Animal Realm

Rick Bass

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The first pet I ever had of my own was a fledgling mockingbird I named Brighty. I found him while I was staying at my grandmother’s in Texas one spring. I rescued him from the dive bombs of blue jays and the prowling of Aunt May’s feral cats. I was out playing bat-and-catch myself—hitting the ball as high into the air as I could hit it, then dropping the bat and running after it.

At some point I must have come too close to his hiding spot in the hedge, for he launched into his full-throated cries, squawking and scolding and flapping his barely feathered wings, his eyes wet and huge. Utterly flightless, he spun in circles in the leaves. He was clearly doomed—ants would find him soon—and I scooped him up and ran back to my grandmother’s to show her my prize, my new playmate.

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