He was the kid who climbed onto low roofs and jumped off, a blanket for a cape or makeshift wings at the ready. He thought Icarus died too young, and vowed to himself to be more careful. He talked with birds, asking them to share their secrets, adopting the wounded ones and nursing them until they flew away. He cried over his many failures, and learned better ways to help when he volunteered at the local bird care centre, where he befriended the wounded who thrived under his care. He studied them so, that naturally he became an ornithologist. There was a lot of nonsense written about his friends. He set about correcting the exaggerations and aberrations that were accepted as truth. Studying birds, he studied their environments. He ended up on the canopy of trees watching the rare insects and birds that lived in that special ecosystem. Those were thrilling years — he did everything but fly.
He was not mechanically inclined and swore off airplanes as artificial means of transportation. They polluted the air, killed birds, disrupted migrations, and generally made a pest of themselves. They were not birds, not even mechanical ones. They were noisy and graceless — indeed a very poor approximation of birds, devoid of feeling and ingenuity, reduced to an object of flight.
He had vivid flying dreams. They felt more like astral projections. He would wake up from them at peace with the world, happy to have spent time with his own kind. He wished he could grow feathers but could never figure out how. He was always surrounded by birds, who seemed as happy as he was for them to be together. He had a small bird cemetery, for the unfortunates who were hit by cars and left to die. They were grouped according to their classes, much as people of different faiths inhabit different corners of large cemeteries. He kept detailed records of the area where he found them. In a separate book, he gave them each a name and a story, to honour them posthumously. He had grown very fond of his cemetery which was full of trees and bird feeders.
When he retired, he opened it up to the enthusiasts who had heard of his project through the grapevine. Entry fees allowed him to expand and create a public space for visitors who wished to bring the body of their pet birds to be properly interred. Some would tell their story, which was added to the very large ledger, so they would be remembered. Monuments were erected, with large falcons, owls or more modest parakeets. He was given all manner of trees by grateful patrons to house the living. He had made special arrangements to be buried on-site. When the time came, the trees were full of songbirds who gave him a magnificent send-off. An unofficial truce was reached and honoured on that day so that birds of all feathers could flock together.
He was finally able to fly.