we released a red-tailed hawk from the bird hospital today—not the gigantic female we had last week, but a male who'd tumbled out of the sky with a terrible scream. raptors are territorial, and this one ended up in our care after losing a turf war. he fell right at someone's feet, R said. i heard her presentation to the donors and birdwatchers who'd assembled in the lobby for the release as i bustled around the isolation ward in a crap-spattered gown; i hadn't planned on heading out to central park myself, but one of the staffers took my gown and place and pushed me out the door after the back of the column. we headed east into the trees just north of where joe and i turn in for shakespeare every summer. a woman stood at the edge of the path with a sharpied FREE HUGS sign, and someone from our group lurched over to embrace her. "thank you," she said. "thank you."
it felt wrong to catch all the way up to R, though i didn't know anyone else; she was practicing her magic at the column's head, pointing out the birds wheeling above us (hawks, so we had to head south) and telling stories about patients. i ended up beside a woman—maybe the one from the hug?—who told me that one of her two cats died a few days ago under anesthesia for a routine dental. "he was two and a half," she said. "it was a mistake to take him in, i made a mistake, but i could tell his teeth were hurting him." i told her she'd done the right thing with the information she'd had, and we kept going south.