What a Little Birdie Told Me – a short story


What I am about to tell you, you won’t believe it. You won’t believe it because you will think I am making it all up! Perhaps you will think that I am really serious about it; that I really believed it happened –with or without a little bit of embellishment- that perhaps I only dreamed it? Well at least you won’t think that I am a liar, but, you will be thinking at the least I have a wild imagination; at the worst that I am, well, coo-coo! I am not sure which I prefer; however, since I am about to tell you a story, I will hope that, while you are reading my tale, you will at least try to believe it!

It happened just like this:

One day not long ago, I woke up early. Not early for school, or early because we were going on vacation. Early because the sun was shining directly on my face and there was this bird sitting on the window ledge making a horrible chirping racket. I rolled over onto my stomach and pulled the pillow over my head but that bird kept on chirping and I couldn’t fall back asleep. I couldn’t help but listen to the bird. I finally tried to shoo him away with the pillow but he would hover just outside my reach, beating his wings wildly and making a horrible noise. I could not understand why my mom didn’t hear. My dad could sleep through an earthquake. The darn thing wouldn’t shoo – I finally gave up and crawled back into my bed, and watched the bird with one eye, while I tried to get the other one to go back to sleep. The bird kept chirping at me; it took me awhile to realize it was mad at me for something and was giving me what –for. I kept wondering ‘what’s your problem you silly bird?’ I guess I must have said it out loud?
“You make an awful racket when you’re asleep!” it complained. “You sound like a field with a thousand cows all penned in together and you….”
“I what?”
“You smell like it too!” the bird grew sheepish. It took a moment but I realize that I must have been snoring and I woke the poor little thing up. But smell like…? Suddenly I became aware of an aroma wafting up from underneath my blankets and I realized that I must have just….well, you know.
I started to giggle to myself. The bird, very annoyed, asked “What is so funny?” Do you realize I had to sit there hungry for a whole hour before the sun was up high enough for me to see where I could fly to get something to eat?
‘Well no, I apologize for that, but do you not…”
“And that horrible smell! I can smell nothing now but the cows! I can’t smell where the food is at, or where my friends might be! It is a terrible thing you have done to me!”
By now I was forgetting about the pillow and wanting to throw something at the pesky bird. I could not understand why the bird was so angry at me! I had done nothing on purpose, and nothing that was anywhere near as bad as what that silly little bird did to me every day….starting with chirping so incessantly on Saturday mornings, the only day I could sleep in, dropping little bombs in the most conspicuous places (like on my window ledge) where mom was sure to see them and direct me to clean them up before I could go outside to play; and so far as the smell goes, well, I have been near enough of its cousin chickens to swear there is no fouler – or fowler – smell than that on the face of God’s good earth.
“You have to be the noisiest, smelliest, human alive….”, it was saying as I threw my 1st Place Piano competition trophy at it. The trophy missed the bird, but not the sidewalk, where it broke into a thousand pieces. The bird suddenly grew silent, turned, and flew away.

I was beside myself with anger and frustration over what just happened. I knew if mom or dad saw my trophy laying in pieces on the sidewalk I would be in even more trouble. I already felt bad enough, so I decided to escape out my window, but not before first leaving a note on my pillow so that they wouldn’t worry about where I was:

Dear mom and dad:
A little birdie came and gave me heck for snoring and farting. I threw something at it. I am very sorry. I went to look for the birdie in the forest to apologize to him. I’ll be back before lunchtime.
– Teira

