Using a string tied to a stick, and the stick propping up a cardboard carton, my brother caught a red breasted robin by putting bread on the grass underneath the carton then pulling the string when the hungry bird flew down and pecked his way under it. Our brother told my sister and I that we could keep the robin as our pet. He said his wig was injured and he would never fly away.

We named the  robin Ringo. We kept Ringo in the carton and fed him bread, but he wouldn’t eat. Sitting on a nest of shredded newspaper, Ringo barely moved or chirped. In a couple of days the box was empty. Where is Ringo, we asked our brother. He pointed to the hill in the back yard. He said Ringo dug a hole and crawled in.

We went to the hill and dug up the fresh dirt with spoons. We called to him… Ringo, Ringo. Finally I saw feathers and grabbed. Ringo was covered with tiny green worms. My sister screamed and I started to cry. I threw the carcass down and we ran into the house, wailing with tears. Nothing was explained to us. Our father told us to shut up ‚and made my brother put what was left of Ringo back in the ground.

A few weeks later our grandfather died. We called our grandfather Popeye and our grandmother Nanna. Popeye was the greatest. All the other relatives hated us, yelled that we were disrespectful. Popeye would walk with my sister and I down to the corner store, buy us candy, baseball cards, water pistols, whatever we wanted.

My mother told my sister and I that Popeye was asleep and wouldn’t wake up. We were dropped off at a baby sitter while the rest of the family went somewhere. Later in the day, the entire family and many of the neighbors gathered at our house. It was like a party. There were platters of food on the dining room table. The adults drank booze and the children drank soda. Everyone was talking about Popeye. Nanna kept hugging everybody. We kept asking, when will he wake up? ‚When will he be back? My father said, if we weren’t quiet‚ we’d have to go to bed, even though it was the afternoon.



(Memoir/Prose Poem/Paramus Punishments (1991)/Unpublished) copyright held by author