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Caged - Inn

 

It was early January. Two hunters were walking beside a country stream, their words of New Year's resolutions strutted before them.

They spoke of how this year definitely would be different, what with all wonderful changes they were going to make in their lives. This year, without a doubt, they would make those changes they had failed to make last year. They would have done them then, of course, if it hadn't been for all those extenuating circumstances.

Anyway, they agreed, "that was then and this is now". And now they would make them healthier, wealthier, wiser and happier, and would improve the quality of their lives in, well, just about every area. From their words of conviction, their prey, could, they understand English, would have thought they were hunting happiness rather than them.

Suddenly, both men stopped as they came upon a strange sight: hanging from a low tree limb was a beautiful birdcage. They went closer for a better look.

A large lock, its metal frown firmly in place through the latch, had. the door to the cage securely closed. When they looked into the cage, they saw a dead bird lying to one side. On the other side was a dry, crusted water dish and empty seed husks.

"What do you make of it?" asked the younger hunter. "Looks like some kind of lovebird to me", replied the older hunter, as he rubbed his hands long the glittering bars of the cage. "It's not very cold, so I imagine the poor thing died of thirst or hunger. I bet you a dollar to a doughnut it belongs to that old hermit the farmer told us about when we got his permission to hunt here".

The younger man pondered for a moment, then spoke. " It seems ironic that the bird died right here beside this sparkling stream, and not more than 50 feet from a grain field full of grain. Don't you think it must have been torture to be so close to what it desired, and be unable to obtain it?"

The older man studied the bird carefully, then said "I don't see any marks on this bird, and there aren't any loose feathers in the cage, so I figure it didn't even struggle to get out. It sure lived in a fine cage while it lived, though".

As he finished talking, they both pulled out some food and sat down to eat. Each of the men swallowed their sandwiches and thoughts in silence. Some things are too difficult to think, much less voice.

Each of them lived in mighty fine cages, but didn't realise the cost. They had traded risk for routine, romance for reality, chance for comfort, passion for prudence, desire for duty, creativity for company-man, fun for formality and morals for money. Yet they were as unaware of these trade-off as if they were dead as the bird.

The older man rose and spoke first. "I sure would like to have that beautiful cage, but I imagine it belongs to the hermit and he'll be back to get it. Wonder if he knows the bird is dead?"

"Maybe," said the young man as he stood up and stretched. "Some folks say hermits know nothing, while others say they know too much. What I do know is I'm ready to go and kill my own bird".

The young man walked over to the cage for one final look. Then he saw it. It was something he had missed before when he had looked at the cage. Next to the hook from which the cage was hanging was an opening that had been made by someone who had neatly sawed away several rows of bars. He called to the older man.

"Come look at this. There's a hole in the top of the cage. The bird could have escaped. Guess it was too stupid".

The older man went over and stared at the opening, but couldn't understand how he, himself, could have possibly missed such an obvious way out.

"Well, I'll be damned," he said - and maybe he was.

- John M. Eades, Ph