One day, I was sent away with several other birds. I never saw any of them again, except for another grey-cheek like myself. We were sent to a pet shop in St. Louis, where we were housed together.
“I’m scared,” the other bird said, huddling at the back of our cage.
“So am I,” I admitted. “But maybe we’ll get lucky and find good humans.”
“Big maybe,” she said, tucking her head under her wing.
“Have faith,” I told her.
“I can’t,” she cried. “I was taken from my nest! Mama died on the plane coming here—she was fighting to free us. I begged her not to leave me. None of the humans did anything to help her. I hate them—all of them!”
I did what I could to console her, but her fear consumed her. I was afraid, too, but trying hard not to let her see it. Then the spirit bird came….
It was late one night—the pet shop was closed. All of the creatures were asleep in their cages, including my roomie and me. The light woke me—the brightest light I’ve ever seen, even brighter than the sun over Ecuador. “Hey—we’re trying to sleep here,” I grumbled, raising a wing to cover my eyes. “Turn it off!”
“Wake up—I have something to tell you!”
“Can’t it wait—until morning, maybe?”
“No, it can’t.” A bird emerged from the light—not a grey-cheek, but a cousin subspecies, a canary-wing. He settled down next to me. That’s when I realized everyone else was still asleep. The canary-wing saw my confusion. “Only you can see me, Sam.”
“Sam? Why do you call me that?” I asked.
“Because that’s going to be your name,” he told me. “My name is Sam, you see—and your new home will be with my humans. They’re going to name you after me.”
“Because my human mother still misses me. I was taken from her. She still thinks about me, after all this time,” he explained. “When she sees you, she’s going to think I’ve come back to her, and she’ll name you Sam.”
“What is she like? Is she a good human?” I wanted to know.
“Yes,” he said. “She’s not perfect by any means. She became my adopted mom when she was still young herself, and had a lot to learn about caring for a bird. She still does, really. But she’ll love you so much, you really won’t mind.”
“How will I know her?” I asked, worried I might suck up to the wrong human.
“I’ll be here when the time comes,” he promised. “I’ll point her out to you.”
“You said you were taken from her. How? What happened?” I asked.
He looked up at the light. “When we return to Paradise,” he began, “there’s no pain, no suffering of any kind. We don’t have any memory of unpleasantness. A good thing, actually.”
I wondered if something really bad had happened to Sam, but I didn’t ask. I was relieved to know I was going to a good home. Then I looked over at my cagemate. “What about her?” I asked. “Is she getting a good home, too?”
“I don’t know,” Sam answered. “I was only sent to guide you.”
“Will you still be with me after I go home?” I asked.
“I’ll always be with you.”