A palace for peepers, p.1
A Palace for Peepers, p.1Marian Hailey-Moss
Copyright © 2014 Marian Hailey Moss
All rights reserved.
Second Electronic Edition
First Print Edition
A Palace for Peepers
Morgan and Avery
A Palace for Peepers
Peepers was born in New York City. She was found by Dmitry, the porter in Astor Court, the building where Mia lived. Dmitry saw Peepers huddled near a large flowerpot in the building’s garden. As Mia walked in Astor Court’s front entrance, Dmitry placed the baby bird in her arms.
Peepers was a baby pigeon. Baby pigeons are called “squeakers” by wildlife rescuers. However, Peepers didn’t squeak. She peeped. That’s how Peepers got her name.
Peepers couldn’t have been more than three weeks old. Her pink chest was almost bare. The top of her head was white. The edges of her black wings were white. She had no tail, just a few wisps of feathers. She looked like a tiny bald eagle. She must have fallen out of her nest.
Dmitry knew Peepers was healthy because he had seen Peepers’s mother tending to her. The mama pigeon had tried to feed Peepers where she sat on the ground. Mia and Dmitry wanted to put the baby back in her nest. They knew that’s the right thing to do with a wild bird. But now, when they looked for Peepers’s nest and mother, they couldn’t find them. How could they leave Peepers? They had to help. Stray cats often wandered through the garden and would surely attack a baby bird.
And so Mia and Dmitry took over where nature let go.
Mia was only twelve years old. But it was summer, so she had lots of free time. She had learned in school that pigeons were highly intelligent. The teacher had shown a video where a pigeon was able to tell the difference between a Picasso and a Monet painting. Certainly Peepers would be able to tell the difference between its own mother and Mia. Nevertheless, Mia would have to do. She would be Peepers’s godmother.
Peepers sat real still in Mia’s arms. Mia had never held a baby pigeon before. It seemed full of life but helpless and scared. Mia knew she had to care for it and make sure it had a chance to grow up.
Mia brought Peepers upstairs to her family’s apartment. She settled her in an old gerbil cage by the bathroom window so Peepers could have a view of the garden below. Then Mia called her mom’s friend Rita. Rita was the director and co-founder of the Wild Bird Fund, where she nursed wild birds and animals back to health. Rita told Mia, “Get some Puppy Chow dry food. Soak it in boiling water, until it’s soft. And feed Peepers this mixture three times a day.”
Mia wrapped Peepers in an old undershirt to keep her steady and calm while trying to feed her. She tried and tried to pry open her beak to insert the puppy morsels. In spite of the undershirt, Peepers squirmed and squirmed, and she only swallowed a little food. Then, somehow, Mia stumbled on a feeding technique that worked.
Mia put her hand in front of Peepers, fingers pointing downward. She put Peepers’s beak between two of her fingers. It must have reminded Peepers of her mother’s beak because she opened up wide. Now Mia could insert the puppy food.
Mia was vegan—she didn’t eat meat or dairy foods—and didn’t like the idea of feeding Puppy Chow to a baby bird. But Peepers loved it. She chowed it down, all right, especially when Mia lightly dipped the Puppy Chow mush in wild birdseed.
Eating became a happy event that they both looked forward to. Mia didn’t have to pry the baby’s locked beak open anymore. Peepers’s wings quivered in excitement after every beak-full. Peepers ate so much that she seemed to grow bigger with each meal. She would take such large helpings that she would have to walk around in a circle and flap her wings so the food could travel down her long neck.
Two days and six feedings later, Mia and Peepers went to see Rita. Rita weighed Peepers and checked her for diseases. She opened Peepers’s little beak and looked inside. It was pink as a whistle. She looked at some of Peepers’s poo, through a microscope. Rita said that Peepers was in tiptop condition. She would grow into a fine, adult pigeon.