And off I went. I clambered down the pipe that collects the rain from the roof and directs it away from the house. I was still in my pee-jays but that didn’t matter. Much more important to clean up the sidewalk and to find that little bird so that I could….well, I think you know I wasn’t completely being honest to my parents about what I wanted to do with the bird once I caught him?
By this time the birds were all up and chirping merrily and I knew it was going to be very difficult to find this pesky little thing in particular, but I was still mad enough about my trophy that it could take all day and I would not stop looking! I was on my way down the path that lead toward the forest when I stubbed my big toe on something.
“Ow!” I said.
“Ouch! Watch where you are going!” someone said in a hard, grating voice.
“Huh?” I was red with pain looking down upon a rock half buried in the dirt right in the middle of the path. The rock looked up at me, it’s face formed into a permanent frown.
“You stupid human. You walked right into me and did it on purpose. Serves you right you got hurt too! “
I regarded the rock and was taken aback by it’s conclusion that I had stubbed my toe on purpose. What kind of rock would be stupid enough to…ok, we’re talking about a rock after all! I was in no mood to take a scolding from an inanimate object whose thinking was being done inside an inanimate brain.
“You stupid rock!” I shot back. “I walk this path everyday and this is the first day you were here, otherwise I would have known not to step on you!” You were probably tossed up by my father’s ploughshare or something, like the stupid clump of useless molecules that you are.” I was surprised at my own vehemence, but I was angry enough that it actually felt good to say it.
“You are even harder than I am” said the rock. The last thing I remember is chucking that silly rock farther than I ever did throwing shot-put. I think I saw tears in its eyes.
I turned again toward the forest and continued my search. My big toe was throbbing, but now it hurt only as much as remembering my favourite trophy was in pieces in the garbage can. With any luck the garbage man will come by to collect it before my parents see it. Anyway, the further I go now, the longer it will take for them to find me, and the more time they will have to cool off before they do.
A way off I thought I heard something….not just any something, a very familiar something! Familiar as in bird, early morning, stupid human, that sort of familiar something! My heart quickened as I went off in the direction of the telltale chirp. I began to run, paying no attention to what I was stepping on – or in. How bad could it be anyways? Nothing worse than a cow-pie around here, I knew. Or did I?
I noticed something beginning to swirl around my head. I must have kicked up a dust cloud or had I stepped on….
“BEES!” I screamed aloud. My heart jumped up inside my chest. I was now running for my life. How could things have got this bad? It all started with a stupid little bird giving me ‘what-for’! My legs went faster than ever before in their entire lives. The forest was too far away to get to in time before the bees began stinging.
“I didn’t step on your nest on purpose!” I tried to explain to the noisy, menacing cloud.
“Yes you did! Cruel human. You are always breaking our nests and making us homeless. And we will sting you because we know it hurts you!”
“But when you sting me you will die because you lose your stinger!” I screamed back at them. The buzzing cloud seemed to hesitate momentarily, but then the buzzing renewed itself, sounding even angrier than before. At this very moment I ran past a mound of dirt.
“Quickly, upon your life, in here!” I heard someone say. The sound came from a dark hole on the opposite side of the mound. I had no time to consider but dove right inside.
With the bees buzzing angrily at the opening, I crawled as far into the hole as possible. I bumped into something very hard.
“Ouch!” I heard someone say.
“Watch where you are going!” I had heard that hard, grating voice before. It took a moment for my eyes to get used to the darkness, but I soon realized I was again face to face with that same silly little rock. My relief at being rescued from the bees, and not having jumped into something even more dangerous, like a bear’s den, was soon replaced with gratitude toward the rock, which was then transformed into sorrow and guilt over what I had said to the rock and how I had made it cry. For a few moments, neither of us said anything.
“Rock, I am sorry about what I said to you back there. I was very angry at you when I stubbed my toe… but it really wasn’t your fault. You couldn’t help being where you were, not having any legs, and you couldn’t help being hard…that’s what rock’s are, after all.”
“And you can’t help being stupid, because that’s what humans are” replied the rock, consolingly. It took all I could muster not to pitch that rock a second time, that is, until I realized that, being a rock, it couldn’t really understand how what it said would be understood by a ‘stupid’ human. At least I was able to understand that the rock was trying to be conciliatory, but I really had to try!
The bees outside grew less and less angry after a time and eventually went away to build another nest. My feelings of sadness toward the rock gave way to anger and revenge as my thoughts turned once again to the bird. I could hear it chirping away at something angrily. I was beginning to get the idea that whenever it chirped, it was because it was angry! Strange….most birds get up singing, welcoming the morning sun. But not this bird.
“I must go catch that bird’ I said to the rock, menace returning to my voice. The rock ‘humphed’ in response but said nothing.
“Do you want to come?” I asked.
