It wasn’t hard to find the address from the newspaper once we got on the right street. It was the only house that had stacks of canary cages set out in the front yard, each one full of fluttering yellow birds. Mother swerved around a horse-drawn vegetable cart that was coming the other way, then parked the car along the curb. Before the car wheels had stopped turning I’d burst out the door and run up onto the lawn.
“Which one do you want?” Mother asked, adjusting her hat, then folding her hands primly over her purse. I could tell she didn’t like the look of this yard or the shabby little house behind it.
“Hello, hello,” a small man with a big smile came out the front door. “You want canary?”
“Yes,” I said. “My old one died.”
“You pick. Take your time,” he bowed and smiled again.
I walked around all the cages. A bird with a little bit of gray on his wings caught my eye. He had a funny way of hopping from side to side, and kept looking at me as if to ask, “Please take me home with you!”
I pointed the bird out to the little man. He nodded and opened the cage door and caught the bird in his hand. “One moment, wait here, I will put him in a box for you.”
While Mother dug in her purse I followed the little man into his house, not wanting to get too far from my new bird. He went inside and down a set of stairs to his basement, with me right behind.
At the bottom of the stairs I froze. The room was full of big cabinets with dials and buttons, microphones, speakers… it was radio equipment! I had never seen so much radio equipment in real life. Only in the movies, or I wouldn’t have even known what it was.
“YOU!” the man shouted. He now had a box in his hands, and had just turned around and noticed me. “Out! Now!”
My heart pounding, I ran back up the stairs and out into the sunshine. I didn’t dare say a word to my mother,, who was watching the canaries flutter around in their cages.
For a moment, I was afraid the man wasn’t coming back out, and that I’d never get my canary. At last he came, no longer smiling, but with the box in his hands. He took the money from my mother and handed her the box, ignoring me like I didn’t exist.
My heart was still pounding as mother drove us away. I could hear the gentle scratching of my bird moving around inside his box. What was that man doing with all of that radio equipment in his basement?