The Bird That Was Saved by a THING
~ A true tale for children
Jul 14, 1999
It was a Tuesday when it Happened. The baby sparrow, affectionately called Lewie by his father and mother (short for Llewellyn, of course), had decided that today was the Day when he could fly. His mother, Frances, had looked at him severely and cuffed him with the tip of her left wing.
“Fly? At your age? I don’t think so!”
Lewie, unfortunately, wasn’t known around the neighborhood for being terribly swift. The mourning doves had delicately suggested to Frances that perhaps Lewie wasn’t a sparrow at all. His chirps were a bit off key, you see, and that annoyed the mourning doves immensely.
Lewie’s mother had always defended him, for even though Lewie was extremely shortsighted and a tiny bit stupid, he was her boy. Mothers are like that.
So, when Lewie looked up at her, quite blithely ignoring her cuff, and said once again, “But, Mother, today is the day! I just know that I can fly today!” she gulped, and idly considered putting him up for adoption.
“No is no, young man. ’Nuff said.”
With that, she turned her back and continued with the happy task of regurgitating worms for Lewie’s siblings. Frances had forgotten the cardinal rule for all bird mothers—never turn your back on a flighty child.
She can be forgiven, frankly, for the worms were particularly chewy that day, and she had to work extra hard. Lewie’s father, Gilbert, was also quite an interruption. He kept nudging her with his wing and muttering something about “sparrows on a telephone wire.” She simply clucked, and crossly told him to be romantic after lunch.
Can you imagine her shock when she turned around to feed Lewie, and found him entirely gone? (Gone missing, that is, as the English would say.) Oh, the noise that Frances made that horrible Tuesday, at noon! Soon a number of neighbors were perched all around, giving advice of all sorts, most of it bad, but still well-intentioned.
“Have you looked on the roof? Or under the nest? What was his name, again? Was it a fox?”
The fox remark was enough for Frances. She became, she turned into, she transmogrified into that most fearsome of creatures—a mother on a rampage. Sticking out her beak, she ran and hopped and flew from branch to branch until, quite exhausted by her effort, she landed on the roof of the Big House. She couldn’t imagine how Lewie might have gotten as far as the Big House—she had told him and told him to stay away from that awful place where the Cat lived—but you know how children are. . . .
Frances fearfully peered over the edge of the roof, half expecting to see the slinking white shadow of the Cat running through the garden with poor Lewie in its murderous maw. What a sigh of relief she breathed when she saw absolutely nothing moving in the garden. No cat. No broken and pitiful bones. Oh, the trials a mother must go through!
Imagine her astonishment when she heard a chirp—in fact, quite a series of very loud, rather hysterical chirps—coming from the telephone wire running under the eaves of the house. There on the wire was her errant son Lewie, flapping his tiny wings and raising his quivering beak toward the sky as if to bleat, “Momma, where are you?”
Frances almost swallowed the bit of worm that was still stuck to her beak, but instead tried to wring her claws in dismay.
“Lewie! Up here! What are you doing on that telephone wire?”
“Oh, Mother! ’Tis you! You’ve come to save me!”
If sparrows could growl, Frances surely would have. But instead, she squawked.
“Save you! I’m going to spank you with both of my wings, you naughty boy! Why are you sitting on that wire, and why are you facing the wall? Come up here at once, and let’s go home!”
There was a long pause. A very long pause. Frances wondered if perhaps the Cat had been successful after all, and had made a large dent in Lewie’s tiny tongue. Suddenly, she heard a cough—an apologetic, polite little cough. She leaned perilously over the edge, cocking her head as mother sparrows often do, and focused one of her eyes on Lewie.
“Did you say something, Lewie?”
Lewie shifted uncomfortably and coughed again, peering up at his Mother from under one wing.
“Mother, I quite hate to say it, but I’m stuck.”
“Yes, Mother. I knew I could fly today.” Lewie’s chest swelled and puffed with pride. “Today really was the day! I flew!” Then, his head drooped once more, and he mumbled, so quietly that Frances hardly heard him. “There’s just one problem.”
“Yes?” Frances focused her other eye on Lewie, who seemed to grow smaller as he tried to hide under his wing.
“I’m so close to this wall that I can’t turn around!”
The hardened bit of worm suddenly did travel down Frances’ gullet, as she gulped in quite an unladylike manner. Raising her head to the sky, she flapped her wings and let out an amazingly long series of chirps. If a postman had been near the house, he would have thought it was an invasion. But it was just a Mother.
Her frantic chirping roused her husband, Gilbert, from his nap. (He would not have been napping at a time like this, but he had been up all night scouting for new worm patches.) Soon the rooftop and neighboring branches were crowded with their relatives and friends, all once again offering advice that was not useful at all.
“Look, Harold, he’s stuck against the wall” and . . . “My oh my, Mildred, look at poor little Lewie. He can’t turn around. How on earth did he get stuck against the wall?” and . . . “At least it wasn’t a fox!”
Frances leaned over and glared at Lewie.
“Lewie, how could you do this?”
Lewie’s head feathers shook with tiny sparrow sobs. “I’m sorry, Mother. I really am.”
Frances gazed to her left, and gazed to her right, and then gazed up at the sky. She felt rather faint, and considered expiring, but just as she raised her wing in despair, she glanced toward the ground. And stopped.
