find as well.
The tiny red notebook.
All the dice games she had ever played with Mrs. Oliver.
The Bird Cage