It was funny how birds often walked into the enormous waiting room at the city train station. They waddled right through the open door. The birds seemed fearless as they roamed about the tile floor looking for food, deftly avoiding the feet of passengers.
Two or three pigeons liked to strut among passengers near the snack kiosk, cooing and pecking at crumbs. A chirping sparrow hopped along the rows of varnished wooden benches where passengers sat quietly, thinking or looking at their phones as they waited for trains.
The tiny sparrow, which actually seemed to live in the cavernous waiting room, was very brave for its size. It easily outmaneuvered the gigantic humans. It was also surprisingly strong, able to carry away a whole cracker with ease.
Sometimes one of those big, clumsy humans would be startled by the flight of something near the train station’s high ceiling. “What the–?”
When anyone observed that the sparrow was building a nest up in a hanging light fixture, a laugh was sure to follow.
“What a perfect place for a nest,” one gentleman chuckled. “Lots to eat. All sorts of messy people.”
“Messy birds, too,” his friend frowned. She motioned toward fresh droppings on the floor.
“I’m sure there’s much worse than that around here,” asserted the gentleman, nodding with exaggerated disgust at the many bedraggled strangers who sat on the varnished benches, clutching their baggage, staring dully out the large windows at the station platform.
With a rumble a scheduled train arrived. Passengers stood up, formed a line, filed out. New people trickled into the waiting room. Every passing soul chose one particular spot on a wooden bench, sat down.
Few would look around with curiosity, until they noticed that endlessly busy sparrow.
The sparrow hopped about the tile floor, gathering bits of material to build its nest. A leaf blown through the door would be flown up to the nest. So would a discarded candy wrapper.
The small sparrow, as it moved among the feet of several sitting passengers, cocked its head right and left. It hopped up onto a bench, moving in small, effortless hops toward one lady who sat talking on her phone. Suddenly it flew up to her shoulder, grabbed a loose hair from her sweater, and flashed up to the ceiling and its nest in the light.
The lady shrieked and looked about. People jumped, turned. She was gazing up at the ceiling. Suddenly she broke out in happy laughter. “A bird was on my shoulder!” she told the person at the other end of her phone. A passenger on the bench facing her was smiling.
Up near the ceiling, the station sparrow weaved its nest.
The precocious bird emerged from under a bench and made a dash for another passenger. It attacked a loose shoelace, gave it a tug.
“Oh my god! Look at that bird!” exclaimed the owner of the shoe. “It’s crazy! What’s that bird doing?”
A child sitting nearby joined in the laughter.
The sparrow moved mysteriously from bench to bench, its chirp heard at one end of the large waiting room, then the other.
A quietly sobbing passenger sat in one corner of the waiting room. She daubed her eyes and carelessly dropped a tissue. Like a sudden bolt of lightning the small sparrow swept down from somewhere and stole the tissue and carried it up to its nest. Her sobs were relieved by a lighthearted laugh.
Later in the day the bird flew down to the ticket counter and stood cocking its head right and left as it watched a transaction.
“I want a one way ticket for the next train to Los Angeles,” demanded a passenger.
“A one way ticket?”
“Yeah, I don’t intend to return to this place.”
The passenger carefully counted out bills and placed them upon the elegant wooden counter.
In a flash the thieving sparrow swept past. It easily stole a twenty dollar bill and flew up to its light near the ceiling.
“A bird stole my money!”
“They better return that money,” the next person in line said angrily. “You have the legal right to get it back. If they don’t give you every penny, you should call the police.”
But the paying passenger, staring up at the small nest in the dirty old station light, suddenly smiled and exploded with laughter. “Oh, does it really matter? That was actually hilarious. That little bird is going to have the most fantastic nest ever built!”
As passengers sat on the waiting room benches, or stood in line for arriving trains, the station sparrow stealthily gathered scraps for its nest. Those who noticed enjoyed a laugh. Some, peering up toward the ceiling, wondered what the nest contained.