As difficult and lonely as the war was, coming home was even worse. At least in combat he had other guys around him watching his back. That wasn't an option when he came back to the old neighborhood. He wandered up the block, his heart beating out of his chest as he got closer to home.
He walked up the stoop, still hearing the slurs ringing in his ears as the hippie on the corner called him a murderer, and the couple walking down the street spit at him. It didn't matter. Nothing did, except the people in the building in front of him. He turned the handle and stepped inside, breathing in the sweet smell of home.
He hadn't told her he was coming. Over the last few months, her letters had gone from sweeping paragraphs of prose depicting their life when he returned, to barely two sentences of small talk and it was signed "Sincerely," not "With Love." He knew it was hard on her, raising two small kids on her own, and so he swore to himself that this deployment would be his last. He would retire from the military to raise his boys and spend time with the love of his life.
He heard noises upstairs and smiled, wondering what crazy game the boys were playing. He tiptoed up the stairs and peeked into their room to surprise them, but they weren't there. He walked down the hall and looked in the bathroom to see if they were splashing around, but not there either. A few steps later and he was standing in front of the bedroom door--his bedroom door--listening to the sounds inside. He clenched his fists at his side, knowing it was not the boys who were playing in that room.
He kicked open the door, his feathers ruffled and flying from his body as he pulled his wife off of the man who lay beneath her. He saw the horror in her eyes, and knew then that it wasn't because of remorse that she was crying, but because she'd been caught. He grabbed the man as he tried to run from the room. Somewhere in his head he recognized him as their mailman, but as he sat on top of him and punched him over and over and over again, the only thing he saw in front of him was red.
She was trying to leave now, too. He grabbed her leg and pulled her back into the room. He didn't mean to hurt her so bad, but he couldn't control himself. Afterwards, when they both lay in front of him on the floor, it was the boys' screaming that brought his thoughts back to where he was.
He stood then, stepping away from the bodies in horror as he realized what he'd done. The boys were running down the steps now, and in that moment he knew he'd lost them, too. He ran downstairs and out into the street. He ran until blocks turned into miles, and each mile that put distance between himself and his home also built another brick in the wall he was building around his memories. He couldn't be that bird, couldn't allow that memory to live inside him, so he buried it behind the wall that built higher with each mile.
By the time he found himself on Sesame Street, the old bird was gone. He'd built the wall so high he'd forgotten his wife and kids, his time deployed, and even who he was. Jim Bird was dead, along with the memories of what he'd done, both good and bad.
One day while he was panhandling, he heard a cabbie say, "Damn, that is a BIG BIRD!" With nothing else to cling to, his mind wrapped around that one phrase, and he was forever after known as Big Bird.