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Black Lamb


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I saw the cutest thing…

March 1st, 2007


I was nearing our apartment in Brooklyn on a bright brisk day, and near a neighbor’s stoop saw a little sparrow standing sentinel over the mangled body of its compatriot: neck torn, thoroughly flattened ruffles, supine. Birds aren’t supposed to do supine. Must’ve been a cat done that, I thought. And that little sparrow sentinel was as puffed up and erect as an honor guard, motionless, a picture of stoic mourning and regard. Trying to assume a portion of his mantle of respect, I shuffled quietly past, not two feet past, and looked back at the maudlin, heart-tugging scene… and the little sparrow was pecking chunks of flesh out of that torn neck, avidly.

I was telling this story to a friend of mine, Rolyn. His eyes went glassy with nostalgia. Or at least I think they did, they sounded like they did, over the instant messaging service. Over a decade ago, he sighed orthographically, “(sigh),” relatively new to New York, he went to the Met, the grand museum inset into the edge of Central Park (the Upper Middle East, as my brother calls it). As he left, down the grand steps and then walking down the tree-lined front walk along Fifth Avenue, he saw a bunch of tourists all looking up into the branches of a particular tree, oohing and ahhhing. It was Pale Male, before he was known by that name, a beautiful lightly colored hawk destined for an extended moment of celebrity. And the small crowd was just marveling at his beauty. So Rolyn stopped to take a look, too. After a few minutes of listening to all the compliments people were bestowing upon him, Pale Male swooped down to a robin’s nest, stuck his beak into the nest and proceeded to shake his head around with purposeful, syncopated violence, absolutely wrecking every egg inside the nest, egg flying everywhere. A collective, horrified gasp ejaculated from the crowd. It was, Rolyn finished, marvelous.

These are the stories that occur to me, as I stare down this particular phrase, culled from published PR material under his byline, that I have to absorb and rewrite for the CEO of an S&P 500 client: “This progress is essential to our ability to be able to access….”

* * *

Much cuter:

Ada loves her Playdough and demands it politely often (loud, barked PAY-DOH followed by PEASE). The other day, she asked me for the “roller… roller…” rolling it around on her tongue, “roller… stick!” which we use to flatten the dough out so she can make cookie-cutter stars. And I thought, what a milestone! She couldn’t quite remember or get the proper name out, so put its function and object-like description together, synthesizing a clear new coinage that was perfectly communicative. She jabbers a lot these days, full sentences even, but this seemed like more. I told Erin about it, and she too marveled. Our little Ada wanted the rolling pin so she described what it does and what it’s like. Yay team!

But then Erin said, well, maybe that’s what Lucy calls it. Lucy, our West Indian nanny, from Barbados, who routinely mangles her native tongue, or rather, speaks a pidgin-toed English that sometimes grates on our learned ears (and who absolutely can’t carry a tune, besides). And yeah, it sounds exactly like what Lucy would call it: rolla-stick. Perfect pinprick for my ballooning pride. •

Posted by: The Editors
Category: Starbuck | Link to this Entry


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