I had to make it easier to whip out Wishes and show I was up to the next level. Up to the Miracle Corps light-before-the-end-of-the-tunnel standards. I don’t have to be another Jenny; just good enough to set up a trip to a waterfall with wheelchairs, or some other midsize Wish Fulfillment.
Jenny’s great, no doubt. Except for that one parent that one time. She can set up families of ten coming from eleven states arriving at twelve different times with thirteen different food allergies and all sleeping over with Mickey and Minnie in Sleeping Beauty’s castle.
What do I get? Look at this old folder:
“I want to go surfing.” What’s the big challenge? With a six-month window, I had to get a fourteen year old from Boulder to Huntington Beach.
Or: “I want to see snow.” In eight or nine months, a second-grader from Louisiana to the Rockies.
“I want to ride a bike.” Oh this was a good one…six or seven months, an eleven year old with no use of legs. Easy actually…hand cranks instead of pedals.
See what I mean? So basic.
So during my last review with my supervisor, Randy Lawson, I asked for tougher stuff. Some measurable way to prove that I was ready for five-wheelchairs-on-a-plane-change-at-O’Hare level logistics. What did I get from good old Mr. Lawson? Check this out:
“I want a hummingbird to kiss me”; 3 months.
Balboa Park, San Diego, Bird House. Ka-ching.
“I want to read a ton of books”; 6 months.
Stone tablets: pages glued to stepping stones. Snap.
“I want to ride a dolphin bronco style”; 8-9 months.
Marine World, after hours. Yawn.
“I want time to stand still”; 3-4 months.
Lap Land, Midnight Sun. Oh, ee-yeah.
Lawson called me into his office. “Joe, here’s the card on the hummingbird kid. Again. A hummingbird didn’t even come close to her. Make it happen, Joe. You know how the press would love this.”
Press, schmess; he wanted a raise. I had to win Lawson over. I read the card: “I still want a hummingbird to kiss me”; 5-6 weeks.
Kiss her? They don’t have lips, do they? Ah, but that’d be taking the easy way out. What’s one of their licks like anyway: Like a wiggly noodle sticking out of a soda straw? Naw. So I started reading and calling around.
I talked to the local pet shop guy. Says they won’t eat in captivity. Bullshit. Anyway, I came up with a plan: clear vinyl feeder with red juice inside and red plastic flowers outside my apartment window. Get the birdies hooked on the nectar from the feeder through the red flowers, then, presto, one day the flower is on the end of, uh, Margaret’s finger, and wiggle goes the tongue, oh gee, goes Margaret and there you have it, Mr. Lawson. Just had to get the feeder up and running.
So I hung the feeder and started watching for hummingbirds. I sat in one of the strap chairs on the balcony for twenty minutes. Nothing. So I went to town. Literally. I don’t fool around. I went to the biggest nursery in the county. The garden guy says “Butterfly Bush” and I already knew better than that. I said: “Get me an internet connection.”
So I got Trumpet Honeysuckle, Bee Balms, Shrimp plants, Hollyhocks, Penstimon, some others and one I knew from a boy: Fireweed. I had to get most of them in five gallon containers, which set me back a bit. Plus the inside of my car looked like the set of an Indiana Jones movie. Kind of a private Rose Bowl Parade for just me.
The plants filled the balcony, but already, that same evening, I got a nibble. A plain Jane Hummer, small and quick as thought, trying to drink from every flower at once. She must have talked it up, because the next morning it was boys and girls together, shimmery greens, ruby throats, rufous tails. I gave them all day to eat while I took care of a drive-a-bulldozer wish, and then I took the next step.
I tied back the drapes and lined the plants on the inside of the balcony sliding glass door. Outside, I left only my feeder. Hah. Now I was calling the shots again.
Sure enough, the next day, up to a dozen different hummers started the morning with a stop at Joey’s Breakfast Trough. One more day of that and I could take the plants back to Mr. Greenjeans.
