"Mom got me a summer job!" Nora is dancing and talking in the kitchen explaining to Grandma that she'll be the caretaker for a parakeet named "Nacho" who will be in our presence for the next 10 days or so.
"Ten days! That's almost forever!" We count it out on our hands, me noticing how wrinkled the skin, how cracked the knuckles of my summer hands as the skin adjusts to water, dirt, weed. When I was little, my mom would cover my hands in vaseline, wrap them in saran wrap and socks, and I would sleep like that, temporary relief for the dry, cracked hands of childhood eczema. Nora's hands are soft white bird wings fluttering the number 10, practically forever.
"We should make a list of questions to ask Mrs. B about Nacho." "Okay. Okay." She, dancing on tip-toes, goes to the green box that holds the reused paper cut in four parts, the backs heavy with the words of contracts and old poems, lyrics and flyers from school. For those of you who have seen Nora in person, you know that she is always on tip-toe, a girl peaking over the edge of the unknown life with some uncontainable joy and curiosity.
1. What does Nacho eat?
2. Can he eat our birdseed?
3. When do you feed her?
4. How much do you feed her?
5. I love nacho and I love you, Mrs. B. I will teach her good tricks. And I love you.
6. How does she sleep and when?
7. Is she nocturnal?
8. Is there anything she likes to play, like "dead" or "roll over" or "tag" or "fly tag" or "phone tag"?
9. We will leave a note for you.
10. Where did you get Nacho?
11. How long does she have to pee and how long are the poos she has? (I'm just her secretary, folks.)
12. I love you and lots of kids are born with contacts and most kids grow up needing glasses.
13. I love you and Nora and my mom wrote this.
14. If she has a broke wing, we'll fix it and tell her how long she has and make her a paper replacement wing.
15. I can't wait to take care of Nacho.
16. Why is her name Nacho? Nacho or taco?
Oh, my girl. You are my bird, my gift. I understand. I had the same questions about you when I first put my mother hands around your tiny, dancing feet, counting toes. Ten. Ten is forever.