Chuck-will's-widow

Updated: Mar 13

Part 1

It would seem unimaginable to find a specimen as awkward or endearing as a Chuck-will’s-widow roosting anywhere along the wet and rocky shores of our coastal community. Yet there he was, mouth agape, cold and nearing death. The bird lie in shock, unable or unwilling to resist the prodding of his bewildered founder. Taking shelter in a trailer hauled from warmer, more distant climes, she huddled tight against a single wooden beam running lengthwise along the cold aluminum floor.


Having made the discovery while unloading his cargo, the unsuspecting driver of the rig hauling the fore-mentioned trailer, had an instinctual feeling that this wayward hitchhiker was, to say the least, uniquely out of place. And with what struck him in a flash of divine inspiration, he mustered the fortitude to place a call to the only wildlife rehabilitation facility with an available phone number in our wind swept enclave.


Of course, the Center for Mammal Rehabilitation was not equipped to handle our avian friend. Nevertheless, during a moment of awkward apology, the kind lady on the receiving end of the call chanced upon a sticky note anchored to the frame of a very busy looking cork-board hanging on the wall beside her desk. The sticky note, with cursive writing scrawled in faded pencil, read, ‘Bird Lady,’ and followed up, directly below this auspicious title, with an equally faded local phone number.


Now our friend, the driver, who had in the last few minutes taken an accidental crash-course in biology, taxonomy and animal care, was not prepared to call anymore experts in the field and promptly drove the patient, in a nice little box, straight over to the listed address and handed the bird to a somewhat surprised volunteer.


Having completed what he felt was more than his responsibility concerning the damn thing, the driver left without delay, presumably to attach another trailer to his bobtail tractor and head back across this great wide country, far from the rocky shores and giant trees of our graying city.


Turning her attention to the contents of the newly delivered package, the volunteer peered gently inside the box. She looked the bird directly in its wide, open eye and collapsed flat on the floor of the visitor center.

David shook himself out of a dream. His head had fallen into his notebook as he waited between classes. The table near the windows of the science department offered a quiet, out of the way space and David was not the first student to take advantage of its solitude. The last thing he remembered he was studying for an upcoming test. He must have fallen asleep.


“Hey Dave, I’ve been looking all over for you!”


It was the voice of his friend and study partner, Matthew Johnson. Matthew, like David, was a second year university student, beginning his first specialized courses in the study of wildlife management and conservation. He spoke excitedly, holding his books to his chest; their weight causing him to breathe heavily as he hurried down the hall toward his classmate.


“I talked to the professor, there’s room for one more.”


“That’s great,” David replied halfheartedly. He was slow to pull himself back into consciousness. He tried to make his voice sound more enthused. “For the internship?”


“Yes, for the internship,” quipped Matthew, “You just need to sign up. So c’mon, before someone else...”


“Ok. Ok,” said David, cutting off his energetic counterpart. He gathered his pencil and notebook and stuffed them in his backpack, the color slowly returning to his face.


“Were you sleeping?,” asked Matthew, “...here?!”


“I guess so,” replied David, pushing in his chair.


“I had the strangest dream.”

The pair made their way up the stairs and toward their professor’s office. Dr. Tillerman stood behind his desk, casting a long shadow toward the doorway as they approached. He was anticipating their arrival.


“Please come in,” said the professor as his eyes met with his student's.


Dr. Tillerman’s voice was deep and calm like undisturbed water. It contrasted heavily with Matthew's gleeful immaturity.

“I told you I’d find him,” Matthew exclaimed enthusiastically. “He was sleeping at the table downstairs!”