(A fall morning provides an encounter with a creature from another world for North End resident, Thomas F. Schiavoni.)
It happened in a matter of seconds during a walk home from an early morning errand. There was no need to rush off to work on a day filled with the sunshine and blue sky of late fall. Strolling along the sidewalk on Hull Street, I passed under bright golden foliage atop the crest of Copp’s Hill.
Down the street from Old North Church, high-pitched, frantic barking shattered the autumn peace. A small dog, wound up in a frenzy, yapped somewhere within the walls of the ancient burying-ground. The animal did not belong there, but its owner had ignored the signs posted at the entrance gate.
Suddenly, in a blur of flapping wings, a small brown object from within the granite walls hurtled over the wrought iron fence. It headed straight towards a townhouse across the street. A loud thud against a bay window was followed by an explosion of feathers. The bird ricocheted off the building, plunging to the ground and into the gutter. It was dead quiet now. The barking had suddenly ceased.
I went down on my knees for a closer look at a heaving feathery breast. This was no pigeon or starling. The mottled markings and extended bill belonged to a different world of meadows and woodland. A wrong turn was made somewhere along a migratory journey before a forced landing in an urban refuge of elm and linden. An exhausted creature had sought shelter and lay nestled among the gravestones until an unleashed pet startled and flushed it from a cover of tall grass and fallen leaves.
There was a fleeting hope that the stunned bird might revive. But, it was too late. Drops of blood flecked the pavement. There was no longer sign of a beating heart.
A lady warily approached with her now-leashed terrier straining at the collar. “What was that? …. A woodcock? …. What kind of bird is that?”
She received no further reply.
With an exasperated sigh, she whined: “Leave it there. I suppose I’ll have to take care of it!”
… She already had.
Thomas F. Schiavoni writes about neighborhood life and city living