A man and a dog walk through a medieval village; tilia trees bloom in all the parks and their fragrance fills the village.
Man: What’s this? Hello!
The man and dog pause, bend down, and inspect a baby swallow on the pavement.
The man stands and walks to a nearby café.
Man: Do you have a box? There is a baby swallow in the walkway; I believe she is learning to fly, but she needs a few more hours.
Waiter: Yes, I have a box; but, shouldn’t you leave the swallow to die? Humans generally only hurt nature.
Man: I won’t touch her and she will be able to fly in a few hours. She just needs, uh.
Waiter: What is it?
Man: Um, “a safe space to live and be” is the politically-correct expression, an expression I’m embarrassed to repeat in this—or any—context.
Waiter: I’m sorry; my English isn’t very good; why don’t you try Portuguese?
Man, speaking in Portuguese: I’ll keep this swallow safe for a few hours until she flies.
Waiter: It is illegal to keep a swallow; they are a wild bird and should be left alone. I don’t recommend you touch this bird.
Man, in English: Yes, but, damn it, I have needs, too.
Waiter: Go to the mall? Buy something? Eat a cake?
Man: The mall doesn’t satisfy existential needs.
Waiter: Existential needs! Oh, god, that’s great.
Man: How will my life take on meaning if I don’t make an effort to care about something? Life won’t take on meaning all by itself without any effort?
Man: This lovely bird will be crushed underfoot or eaten by a cat before she can fly; she just needs a few more hours.
Waiter: Fine, here is a box; you know, they fly from Portugal to the Congo every season as they follow the insects. Thousands of miles.
Man: How can such a small thing travel so far? And with no technology, no extra food? No bank account or vaccination.
Waiter: They see the earth’s magnetic lines as they fly, and they eat on the wind. They have instincts about which we can only dream.
Man: Ah, so, you see; I’m benefiting already from this venture!
Waiter: But, will the bird?
So, anyway, the man returns outside and places the box next to the bird and the bird immediately hops inside the box.
Man: That’s my good girl; let’s find you some insects to eat.
The man, dog, and bird walk home.
Man: Look what I found.
Woman: Oh, a baby swallow. Is she hurt? Give her to me!
Man: Maybe, but, I don’t know; wait, she’s learning to fly. Wait!
The woman immediately puts the baby bird inside of her bra.
Woman: There you go; feeling better already!
Woman: Safe and sound?
Man: I was just concerned that now the bird smells like a human!
Woman: Go annoy Camões!
Swallow: Chirp chirp chirp!
Woman: Her parents were probably watching you pick her up.
Man: I hadn’t thought of that; will the parents feed her even if she’s on the ground?
The woman opens a computer and reads with growing horror.
Woman: Yes, the parents will care for the baby even while she is on the ground near the nest, so they watched you take her away.
Woman: Oh, no!
Woman, reading: “Never touch or pick up a baby bird because a mother will reject the baby if it smells like a human.”
Woman: But she was so cute; of course I put her in my bra!
Man: And someone would have crushed her in the walkway! I had to put her in the box!
Man: What should we do?
Swallow: Chirp chirp chirp chirp chirp chirp chirp.
Man: I guess… I’ll just go outside and swat flies?
Woman: The dog! There are always flies around the dog: just swat the flies off the dog!
The man sits next to the dog for the afternoon and kills flies; he hands the dead fly to the woman and she feeds the bird.
Woman: She’s getting it now; she wasn’t sure what I was doing at first, but she trusts me.
Woman: Can you cut the flies in half? I think she prefers half-cut flies.
Man: Are you joking?
Man: Fine, yes, I’ll cut these disgusting flies in half for you.
Man: Here, let me try to feed her once…
Swallow: Chirp, chirp chirp chirp chirp chirp.
Man: Damn, I wish I could understand this little creature’s needs; I feel instinctively that she could solve pandemics and/ or world hunger in a single chirp.
Woman: Let’s go to the river; she will want a lot of food before bed. Once the sun goes down, she’ll sleep. Then, she’ll want breakfast early in the morning.
Man: OK, let’s go to the river.
The family goes to the river.
Woman: Just ten more flies and I think we can go home.
Man: I’ll never look at flies the same again.
Woman: I know! She loves them; how can such a lovely thing eat something so conspicuously and tastelessly indecent?
Woman: Do you know where your food has been, little bird?
Woman: This is exhausting.
Man: Are you complaining! I’m the one getting fly jelly on my fingers!
Woman: I have bird poo in my undergarments; be silent!
Man: My existential problems grow with each dead fly.
Man: To say nothing of the dog’s bruises.
Woman, to the swallow: Philosophers.
Man: Don’t tell her lies; she can’t even fly yet!
Swallow: Chirp chirp chirp chirp chirp!
Woman: I agree!
The woman and the bird turn away and look out over the dappled waters of the river. The sun sets, the moon rises; later, the family returns home to sleep. At dawn:
Swallow, chirping: Out of the depths of the night have I cried unto thee, Sun. / Sun, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. / If thou, Sun, shouldest mark iniquities, o Sun, who shall live? / But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared. / I wait for You, my soul doth wait, and in Your light do I hope. / My soul waiteth for You more than they that watch for the morning: / I say, more than my sisters and cousins who watch for You. / Let all creatures hope in the Sun! For with the Sun there is mercy, / And with Him is plenteous redemption. / And He shall redeem his creatures from all their iniquities. / Arise! Arise, star of the morning light! / Dawn light, shine down; I will take flight!
Woman: Did you hear her sing?
Man: Oh, god, what time is it?
Woman: I think she is ready.
Man: Shouldn’t she eat a few more flies first? Later? At a decent hour?
Woman: Let’s take her to the river.
The man and woman walk to the river. The swallow climbs out of the bra and onto the woman’s shoulder. Just before they reach the river:
Woman: There she goes!
Man: Wait! You haven’t had breakfast!
The swallow flies up into the air beating her little wings furiously.
Woman: Oh, what a sweet little thing! Will she make it?
Man: She will have to hunt for her breakfast.
Woman: That will make her strong.