“There might be one problem,” Rita told Mia. “You probably won’t be able to release her on the New York City streets when she is able to fly. Baby birds, just like children, need to learn the ropes from their parents. They need to be taught how to take care of themselves.”
Mia understood. Peepers would not know how to fend for herself in the big city. Mia would always have to feed her.
“There might be another way, however,” Rita said. “If you put her with older pigeons or pigeons that are being cared for in a safe place, she might learn from them. If she’s really lucky, Peepers could learn enough to be released successfully. She could be released with Squeaks.”
Squeaks, another orphaned pigeon, was also Rita’s patient. She was about the same age as Peepers. It would be ideal if Squeaks and Peepers were released together. A little pigeon alone would have no chance competing for food with big bully pigeons. Squeaks and Peepers, as a pair, could put up a better fight.
The more Mia got to know Peepers, the more she loved her.
When her tail feathers came in, she would spread them out like a fan and comb each feather from bottom to top. When Mia came into the room to feed her or just to say hello, Peepers danced in her cage and fluffed up her feathers. Peepers would sit in Mia’s hand and peck at Mia’s face, giving her kisses with her pink beak. But Peepers was a wild bird, and Mia knew she needed to be outdoors. Still, she wished she could keep her.
Mia and Peepers made a friend a couple of weeks later in the Wild Bird Fund waiting room. Her name was Nan. Peepers was there getting her weekly check-up. Nan was there with a carrying case in her lap. Mia and Nan started talking, and Mia found out that Nan was the woman who had rescued Squeaks. Her carrying case held none other than Squeaks the pigeon! Nan was bringing him in for a check-up, too.
“May be Peepers and Squeaks could get together at my place. Nan said. “What do you think?”
That sounded great to Mia. She had a good feeling about Nan, who had the brightest smile. Peepers seemed to like her, too. She kept trying to peck at the big diamond ring that Nan wore. Nan didn’t mind. Peepers must have thought it was sparkling puppy morsels.
The phone rang the next day. Nan invited Peepers to come live with her. Peepers would be with Squeaks and other pigeons in a newly built outdoor birdhouse. Mia’s heart pinched at the thought of Peepers living somewhere else. But she knew this was an invitation she couldn’t refuse. It was best for Peepers.
“Where shall I bring her?” Mia asked.
“The Old Hooper Cooper Mansion!”
“We’ll be there tomorrow with bells and whistles.”
“Come at three.”
During the school year, Mia walked by the Old Hooper Cooper Mansion on her way to swimming class at the 92nd street Y every week. To think that it would soon be Peepers’s home! Mia went to sleep that night dreaming of room after room of luxury—silks and satins; marble floors and stained glass windows; curlicue furniture; vases of blue, red, green, and yellow flowers filling rooms with sunshine and rainbows; and little Peepers in a golden cage, munching birdseed while watching colored TV. It was a happy dream.
In the morning, Mia checked on Peepers, who was in the bathroom practicing her flying skills. She could make it from the cage to the towel rack with ease, but not yet to the higher shower curtain rod. She didn’t know that her life was about to change.
“This is it,” Mia said to the taxi driver. They had stopped in front of a building that took up half the block. The Old Hooper Cooper Mansion. Peepers’s bright future
Mia thought the building looked grand and stately like a church. It had a tall tower over the entrance, and heavy, wooden doors. Two workmen were busy repairing the front steps. Mia told them she was here to see Nan Schmidt. They pointed to an open door at the side of the building.
Mia went to that door with Peepers in her carrying case. There was a very steep ramp going down into darkness.
“Nan? Hello, Nan?”
Nan came up the ramp out of the darkness. She was wearing old blue jeans and that bright smile.
“Hi!” she said. “Come this way.”
“I don’t think I can,” Mia said. “The ramp looks so wobbly.” If only I could fly like Peepers, Mia thought.
Waving her hand, Nan told Mia to go back to the main entrance.
Mia walked into the front hallway. Two more workmen
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