The news had spread quickly from tree to tree. The house sparrows told the wagtails, and the wagtails told the buntings. The buntings told the flickers, and the flycatchers, and the chickadees.
The chickadees told nearly everyone else.
“Surprise, surprise!” they said. “She’s most abnormal!”
“It’s not abnormal to be different,” said Ella’s mother, and all the birds nodded their heads in agreement and said loudly, “Oh, yes, of course,” as they thought quietly to themselves: I’m glad I am a one hundred percent normal bird.
The catbirds purred, “Extraordinary!” and the mockingbirds scoffed and yawned. The news went in and out the ears of countless pigeons who blinked and wondered at what they had just forgotten. The warblers warbled and the cowbirds chortled and together they all shook their heads and said: “Have you heard?”
Everywhere they gathered, the birds chirped and chattered and soon the news swept clear across the town and beyond. It traveled north into the mountains where the little wrens lived, and sped south and west with the swifts and the swallows. The blackbirds carried the news east along the electric wires. They followed the main road and the train tracks through the flat fields and the hilly groves and the news leapt up and over the hillocks and tumbled down again through the gullies. There it paused, and it rested—until the larks woke the robins, who woke the waxwings, who woke the finches, and soon every bird was awake again and asking, “Have you heard?”
The news sped up with the momentum of the day. It hopped and swooped from nest to roost and into the fringe of the big city, skipped across the outskirts and along the river and hummed past the suspension cables as it darted over the long bridges. When it reached the other side, it zigzagged the busy streets and kept moving until it arrived at a park with an important and hard-to-remember name.
Inside the Park, a tattered jay heard the news and looked up in surprise. He whispered in his hoarse voice, “Blue? Did you say she has blue eyes?” And later that day, when the bright twilight cut silhouettes from the trees and the yellow streetlights trembled to life, the jay stood alone inside his evergreen shadows and wondered.
“Of course I’ll tell her,” he whispered to himself. “I have to tell her. But how?”
The jay considered the various angles, and how he could best use them, and as usual, there didn’t seem to be many options.
“The raven will come stalking in,” he whispered, “and I’ll bend low and tell her I have something, and she’ll look down at me and say: I do hope it’s something true. I want ever so much to believe you, because if you lie to me again I will pluck you clean.”
The jay shuddered.
“And she won’t want any old news,” he continued. “No new news of a dull and ordinary variety. Nothing borrowed from somewhere else. No, she’ll be in the mood for something extraordinary.”
The jay backed deeper into the piney darkness.
“Maybe you want something blue?” he whispered. “That’s what I’ll ask her. And she’ll say: It would have to be unusually blue. It would have to be as magnificent as this twilight, or as marvelous as the bluest hour before the dawn. Oh, just wait, I’ll say. I have something for you. I have a sparrow.”
Yes, he thought, that’s the plan. I’ll tell her I have something irresistibly collectable. The jay grinned. He knew he approached a good part, worthy of a dramatic pause.
“A sparrow? Why a sparrow?” he whispered. “She’ll say: Why would I want a common sparrow? And then I’ll look her straight in the eye and I’ll answer, What if? Well, yes—what if?”
The whispering breeze snuck in beneath the boughs and blew past the jay. He shivered.
“What if she isn’t a common sparrow?” he whispered.
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© 2018 Colin Lewis · Brought to you by Unlikely Objects