He rose before the sun, readied in the dark, and rattled his old truck up to the estate as the first streaks of color touched the sky. Silver mist hung over the gardens, sparkling on spider webs like a sea of diamonds. The birds had just begun to greet the morning, and the air rang with cacophonous song as he unloaded his tools.
The day ahead would be long and the work tiresome, and with the gardens closed he would be alone. He thought he had known loneliness, after Leah died and cold silence took her place, but this was different. The snippets of conversations caught from lovers in the rose garden, debates from the gazebos, laughing children running amok – these things had been a lifeline. Now he had been set adrift in an empty sea.
He shook his head and grabbed his shears. The first round of azalea blooms had come and gone, and he diligently pruned the withered relics from their branches. His movements were practiced and automatic, and he wished the work was harder so he had less time to brood.
Lost in thought, he almost didn’t see the baby bird. It was a pitiful creature, bald and blind, shivering on the wet ground. He didn’t see a nest, and his heart broke for the helpless thing.
He knelt gently, setting his shears aside and reaching into his pocket for a handkerchief. The bird startled as he scooped it up, and he smiled at the tenacity of wild things. Carefully he brushed off the mud and debris, swaddled the bird as well as he could, and slipped it into the front pouch of his overalls. Now at least it would be warm and dry.
He carried it with him the rest of the day, feeding it worms as he unearthed them, murmuring reassurance and words of comfort that it could never understand, and by mid-afternoon he found himself singing as he worked through the rose garden.
What a difference it made, he thought, to have a little company.