The Beautiful Golden Songbird – A Short Story, Part 1

Golden Songbird by Yuichi Tanabe

Paul was quite young when they moved – he celebrated his fifth birthday the day after they arrived – so he didn’t remember much about living in New York City. Mostly he remembered that there were lots of people; plenty of kids his own age to have fun with. He had a vague memory of going to a baseball match with some other boys and their fathers. And they ate hot dogs there.

He was an only child, so when they moved to this remote place he missed having friends. Still, at first it was fine because there were the local people who didn’t seem to mind if he tagged along as they went about their business.

Of course his parents were concerned about his education. Since the local school was quite distant, and apparently not appropriate for him, they hired a tutor. Mr. Black was an older man and kind enough. Paul found out that he had come from London years ago with his wife to start a school and had just never left. His wife had died shortly before Paul’s family arrived, which would have been enough reason to return to England. But he hesitated, and when the offer to tutor Paul came along he had gladly accepted. He was used to living there, he told Paul, and it was easier to stay in what had become his home than to return to a country that would probably be as foreign to him as this place had seemed when he first arrived.

Mr. Black was a good teacher, quite fair, but he was a bit of a stickler for having homework completed on time. Paul, who was not really the studious type, often frustrated him by forgetting to complete his assigned tasks. He preferred to spend any free time outside, not with his nose in a book. Mr. Black got around this by encouraging a more active style of learning, where they would go together to study the various flora and fauna and other aspects of their environment. Paul didn’t find the study of rocks so exciting, but he enjoyed watching the various creatures –animals, birds, fish, insects and even plants – everything that was alive.

The years passed and Paul grew quite used to his life. He filled his days with outdoor activities and spent his time with adults rather than friends of his own age. There came a time, though, when he began to feel a lack of companionship, a desire for someone who would want to spend time with him, not just because they were his tutor or someone whose job it was to work with his family or to take care of him.

His parents weren’t very companionable. His father was always busy, visiting people in other villages and even in the nearest town. Sometimes his mother went with him, but, like Paul who had begged to accompany his father until he had been allowed to go with him one time, she usually preferred to stay behind. It seemed to Paul that she had created her own little world at their house, one that didn’t need people, one where even his father had no place. He often caught her sitting on the porch looking vacantly at the garden and beyond, or on a rainy day sitting inside staring out of the window.

Paul wondered if this was normal, but who was there to ask? Mr. Black was hardly “normal.” As far as Paul was concerned he was quite ancient, certainly beyond the age of adventure or even hard work. He continued to give Paul lessons, but in many subjects Paul had already reached his tutor’s limits. Certainly Mr. Black was much less physically fit than he was, so Paul could easily take off on his own, ostensibly to study whatever the lesson was but in fact more often just to go to his favorite place – a large tree that grew beside a pond.

Copyright © Jennifer P. Tanabe, 2015

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