“Are you going to throw me at the bird?” Good the rock asked, because I most likely would have, however, since we were now friends I couldn’t do that!
“No, I promise I won’t chuck you at the bird. If I need to throw anything, I’ll find a stick or something.” I picked up the rock and stuck him in my top pee-jay pocket, with the tip of the rock sticking out so it could see. “Now, hush’ I said.
I crept with the rock in the direction of the angry chirping. After a moment, I could tell the bird was ensconced in a rather stumpy looking maple tree at the edge of the forest. The bird was so involved in scolding whatever it was scolding that it did not notice us as we crept toward the tree. I quietly clambered up the oak tree right beside it, so that, after a few minutes, the rock and I were looking down upon the bird, not more than two metres away…if only I hadn’t promised the rock I wouldn’t throw it!
The bird was still unmindful of our presence, busy as it was with its scolding.
‘Such an angry little bird!” I was thinking. The bird was directing its dissonant tirade at a crook in the tree right below the branch it was perched upon. I saw a nest there. And inside the nest there was…I suddenly felt my heart well up into my throat…four eggs, or rather, what were four eggs. The eggs were shattered – in pieces – and there was yoke everywhere. After a time, I began to understand what the angry bird was yelling at the eggs:
“Why did you break so easily? Why were you so thin! You should have been stronger, so the hawk wouldn’t be able to peck through, when I went to get food….you were too thin”….then the angry bird stopped chirping for a moment, and began to cry. I felt tears begin to well up in my eyes too. I looked down at the rock, and the rock was looking up at me, eyes full of tears.
“Don’t worry little bird” I heard myself say. “It wasn’t their fault .”
The bird gave a start and looked in the direction of my voice.
“It wasn’t your fault either.” I said.
After a moment it recognized me but was too weak and weighted down with sadness to fly away. We stood there for a time looking at one another, me, the rock, and the bird. A quiet buzzing sound betrayed the presence of one of the angry bees who hadn’t left with the others, and who was now, well, busy eaves-dropping.
Suddenly my anger toward the bird gave way to sadness, as I began to understand. “Poor little bird.” I thought. It had lost the things it loved most in the world. How terrible! And though I heard it blaming the eggs, it occurred to me, deep down inside, the bird felt responsible for what happened. The air around us grew still, and all became silent, even the steady buzzing of the eaves-dropping bee had stopped. The stillness was punctuated only by the odd whimper, or the wiping away of tears.
After a moment, I realized the rock was looking up at me. The bee was too. I realized there was something for me to say:
“Little bird, will you come home with me….”
“Only you?” the rock broke in.
“…with us?” I asked. The bird looked up at us, its eyes still, wide pools of sorrow, such that none should have to bear alone.
“Where, where would I….”
“You can build a new nest in the tree right outside my window. No hawk will ever dare to come near a human’s house because they are afraid of us….they are apparently even stupider than we are!” We all looked at each other then burst into laughter. I laughed so hard I lost my balance and fell out of the tree, the rock along with me.
‘Ouch’ said the rock.
“Stupid human.” Said the bird. We all began to laugh again, this time all the way back to my house.
What a strange sight we made, me with a bird perched on my head, a rock peeking out my pee-jay pocket, and one bee buzzing busily around us! As we neared my house, my joy was replaced with anxiousness as I wondered if the garbage man had managed to carry away my trophy before my parents saw it? I stopped and looked into the garbage. The garbage was still there!
“Oh no!” I said aloud. It wasn’t garbage day! My heart welled with foreboding as I realized the only explanation was….
“Is this what you are looking for, Teira?” I heard my father’s voice say. I struggled to raise my head up to look at him. The rock had sunk back into my pocket and the bird had flown away – so had the bee. I was all alone.
As I raised my eyes, I saw my father’s hand. In it was my trophy. Not all shattered but whole – good as new! “Father, I…”
“Yes, sweetheart. I heard the whole thing when it happened. Moms and dads get up pretty early you know, especially if they are farmers!” I gave my dad and mom the world’s biggest hug.
“Now, go upstairs to wash your hands and get ready for lunch. You must be very hungry, busy little bee!”
Bee! Bird! Where had they gone? I ran upstairs to wash my hands faster than anyone has ever done before. But I ran straight past the washroom into my bedroom to look out the window to see if….yes! YES! There they were….the little bird was already gathering twigs to build its nest in the tree next to my bedroom window and the bee was, well, busy (because that’s what bees do) helping the bird.
Each day after, I went to bed early, because I couldn’t wait to wake up in the morning to hear what the little bird would be singing – and what a beautiful song it always made! I would look to the morning sun, marvelling at how beautiful it was. I would notice the rock sitting on the window ledge, patiently waiting for me to pick it up and tell it ‘good morning’.
“It’s going to be another beautiful day”, I would say to the rock, and to the bird outside. And it almost always was.
And then one morning, the little bird sang a song of such joy, it eclipsed all the others. I wondered at this for a moment, until I heard four tiny voices, one by one, begin to sing along with the little bird, in perfect harmony.
Then I understood.

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