So now came the tricky part. Instead of the feeder I held out my hand, palm up, with red juice in a clear lid. I wobble too much, so I made a brace to fit my elbow and forearm. Knock me down, it worked. So I was almost eye-to-eye with Dame Edith, a red-throated looker that I’d asworn had on a length of pearls.
Mice with wings, my dad called birds. Pigeons were the rats. Hawks were acceptable but only like cats. He didn’t like any pets. He hated birds.
It was hard for me to see any mousy resemblance, facing Miss Edith. She looked at me a little gratefully, I think, like she hadn’t had a drink for a while.
The next day I did without the dish. I poured a little red sugar water right into my palm and waited. Still as that mouse. Come on, Edith. Sweet girl. Don’t be afraid. I just look like I’d hurt you. I don’t even hit back. And she was suddenly there. Skytwitch to the left. Skytwitch to the right. Left again. And then she perched right on my finger and licked from the pool in my palm. I felt rich somehow with just a handful of hummingbird. Thanks, Edith.
Then came the longest day of my life. I ran through the two Wishes on my schedule; first a circus visit. I had hired a ringmaster and some clowns, actors. Then we had a visit to a local dude ranch. Righteous, dude. I also stood in for Barnett, who was really sick, I talked to him. I took his three year old Leuko to a Penny Arcade on the circus grounds. You might have thought it was Disneyland for all the commotion.
I couldn’t wait to get home. It was almost sunset and I hadn’t fed Edith. I didn’t want her filling up anywhere else and I couldn’t let her go back to my old feeder. We’d made strides.
So I went for the goal line. I washed my hands super thoroughly. I put red food color in my palm to dye it and brushed a glistening of sugar water on it for smell and stuck my hand out. I wished I’d trimmed my nails, but oh, well.
This had to work. I’d never get past Lawson’s next review if Margaret didn’t get her wish. Edith, where are you? I knew an Edith once. Not so pretty, but real talented and lively. Played chasing and kissing once. Just our speed. But then my dad found out. That was it. Only ever saw her again at school fire drills.
Come on, Edith.
I still couldn’t believe how much time Id put into this one. Look, that blasted Morning glory had grabbed the drape cord already. Pushy little buggar. I had to admire its will to live though, even though it’s inside the apartment. I could hardly wait to see her flit up to my hand. She’s so pretty, with the prettiest line of white feathers lining her neck. She could get pretty emotional. You should’ve seen the other day when a bumblebee was hovering around the dish in my hand. Edith started buzzing and hovering with a tail feather display like a turkey! The bee was too dumb to care and finally wandered away, but wow! Go, Edith!
It’s her! I knew she’d come. Mr. Lawson, prepare to eat crow. It’s me, honey, come on down. I know it looks different. She looked me right in the eye. I mean, she hovered an inch from my nose and turned sideways to stare at me. She knew. She knew about Margaret and me and Lawson. How could she? And with that, she hovered above my red stained palm and gave me a lick, not on the red painted lake I made but on the fat mound where my thumb attaches. It was a kiss; definitely a kiss.
So, yesterday, I called to pick her up; Margaret. “Still recovering,” they said.
“So how soon can she go out?” I want to know. Maybe she shouldn’t, he says.
“Can I see her?” This was getting to be as bad as trying to get a date in high school. Since I was with Miracle, they’d make an exception.
Well, she didn’t look too much like her picture. She was pale and skinny and had a bandana tied around her head. She had a great big forehead for a little girl and it glistened with sweat. “Hi, Margaret,” I said. “I’m Joe. What’s happening?”
Her eyes were open just a little way. “Not much.”
“Still want to kiss a hummingbird?” I asked.
She reacted slower than I expected.
“I’m not much for running and jumping,” she said.
“You can just sit in a chair. They come to my house. I’ve got a garden,” I said.
It looked like she was trying to roll over and look at me. “I made it up,” she said. “There’s no such thing.”
“There is at my house,” I said.
“Then you kiss me,” she said.
And I did. On the fat part where her thumb connects. Didn’t even think about my dad till just now. What’s he know?
I waited with Margaret.
also included in: