or: how I knew I married the right woman

So, early in her days in Med School, the missus had little time off. We had the second-year summer, there were no obligations, so we went back home (my home) to Honolulu for a week of R&R. And there’s a little divey Korean place in Waikiki that does great kalbi with all the proper sides. And you can take out, or you can eat on their little patio with the aluminum chairs and windblown, slightly tawdry umbrellas.

So we’re eating our kalbi and macaroni salad and long rice and her napkin blows away, and she, being a good citizen, dives after it and grabs it under the table. But she emerges with a really funny look on her face.

“I wish I hadn’t seen that.”


“There’s one of those awful glue-rat-traps in the bushes. And there’s a bird stuck in it.”

So I looked. And immediately wished I hadn’t looked. Because there was indeed one of those awful traps, and a sparrow stuck fast in it, literally glued chest-down, bright eyes looking up at me. Lunch was going to change, I sensed.

I saw her face harden. I saw the determination come on. The surgeons had just told her she had great hands. And she took the tools she could find: chopsticks, plastic knives, napkins, and she spent the next two hours working, slowly, so very slowly, to free that sparrow without losing a toe or a feather more than needed. And when she was finally done, the sparrow burst free and hopped across the street and took shelter in a lava-rock wall across the street. And she threw the filthy, mangled trap into the garbage, where it belonged.

I don’t know if it lived or died. In my head it went on to have a glorious, long life of eating the scraps of tourists on Waikiki beach and passing on the tale of the day it had a brush with death but was saved by a kind stranger. But my head is a funny place. All I know is that she gave it a chance, when it had had no chance. Just a little bit of mercy in a cruel universe can be like water in the desert.