There was a Man-Thing moving through the garden. In fact, there were a number of People-Things, all grouped around the garden, waving their wings at her Lewie. She had never been able to figure out what these People-Things were: Their wings were very strange, entirely without feathers, and they never seemed to leave the ground. She was certain that they weren’t cats. At least, she didn’t think so, because she had never seen one eat a sparrow. Her uncle Clarence had told her once that they had many names: Men, or People, or even Lady, and, once in a while, “Mrs. Buckingham.”
Frances sat and watched as one of the smaller persons chirped at a Lady-Person. The Lady went into the Big House, and soon came out with an even bigger Man-Thing, holding the Man’s wing. Gilbert flew down and perched next to Frances, and looked very grave—standard practice for sparrow fathers.
“Doesn’t look good, Frances. Looks bad. Very bad.”
Frances privately agreed, and stared as the large Man-Thing bent over and put something on its feet. She could tell they were feet because the Man-Thing walked on them—although they seemed awfully imbalanced without an opposing claw.
She nudged Gilbert and pointed as two of the smaller persons came hopping around the corner of the Big House, carrying a long ladder between them. Gilbert looked at Lewie sympathetically (who was by this time way past the point of sparrow hysteria) and sighed, as if to say, “Son, say your prayers.”
Suddenly there was a great clamor and rattle and a series of horrible scraping sounds as the Man-Thing placed the ladder against the wall of the Big House, right next to Lewie! Frances leaned against Gilbert, this time really feeling faint, and bleated out a tiny chirp.
“Lewie! We love you!”
Lewie folded his little wings, and looked up at his neighbors and relatives who were lining the tree branches. They were busily composing poetic farewells, already speaking about Lewie in the past tense (a bad sign indeed). Staring at them, with a trembling beak, he let out one final, forlorn chirp.
You see, Lewie had two problems. Not only was his tiny beak firmly facing the wall, he was also suffering from Lack of Knowledge. Frances had never expected him to fly—not on this particular Tuesday—so she hadn’t yet bothered to tell him about Men, or Ladies, or little Child-Things—and certainly not about Mr. and Mrs. Buckingham. All Lewie knew was that there were some terribly large things in the garden below—and one of them was coming his way.
Lewie gazed down at the enormous THING that had no feathers on its shiny head, and watched in resignation and horror as it slowly climbed up the strange metal tree branch toward him. The thing climbed slowly, and came closer and closer and closer and closer and opened its wing feathers and came closer and closer and closer and then closed its wing feathers around Lewie’s trembling body and Lewie just felt like SCREAMING—but couldn’t, because sparrow babies aren’t very good at screaming.
So he chirped. And promptly fainted.
Lewie came to, with a start, and realized, in a vague, dreamy kind of way, that the very large THING was climbing back down the metal tree branch. Lewie struggled against its awful wing feathers—which didn’t seem to be like any feathers he’d ever seen—but struggled to no avail. He was a prisoner of the THING.
His little sparrow chest heaved in despair as the Thing hopped onto the ground and triumphantly raised Lewie in the air, showing him to the smaller, noisy, horrid Things who clacked and crowed and chattered—a bit like blue jays, it seemed to Lewie.
Lewie began to feel quite seasick as the Thing walked through the grass and the flower garden, raising Lewie up in the air. The Thing kept looking up at the sky, circling around and around. Suddenly, the Thing stopped, and pointed its wing toward the roof, where Frances and Gilbert were sitting, watching as if turned to stone.
Lewie heard the Thing chirp a very loud chirp—and then Lewie felt the Thing’s wing feathers loosen around his body. He looked at the Thing and the THING looked back at him! Lewie was free! Oh, the joy of a narrow escape!
Lewie began to puff his chest out with pride, already thinking of a dramatic sonnet he could recite to his cousin Myrna about his Great Adventure, when he felt the THING’s feathers shift against his body. Deciding quite practically that sonnets weren’t that important, Lewie did what any good sparrow baby would do when faced with almost certain death at the wing of a THING. He gently, ever so gently, left a large white deposit on the wing of the THING and flew! Flew into the sky and was free!
“Mother! Where are you?”
Frances sprang from the rooftop and raced through the air and kissed Lewie, smack, right in the middle of the air of the yard, and said, “Lewie! You silly boy! Come home right now, and finish your lunch!”
Lewie smiled at his mother and chirped at his father and said, “Yes, Mother. Yes, Father. Thank you for saving me!”
It was very strange, but as Frances flew into a nearby tree, she thought she heard one of the smaller Persons singing, as the very large Man stood there, shaking its wing feather. She couldn’t have heard it singing, for all sparrows know that Person-Things can’t carry a tune, but she really did think that she heard the smaller person sing, “The little birdie pooped on my daddy. . . . Oh, the little birdie pooped on my daddy. . . .”
Frances clucked and looked at Lewie. “Lewie, you didn’t. . . .”
Lewie just grinned, with a bit of worm sticking out of his beak, and began to sing a song about The Great Adventure that happened on a Tuesday, during Lunch—the day that he Flew, and was saved by a THING.
Yes, indeed, the Man-Thing with no feathers on its head saved the wee sparrow perched on the wire, facing the wall. The great event was immortalized in the song “The Little Birdie Pooped on My Daddy.” This story was written in July, 1999.
Peter Falkenberg Brown is passionate about writing, publishing, public speaking and film. He hopes that someday he can live up to his favorite motto: “Expressing God’s kind and compassionate love in all directions, every second of every day, creates an infinitely expanding sphere of heart.”