Ginger Bean, also known as ‘Mom’, recently grounded me for tardiness. For two weeks, I have to come straight home from school, no taking ‘shortcuts’ through The Enchanted Forest, no taking the dog for extra long walks, no nothing. I guess one too many times my shortcuts turned into adventures that lasted hours instead of minutes. Oops. Sorry, Ginger Bean.
While walking home from school the boring way – along sidewalks and main streets – I happen to hear an unfortunate chirping. Not the normal bird song; this sounds more like a wounded cry. My heart sinks. I need to find this animal and try to help – even if it means going home late and risking the wrath of Ginger.
Following the sounds of squeaking and squawking, I finally find the source. A red-breasted bluebird, lying on the curb of the road, is frantically flapping its wings, yet not able to take flight. There doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with the bird, except its proximity to a storm drain. It’s a mostly sunny day, so this bluebird shouldn’t be so panicked about being washed down the drain. However, a nearby house must have had a flood or something. There’s a long purple tube coming from the back of the house, and it’s flushing out water like a tsunami.
“Poor little bird,” I say, as I slowly reach for the quivering creature. “I’m not allowed in the forest today, but I will take you as close as I can.” As I reach for it, the thing flaps and flaps. “No, silly bird. I’m here to help.”
Once safely in my hands, the bird begins to settle its wings, but does not stop the insufferable squawking.
“Now I understand why Ginger said no to birds. What is it you’re so upset about? If you’re scared of me, why not just fly away?”
With that, the bluebird buried its beak inside its red feathers. I’m no good at understanding birds unless they speak to me – but if I had to guess, I’d say this one looks ashamed.
Using the pad of one finger, I pat the bird’s head and stroke lightly down its back. “It’s ok, Bluebird. I will do my best to help.”
In response, the bird untucks its beak and rests its head on the palm of my hand, chirping just once, as if it understands. Having lost a little time already, and not wanting to upset the Ginger Bean any further, I begin to quicken my step. We aren’t far from the edge of The Enchanted Forest, just one turn off a backstreet, and voila.
Kneeling, I place the bird on the ground at the base of a tree and ask, “Will you be alright, Mr. Bluebird?” not expecting a response.
To my surprise, the bird nods and chirps. “Thank you, Britney Fairweather, Child Who Sees.”
“You can talk?” This surprises me more than the little animal knowing my name. It seems all the creatures of The Enchanted Forest have heard of me, and often refer to me as “Child Who Sees”.
“I’ve been talking to you this whole time, child. When I realized you didn’t understand, I stopped trying.”
“But I understand you now. It must be because we’ve crossed over the magical border.” Not wanting to violate probation, I had placed the bluebird inside the forest’s edge, while kneeling on the outside. This way, Ginger can’t say I disobeyed.
“Yes, this is probably so. I won’t dare venture out again.”
“Why not, Bluebird? Many of your feathered friends travel in and out of the woods all the time – though I’ve never seen one with such vibrant colours.”
The bird flaps its wings with pride, but still does not rise from the ground.
“Unlike the birds you see, I was born inside the forest atop a large oak tree. What I didn’t realize until today, is that I am blessed and cursed along with the magic within the realm. I cannot leave it.”
After scratching my head in confusion, I look at my watch. I don’t have time for a story, but I need to understand this small bird’s predicament. “But you did leave… else, how would I have found you moments before you were washed down the drain?”
The bird hops toward me but stays within the realm. “I was flying high above the ground when I lost my bearings. As soon as I left the border, I could no longer fly. I plummeted to the earth, but with my wings spread wide, I was able to glide to a safe landing. Fortunately, I didn’t break anything in the fall, but I am sore. I will need time to mend before I can fly again. It should be easier for me to heal here in The Enchanted Forest.”
“Okay, Mr. Bluebird. Be safe! No more flying outside these trees, then. I do have to go. My mom will be upset if she finds me dilly-dallying and socializing with animals.”
“Before you go, Britney Fairweather. I have a gift for you.” Again, the bluebird tucks his beak into his breast. His head bobs just slightly, and with a small chirp, he pulls a red feather from his chest. He places the feather in the palm of my outstretched hand and says, “Thank you, child, for bringing me home. May this token of appreciation bring you luck when you need it most.”
I tap the bird’s head lightly, affectionately. “Thank you for the gift,” I reply, rising from my kneeling position. “Maybe I’ll see you again soon!”
And with that, I run home, hoping Ginger won’t be too upset about my tardiness. Just to be on the safe side, I silently wish upon my lucky red feather.