His name is Wally.
I first met this little guy while I was moving into my house in Fredonia last semester. He was sitting on a bush a few feet away while my housemates and I labored with heavy furniture up and down the stairs to our front porch. We didn’t think twice about how close he was to us; most birds would’ve flown away with all the hustle and bustle that was going on right next to him, but this particular bird didn’t seem to mind us. In fact, after we were all done moving in, the bird flew in for a closer look, right up to the railing of our porch, where we were all sitting and talking about the upcoming year together. We were surprised by the bird, but we thought he was just a curious little thing, we didn’t know he was tame, or even had a name. That information came to us later.
We had grown more used to the bird and his tolerance of us humans. In only a few days, he had taken to us even more and often flew to our porch whenever he saw a number of us enjoying the outside air. He scared us all the first time he flew over to one of us and perched right on a waiting shoulder. After that first time though, more often than not, he was sitting on our lap or on an arm or, in my case, on my ripe head.
It can’t have been a week from the day we first met our new friend when a man came walking toward our front lawn. Now, a little backstory — I live on Terrace Street, halfway between campus and downtown, right before the intersection of Temple and Central. Right across from my house is One Temple Square, a large building that used to be the Fredonia Normal School and is now an elderly home. Back in 2010, my sophomore year, a woman was murdered and then found in a dumpster on the premises of this place. I can see the dumpster from the second floor of my house. It’s easy to say that this place already had a reputation for my housemates and I.
Anyway, when this man came walking toward us, it was clear that he belonged to the old person’s home across the street. We were all uneasy. This man walked right up to our porch and spoke directly to the bird, not addressing any of us. He called out the bird’s name (“Wally! Come ‘ere, Wally! Don’t worry, he won’t hurtcha!) and held out his arm and shoved it in the bird’s direction, expecting Wally to jump on board. After a few more minutes of pestering Wally, the man finally decided to leave and plodded off across the street, back toward the retirement home. Before leaving, however, the man (whom my housemate quickly named “Gary”) assured us that the bird was his, that it had fallen out of a tree a short while ago and that Gary had found the creature. Gary claimed that the bird happened to like the man and often followed him around on ground or in air and that Gary had taught the bird to like other people too, and to perch on them and himself upon command.
Wally would also visit our neighbors and quickly became a neighborhood pet. After talking with them about the bird, I learned that they had a similar interaction with a different man, except this man was a lot more well kept and little less disheveled than Gary always seemed to be. This man lived down the road, just a few houses down from ours. He said that the bird was his, and that his name was Caesar, not Wally. He said that he had nearly raised Caesar from birth as the bird had fallen out of his nest as a chick. Upon hearing this news, it was clear to us that this man was Wally/Caesar’s true owner, not Gary.
It didn’t take long for us to develop a kind of detest for Gary. Gary would come by nearly every day because, if Wally/Caesar wasn’t with Gary, he was with us, and Gary knew this to be true. Gary would come by so often and without warning or permission, and he would take Wally/Caesar away from us.
We found that Wally/Caesar would eventually stop visiting Gary in the morning and evening and that he would roost above our door over night. Gary would come over less and less, as if he knew that Wally/Caesar preferred us now.
All was well.
That is, until tragedy struck.
One day, while my friend and housemate Tyler Stanley was sitting in his bed, he heard a terrible squawking and shrieking. He ran over to the window and saw a fat brown cat struggling with something in it.
“I was in my bedroom,” said Stanley. “I was laying in my bed and I had the window open because it was a beautiful sunny day, and I was looking at the parking lot across the street, and I heard this really horrible squawking noise. I kind of sat up in bed and looked across the street and I saw this cat running across the parking lot, and it had something in its mouth that was kind of, like, flailing around. I looked a little closer – I kind of like leaned out the window – and I saw that it was a bird and the bird looked really familiar. The bird was Wally.”
“At first, I don’t think we were sure [that it was Wally] because it could have been any bird, and Wally was pretty average looking. This bird was really trusting, and I feel like it wanted to play with this cat, not knowing that the cat was going to fuck it up.”
“We stopped seeing Wally around; that was another indicator that he was gone. Usually, he was sitting above our door or, like, flying onto our heads and stuff. Then the guy from across the street, Gary, had said something about, you know, “You guys let the cat get Wally,” so that kind of confirmed it. He was mad at us even though it wasn’t our fault. We didn’t do anything to Wally. We loved him.”
Our friend was dead.
And, the kicker of it all? Weeks before, our neighbors had named the brown cat that also been hanging around our houses and had grown close to us. The cat’s name?
That, friends and readers, is fate.
Wally/Caesar will always have a place in our hearts. And his memory will be forever emblazoned above our front door, shit-streaks and all.