Summer was dead, but autumn had not yet been born when the ibis came to the bleeding tree. It’s strange that all this is so clear to me, now that time has had its way.
But sometimes (like right now) I sit in the cool green parlor, and I remember Doodle.
Doodle was about the craziest brother a boy ever had. Doodle was born when I was seven and
was, from the start, a disappointment. He seemed all head, with a tiny body that was red and
shriveled like an old man’s. Everybody thought he was going to die.
Daddy had the carpenter build a little coffin, and when he was three months old, Mama and
Daddy named him William Armstrong.
The Scarlet Ibis.
Such a name sounds good only on a tombstone. When he crawled on the rug, he crawled backward, as if he were in reverse and couldn’t change gears. This made him look like a doodlebug, so I began calling him ‘Doodle.’ Renaming my brother was probably the kindest thing I ever did for him, because nobody expects much from
someone called Doodle.
Daddy built him a cart and I had to pull him around. If I so much as picked up my hat, he’d start crying to go with me; and Mama would call from wherever she was, “Take Doodle with you. ” So I dragged him across the cotton field to share the beauty of Old Woman Swamp. I lifted him out and sat him down in the soft grass. He began to cry.
“What’s the matter?”
“It’s so pretty, Brother, so pretty.”
After that, Doodle and I often went down to Old Woman Swamp.