Ella stood beneath Harold’s cage and waited for the Terrible Black Night to melt away. The heavy words she could not say sank and disappeared into the deep, silent place inside her where words are rarely spoken.
She opened her blue eyes and said, “Tell me about this raven. I am looking for a raven.”
Harold stared at her. He wondered why the world had pushed its way through the bars of his cage so early in the morning, and without bringing food.
“You keep saying that,” said Harold. “How long have you searched? A long time? Months? Years?”
A long time, thought Ella.
She didn’t know. Her search seemed about half as long as forever, but time is different for a sparrow.
“I suppose for you it would be years,” said Ella. “That must be a long time. But I have a plan.”
“Wild birds shouldn’t have plans,” said Harold. “They always fly in the face of the impossible.”
“Not impossible,” said Ella. “A maybe. A maybe is possible.”
Maybe, and maybe.
“I know nothing about Maybes,” said Harold. “Is that some new sort of bird? Come over here and let me give you some advice.”
The parrot slid along his perch and sat as close as he could to Ella. He leaned down low until the heavy half crescent of his bill rested near her head.
“I have a better plan,” whispered Harold. “It’s this birdcage.”
“Okay,” said Ella. “What about the birdcage?”
“Inside the birdcage is home, but outside the birdcage is a cage. Do you see?”
Ella looked around.
“No,” she said.
“You’re in danger,” he whispered. “You’re in grave danger. Beyond this birdcage lies disappointment. Difficulty. Despair. Safety lies inside the cage. It’s my secret fortress.”
“Why are we whispering?” said Ella.
“I don’t want the world to know that I know,” said Harold. “Come inside. You’ll see.”
Ella looked at the parrot, and at the cage door. She took a step, and hesitated.
“You’ll see,” he said.
Ella looked at the cage. It was round and tall and made of brass. The bars glowed a dull orange color, and the metalwork curved and spiraled and burst into fancy, decorative flourishes. It looked much more luxurious than the humble nest where she and her mother had lived.
She tried to picture herself inside the cage perched next to the large green parrot. They would sit and stare through the dull brass bars, and out through the window, and wait for their breakfast which would arrive every morning like clockwork. They would peer into the mirror. They would watch the disappointments of the world from the safety of their home. No great raven claws could reach them, and no numb rush of air could defeat them. No dark wind or difficulty or despair could find them.
Maybe it is better, thought Ella. What will become of me if I can’t find my mother? Maybe I should give up.
Maybe, and maybe.
Ella shook her head and looked up at Harold.
“How often would we leave the cage?” she said.
“Leave the cage?” said Harold. “Why would we want to leave the cage?”
“To spread our wings,” said Ella. “To fly. To soar.”
“Why would we want to soar?” said Harold. “This birdcage is tall enough for my dreams.”
Ella looked the cage up and down.
“I know I am only a tiny sparrow,” she said, “but I think my dreams are taller than this.”
Harold stared at her with his gray droopy eyes.
“I have to keep searching,” said Ella. “I have my own plan.”
She hopped over to the window ledge and peered out across the Park.
I’ll look for you here, thought Ella, question the sparrows, and the chickadees, and the screaming jay. I’ll talk to the starlings, and the ducks, and even the pigeons if I have to.
No, she thought—maybe not the pigeons.
Ella never had much luck talking to pigeons.
“She looks dangerous,” said Harold. He looked down at the floor of the cage.
“What?” said Ella. “You saw the raven?”
“She was here last night,” he said softly. “She came in through the little window above the door and snuck around. She opened this window and examined the latch and went to the kitchen and made a lot of noise and then disappeared and that’s all.”
“The kitchen?” said Ella.
“I wish you would stay,” said Harold. “I don’t know about ravens or anything else out there. All I know is that things rarely turn out as planned for the wild birds.”
I had a plan, he thought.
“The world can’t hide a raven forever,” said Ella. “Did you know that everything could happen today?”
Harold looked down at the sparrow and tried to smile. It made his face feel strange and uncomfortable, and he stopped. He closed his eyes and pretended to fall back to sleep.
“I doubt that very much,” he said. “Be sure to return and tell me when it does.”
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© 2018 Colin Lewis · Brought to you by Unlikely Objects