On the nights when Irena wasn't working, she had little difficulty falling asleep at home. She was tired and often hungry. The snap and pop of gunfire--even whimpers and screams--were like snores and stomach growls to her now. But almost every night she would awake in the middle of the night--two, three, who could say?--and drag herself over to Pretty Bird's cage. Usually his gray head was cocked slightly to the left. His eyes would be shut, baring small, pearly lids, his small clawed toes, pink and precious as veins, clasping his perch. His red-fringed tail would droop and rustle slightly, lightly, breezily. Irena would marvel. Such a small, soft thing to survive bombs and vipers' bullets. He was just breath, blood, matchstick bones, and feathers. She would put her right hand up to Pretty Bird's tender black beak and wait a second or more until she felt a small puff of his breath brush against her knuckles, then creep back under her blankets and fall asleep.
--Scott Simon, Pretty Birds