"Choice"

It was a Tuesday morning and I was sitting on a bench, waiting for the 7:00 bus. The streets were relatively empty and I was alone. I didn't mind. It's nice to be alone from time to time. I lit a cigarette and took a drag. I won't tell you where the 7:00 bus was going to take me. I don't like to talk about it very much. Where the bus was going to take me isn't the important part of this story anyway.

It was kind of dreary outside, to tell you the truth. Mist was clinging to the earth and mingling with my cigarette smoke. I had ten minutes before the bus would come, but I didn't mind waiting. I just closed my eyes and enjoyed my smoke. I figured it would probably be my last.

"Excuse me?" I opened my eyes lazily and raised my eyebrows. A little boy was standing in front of me and apparently he was trying to get my attention.

"What do you want, kid," I asked, kind of annoyed. I noticed with some amusement that the kid only came up to my knees, even though I was sitting down and he was standing up. I am a tall guy though.

"Can you help me? Please?" He started tugging at my pant leg insistently.

"Why are you up so early, kid?"

"Please, can you help me?" He was practically pulling me off the bench now.

"Where are your parents?"

"You've got to help me!"

"'Ain't it dangerous to talk to strangers or whatever?" I glanced down at the kid. He didn't seem to be listening to anything I said. "Alright, alright. What's the problem, kid?" I took my cigarette out of my mouth and threw it in the garbage can next to the bench. Smoking in front of kids just doesn't seem alright to me.

"Way is hurt! He's hurt!" The kid looked like he was doing some kind of dance he was so nervous.

"Way? Who's Way?"

"He's hurt! Come on! Come help!" He started pulled on my pant leg again. I glanced at my watch. I had nine minutes before the bus would come.

"I suppose I could help you. Lead the way, kid."

He took off at a sprint and I followed with a steady walking pace. I think he was a little upset at me for being so calm. We headed down the sidewalk a little ways then turned into someone's backyard. I figured it was his. The kid was pointing at something on the ground underneath one of the windows. He ran there himself and I followed. I crouched down and took a good look at what the whole big deal was about.

"This is a sparrow," I said. It was lying on its back and its wings were stretched out beneath it. Its beak was slightly open and its eyes were closed.

"I know he's a sparrow," the kid shouted. "He's my sparrow! His name is Way!"

"From all the yelling you were doing I thought it would be a person." I stood up to leave.

"No, don't leave! He needs help and I don't know how to help him. He's my sparrow so I'm responsible for him. I found him when he was a baby and he was hurt then too but I helped him and now we're friends and he comes back to visit me," the kid said, then his eyes filled with tears and he started crying.

"Okay, okay. Take it easy," I said. I bent back down and stared at the sparrow on the ground. I could see that its little chest was moving evenly. I looked up at the window above the little guy, then back down at the bird. "Well, kid, you're in luck. I think Way probably flew into the window and stunned himself, but he should be alright in a couple of minutes."

That crazy kid was still crying though. "This is my fault! I let him go so he could fly around wherever he wanted to and now he's hurt."

Slowly, I stood up then turned to face the kid. "Listen. You gave Way something important. You gave him freedom. And once he was free, you gave him lots of choices. He is free to go wherever he wants, eat whatever he wants, see whatever he wants..."

"Yeah, choices! But Way made the choice to fly into the window!"

"Yeah, kid, but sometimes people make bad choices. Nobody's perfect, see? You just got to hope Way will learn from his mistake and not hurt himself again in the future." The kid was still sniffling so I said, "Why don't you hold Way until he gets better?"

We sat down under the window, me with my arms crossed and the kid holding his sparrow. It didn't take long for the little guy to start moving again. He fluttered one wing, then the other then hopped to his feet with a soft twittering noise.

"Way's okay? See! He's okay!"

"Yeah, I see." The bird was hopping around in the kid's hands and chirping like crazy. Then he leapt into the air with a flurry of wings and flew away. We both watched him until he was a little speck in the sky, then nothing at all. "Don't worry. He'll be alright. Probably he'll come back to visit you." I said this because the kid still looked a little sad. "Well, I should get going." I stood up and began to walk away.

"Bye! Thanks for helping me and Way!"

I looked back and saw him smiling and waving at me so I gave him a little wave too. "Anytime, kid. Take care of yourself."

I looked at my watch. If I wanted, I could still catch the 7:00 bus. I reached the bench where I'd been waiting and stared at it for a while. Then I looked past it and I realized I could see further down the street since the mist had mostly lifted. Without looking back, I walked past the bench and continued down the street. Let me tell you, that was probably the best choice I ever made in my entire life.