Margaret and the Mynah
The mynah bird swooped back around after catching its reflection and prepared for battle. Charging through the half open window, the bird was surprised to find itself indoors, and perched on the bed post at the foot of Margaret’s bed. It shook its feathers and tilted its head, taking in the stentorious breathing of the old crone lying in repose.
“Mary, Mary!” Margaret mumbled then yelled, then fell back to slumber. The bird hopped, then settled, and listened. Margaret kept repeating her name over and over then drifting off again. When the mynah finally mimicked her voice it was then that Mary finally heard the call, only because it sounded so odd.
Mary, Margaret’s twin, though by far the healthier of the two, pushed through the bedroom door, surprising the bird causing it to fly out the window. Margaret was startled, and instinctively followed its flight into the Melbourne suburbs. Kids playing with a hose in the January heat, saw it in the garden below and tried to spray it with water, but the mynah easily evaded the spray.
“What is it now Margaret?” Mary said wearily, for she was also in her eighties.
“Has Oliver arrived yet? I must get dressed for the dance.”
The home health nurse always told Mary that the best way to keep her demented sister oriented is to set her straight rather than indulging her delusion, “Oliver, our husband, died years ago Maggie.”
“What ever do you mean, our husband?!” Margaret asked causing her to sit up, “He asked me, not you to the dance. Besides, we just met.”
Mary shook her head, she could almost hear her sister’s teenage angst. “No, no, that was a long time ago. Would you like some tea?”
“Tea would be just lovely,” Margaret replied with a real smile, having forgotten the argument just a moment before. “Did you see the mynah bird in the room?”
Mary was concerned about her increasing delirium. Now Margaret was seeing things. Their relationship was the sort of perfect storm psychologists toiled over. Mary was hard of hearing, and Margaret was impatient. Rather than indulging her, Mary left to put on the kettle.
After a while the mynah flew back and perched on the window sill. Cocking its head right and left, it danced on its claws then flew to the head of the bed this time. Margaret tilted her eyes up at the same time the bird was looking down at her curiously.
“Mary, Mary!” Margaret exclaimed a bit nervously.
The mynah mimicked her almost immediately, “Mary, Mary.”
“Coming, love,” Mary replied, but it was unclear if she addressed her sister or the bird. Pushing her way through the bedroom door stirring the tea, bright porcelain tinkling, Mary focused on the cup. The Mynah stood perfectly still and watched her.
“Do you ever get lonely?” Margaret asked.
“Every time I’m away from you Maggie,” Mary answered, not looking up. “Even out of the room.”
“Me too,” Margaret’s voice dropped. “Why did we ever agree to the separation?”
“Seemed like a good idea at the time,” placing the cuppa on the bedside table.
“Will you lie with me? Just like we used to?”
Every time Margaret asked, Mary felt a pang of longing, and assumed the position, bottoms touching, back to back. “Is that better dear?” Mary sighed. She really didn’t need to ask, they both knew the answer. Having spent the majority of their lives this way it was a comfort few others could understand.
The bird looked down on them and ruffled its feathers, puffing up and relaxing.
An infinite duration of moments later, “Maggie, Maggie!,” Mary felt her sister’s last gasp through her own body, and then Margaret shrank in on herself.
The mynah sensing the change answered, “Mary, Mary.” Then Mary smiled happily, until she cried.
Dr. Keith A. Raymond is an Emergency Physician who has practiced in eight countries in four languages. Currently living in Austria with a wife and an old stray dog. When not volunteering his practice skills with refugees, he is writing or lecturing. He has multiple medical citations, and also published several stories in Flash Fiction Magazine.