Commentary and Philosophy Non-Fiction posted July 19, 2015

This work has reached the exceptional level
Boy meets Death.

The Pit

by Sis Cat

"If I could talk to the animals, just imagine it
Chattin' with a chimp in chimpanzee                                                                                                                                                          Imagine talking to a tiger, chatting to a cheetah
What a neat achievement it would be"*

I just love that movie, Doctor Doolittle, not the 1998 version with Eddie Murphy (love you, bro), but the 1967 version with Rex Harrison and the Oscar winning song "Talk to the Animals." Long before the Dog Whisperer, long before the Horse Whisperer, I watched Doctor Doolittle when it came on TV and imagined someday becoming a veterinarian who talked to the animals and healed them. Unlike Doctor Doolittle, I did not speak two thousand animal languages; I spoke only one--English.

Once, I played in a pit I dug in my backyard. Around the circumference of this three-feet-wide and one-foot-deep hole, I had constructed a miniature city from miniature mud bricks--adobe--because I could not afford LEGOs. Sprawled beneath the shade of a plum tree, Sand City resembled the Flintstones' Bedrock more than it resembled Santa Fe. My yellow Tonka truck hauled dirt from the bottom of this pit that would make the Peanuts character "Pig-Pen" brown with envy.

"Chirp, chirp, chirp," I heard close to the ground.

I peered over the rim of my crater, stood, and ascended from the pit. My bare feet tiptoed through weeds that flourished in our backyard because we kids refused to mow it unless Mom paid us. My jug ears listened like radar dishes.

"Chirp. Chirp."

I focused on a patch of weeds.


I ran towards it, knelt. My brown hands parted the green grass. A baby bird sat on the ground! Its brown and black feathers stuck to its body, like a newborn. The bird was all head and beak, like Tweety Bird in the cartoons. I looked at the branches of the tree but could not see a nest because of the leaves. Seizing the opportunity to become Doctor Doolittle, I spoke, "Hi, baby bird. Why did your mama leave you down here? I am going to take care of you until you can fly and join your family."

My hands cupped and carried the bird inside our house. "Look, Mom! Look at this bird I found in the backyard. It fell from a tree. Can I keep it until it could fly to join his family?"

My mother gazed into my hands. "Oh, Andre, that would be a great blessing."

"Thank you, Mom."

I did not know if the bird was a boy or a girl, but I named it Chirpee because it chirped. I raised it in a shoebox filled with grass to form a nest. I fed it water from an eye dropper and worms from the yard. The bird grew. Its feathers fluffed.

There were only two problems. The first was that the bird pooped. I cleaned out the shoebox nest and put fresh grass in it. The second was that Chirpee chirped at night. I would be sleeping when: "Chirp. Chirp. Chirp." I woke and scrounged around for a cockroach to feed Chirpee. "Time to go to sleep, Chirpee. I'll talk to you in the morning."

One morning, the sound of silence woke me. I threw off my blanket. My bare feet slapped across the cold floor. I looked in the shoebox. Chirpee remained silent. My finger poked it, but its eyes remained shut. I filled an eye dropper with water, I dangled a bug, but Chirpee's beak remained closed.

My baby brother, Jaison, woke and walked over. "Hey, Andre, what happened to Chirpee?"

"I . . . think Chirpee is . . . dead."

"Aww, whatcha going to do?"

"Well, I can't tell Mom because I promised her to make Chirpee better so it could fly away. I have an idea. Follow me."

Before breakfast, my brother and I snuck the dead bird outside. Even though the pit in the middle of Sand City provided a readymade hole, I dug a new hole where I had found the bird. I laid Chirpee to rest. I covered it with dandelions and dirt. My brother and I heaved a fallen brick from the base of the wall and shoved the brick over the grave to deter the cats that roamed the neighborhood backyards at night. We bowed our heads. "Now we lay you down to sleep. We pray the Lord your soul to keep. If you should die before you wake, we pray the Lord your soul to take." 

Funeral finished, I turned my mourning into gladness and outraced my brother back inside our house. "Look, Mom, I raised Chirpee back to health and it flew away!"

Instead of Mom being proud of me, she frowned. "Oh, I wanted to see it fly away. Where did it go?"

I pointed to the sky. "Right over there, Mom. Right over there."

Mom squinted through the window. "I don't see anything, Andre. I just wish I could have seen that bird fly away."

My grandmother, whom we called Mama Jennie, was visiting at the time. She raised her hands. "Praise Jesus. Praise Jesus! Thank you, Lord! I've always known that boy had the gift. Hmm, hmm."

I was like, "Ur . . . uh . . . what's for breakfast."

Like a murderer who returns to the scene of a crime, the next morning I returned to Chirpee's tomb and moved the brick. He was still there and something else--decay. I held my nose. "Phew!" I pushed the brick back over the grave and I skipped to play in the pit.

On the third morning, I crept to the grave to check if the body was there. I found a moved brick and an empty grave. The thought crossed my mind, "Maybe Chirpee rose from the dead and flew to Heaven like Jesus." I called to the tree branches above, "Chirpee! Chirpee!"

Then I noticed. Brown and black feathers were scattered on the ground around the empty grave. "Why would Chirpee leave its feathers behind? Maybe it did not need them anymore just like Jesus did not need His shroud after He rose from the grave. Wait until I tell Mom and Mama Jennie that Chirpee resurrected! Wait a second. If I tell them Chirpee rose from the dead, I would have to confess I did not nurse Chirpee back to health and it did not fly away. They must never know the truth."

I squinted. Blood coagulated at the torn joint of a bird's wing. My eyes widened. My mouth opened. I said the immortal words of Tweety Bird, "Bad ol' putty tat! You're nothing but a grave robber, you ghoul. Ain't nothing sacred anymore? You're not a good Christian!"

I glared at the shadows beneath the bushes around the yard. If I could lift this brick, I would hurl it at the cat that desecrated Chirpee's grave. Then I thought, "Where there is no body, there is no evidence of my lie. That cat did me a favor."

Standing up from the empty grave, I brushed dirt and grass off my knees and walked over to the middle of the yard. I descended the pit and resumed digging. Thoughts fluttered through my head. "When I am dead and buried, could a cat dig up and eat my body, too?" I dug deeper.

In the decades to come, my mother and grandmother went to their graves believing I was a pre-Eddie Murphy Doctor Doolittle who talked to animals and healed birds. I dug deeper.

I will take this regret to my grave. I dug deeper.

Some lies remain buried or eaten.



Some stories need to be told and will find a way to be shared. "The Pit" traveled a circuitous route to bring an old childhood lie out of the pit and into the light. I signed up for a non-fiction contest without reading it wanted a true story about an encounter with a wild animal. I scrambled to recall the first pet I owned--a bird that fell from a nest, but could not condense my story to 800 words before the deadline.

On the day the contest closed, a Fireside Storytelling producer invited me to perform in San Francisco before an audience on July 29 if I have a confession story to tell. "Matter of fact, I do," I said, then rushed to finish and rehearse a story I performed from memory, including singing *Leslie Bricusse's lyrics to "Talk to the Animals." Here is my video of that performance:

I am relieved I brought my buried lie out of the pit and into the light.

I thank Anne for use of her "Multi Colored" image.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

Artwork by Anne at

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