30 August 2009

ignorant of its terms

The storm clouds that had appeared the previous day finally blew off, and I was able to walk to the neighboring village. The route I normally take is circular and leads past a stucco house occupied by a frail elderly couple. For years they raised rabbits in their front yard, but last summer they either ate them, which is normal in this area, or turned them loose, which is unheard of. Then they got rid of the pen and built in its place a clumsy wooden shed. A few months later a cage appeared on its doorstep. It was the type you might keep a rodent in, but instead of a guinea pig they use it to hold a pair of full-grown magpies. They're good-sized birds—almost as tall as crows—and their quarters are much too small for them. Unlike parakeets, which will eventually settle down, the magpies are constantly searching for a way out, and move as if they're on fire, darting from one end of the cage to another and banging their heads against the wire ceiling.
  Their desperation is contagious, and watching them causes my pulse to quicken. Being locked up is one thing, but to have no concept of confinement, to be ignorant of its terms and never understand that struggle is useless—that's what hell must be like. The magpies leave me feeling so depressed and anxious that I wonder how I can possibly make it the rest of the way home. I always do, though, and it's always a welcome sight, especially lately.

David Sedaris, Aerial (When You Are Engulfed in Flames, 2008: 279-80)