“What in the name of Forest happened to you?” Birdie exclaimed when she saw Birdo flying towards her with a bent beak and ruffled feathers.
“Stupid humans and their stupid squeaky clean windows!” Birdo hissed, “what else?”
Birdie laughed so hard, she almost fell off her branch.
“How many times have I told you to be careful?” she said trying to stifle her laughter, seeing that Birdo didn’t find it funny at all.
“Look who’s talking!”
“OK, come here”, she said in a soothing voice, lifting her wing so he could snuggle into it. He tottered sideways and closed his eyes as he pushed himself against her warm, soft down. She gently but firmly wrapped her wing around him.
“Stupid humans,” he murmured again.
She smiled and said, “There, there.”
“OH, Birdie, LOOK!” he motioned excitedly towards a little girl bathing in the lake, “she’s totally going to do it!”
“No, she isn’t!” she snorted, “that girl looks so pristine! Look at that hairdo!”
“I’m telling you! She’s doing it. Look how she’s looking around her.”
“To check that the coast is clear?” She teased, but it was becoming clear it was happening.
“Haha! Look at the look of complete concentration on her face!” His eyes widened in excitement. “Waaaait for it!”
And sure enough, numerous tiny bubbles rose from behind the girl and popped one by one as they hit the surface.
Birdo cackled hysterically. Birdie had to admit that was one of the funniest ones they’d seen yet.
“I’m telling you, those little monsters are even worse than their parents!” He said when he finally calmed down.
“C’mon now! Not all of them are bad!” she protested, “what about the old man who sprays our tree to keep it healthy? He’s nice!”
“Yeah, well that’s because it’s his job! Humans get paid to do nice things!” he said, feeling cornered.
She let him be. Birdo was the best bird she knew. He took care of her, brought her whatever seeds he found in the gardens he visited. He tended to her broken wing. He covered her in leaves when it got cold. And he did it all without her asking him. But he just loved criticising everyone and everything, including her and especially himself. She had learned over time to just let him have at it. He seemed to need it to feel better. In the end, it was actions that mattered, not words.
“Listen,” he whispered, interrupting her thoughts.
On the bench below, there was a young woman with flowers in her fluffy hair. They couldn’t see her face because she was looking down, but her shoulders were slumped and it seemed like she was crying. There was a young man sitting next to her trying to hold her hands, but she kept withdrawing them from him.
“Last time … you … said …the same thing!” The girl said between sobs.
“But this time it’s different, baby!” the boy said sweetly, “why can’t you believe me? She came on to me at the party. She kissed me before I knew what was happening!”
“Oh, you little shit!” Birdo moved from under Birdie’s wing and puffed his chest out.
Birdie looked alarmed. She hated seeing humans cry. Too much suffering down there on earth. Even when they looked happy on the outside, humans were sad on the inside. They could try to fool each other or even themselves, but they couldn’t fool sparrows. Sparrows always spotted and often discussed humans’ inability to be happy. Even here, at this beautiful park, by the sparkling lake, under the tender trees or on the soaring swings. Humans brooded too much; they never seemed to be able to appreciate all that they had. Not for long anyway. So, sparrows would circle humans who needed cheering up. They would sing and chirrup and patter dangerously close to humans, not quite on them, but almost. Some humans understood that this was an invitation to cheer up, to take their minds off their too many feelings and thoughts and focus on these little creatures with sweet voices and funny moves. But many failed to even notice them. Sorrowful sparrows knew when to stop trying.
But children were better that way. They were able to focus on a bird, a worm, a bucket of sand and be entirely engrossed in that magic, but it seemed tragic to the sparrows that as they got older, humans mostly lost that sense of wonder and appreciation of what is, right here and now.
Birdie wished she could fly down and dance around the girl’s red boots to distract her from her tears, maybe even get a smile out of her.
The boy below continued his half-hearted effort to talk the girl out of her hurt, but she couldn’t stop crying, so he eventually shrugged and prepared to get up and leave.
“Look! He’s taking out his little white thingies and putting them in his ears!” Birdo said incredulously, “He’s fucking leaving!”
Birdo now seemed livid at the callousness of the boy. Birdo might not be the kind of sparrow that would circle around a weary human, twittering away to get them to smile, but he was the kind of sparrow that would do something more drastic. He turned around in the opposite direction of the lake and looked down.
“Oh, Birdo don’t!” Birdie rolled her eyes, talking to his back.
Birdo ignored her plea and lifted his tail up, spreading his little legs.
“Birdo, grow up!”
A moment later, the boy sprang up screaming, “Stupid, dumb, idiot bird! Nooooo, my new jacket!”
The girl looked up from her misery for the first time. Her face was blotchy and her nose and eyes were red, but she gave an involuntary, snotty laugh. The boy shot a sharp look down at her and stomped off.
A silver-haired woman who was walking her dog in their direction said with an air of wisdom, “Oh young man, don’t be upset! This is a good omen!”
He grunted and hurried past her, still cursing under his breath.
Birdo turned back to Birdie facing the water again, looking quite pleased with himself and his accurate aim.
“Silly old human! A good omen,” he scoffed, “ah the lies they tell themselves!”
“You know, I’ve been thinking about this,” Birdie pondered, “I think it helps them feel better about disasters like the one you’ve just inflicted.”
Birdie was now laughing again. The boy’s reaction was priceless. She couldn’t feel sorry for him.
Birdo looked smug. He loved making her laugh even if he didn’t admit it.
Then he sighed, “Sometimes I wish we could move to that tree over there. It doesn’t have a bench below it and we wouldn’t have to watch these things all the time!”
Birdie stopped laughing abruptly, “Why don’t you?”
“You know I wouldn’t go without you!” he looked away, “I can’t leave you here!”
“I’d be just fine!” She whispered, knowing very well she wouldn’t survive a day without him. Her left wing was no longer functional. It had barely got her back to this tree. She would have to spend the rest of her life here. Without Birdo, she would starve. Unless worms started falling right into her beak, that is.
“No, you wouldn’t,” he said matter-of-factly.
“But you shouldn’t worry about that!” she closed her eyes ruefully, “I kind of deserve it!”
“Don’t say that!” he muttered.
“But you’re still mad at me!”
“Of course, I am! You would too. Why’d you do it, Birdie?”
“I had to!” she explained for what seemed like the hundredth time. “I had to go see what life was like in those faraway lands, where the sun never sets. I wanted to fly with the big birds. I couldn’t help but envy them for their adventures and achievements. Every spring, when they came back, they were full of stories of vast sandy beaches and delicious colourful ice cream and noisy never-ending parties! The winter here is so cold! So dreary. There is rain all the time. The trees, though I love them, looked all the same. Even the fields and the houses seemed to look and feel all the same! I know you… everyone tried to talk sense into me, but I had to see for myself how far my little wings would carry me.”
“And you saw!” a small tear glistened in the corner of his eye.
“Yes. Not very far at all,” she nodded, “but I’m so happy they were able to at least bring me back home. Back to you!”
“Yes,” he whispered, steadying his quivering voice.
At that moment, a little boy, in a blue hat and matching rubber boots, holding his mother’s hand suddenly looked up at the tree and asked in a sweet voice, “Mama, what are the birdies saying?”
His mother thought for a while and said, “They’re wishing each other a good night! They’re saying that Joshua should go to bed soon as well!”
The boy nodded gravely.
“Ah, the lies!” Birdo rolled his eyes again attempting to wipe the tear before Birdie could see it.
Birdie smiled and put her good wing around him.