Fortunately, Mr. Black had other commitments that day so he just dropped off the gecko first thing in the morning and left. Paul was quite happy to head out alone to what he already thought of as his special place. His mother was in her usual spot, staring into space, so he just gave her an unacknowledged wave and set off with the gecko in his backpack.
This time he had packed some fruit and cookies, as well as his water bottle, hoping to spend more time in his tree. And he would be happy to share the snacks with any interesting creatures that came by! Perhaps that songbird with the beautiful voice would be there, and he could catch sight of it this time. Returning the gecko would be worth it if he could find that bird!
As he made his way through the forest Paul found himself whistling happily. It was quite far, but he remembered the way. For a moment he wondered if the colorful gecko was doing alright in his backpack, but he didn’t want to stop and check until he reached the tree. Even if the songbird wasn’t there, it was such a lovely tree he would be happy to spend the day there, and of course there was the pond to explore. Perhaps there were more colorful geckos!
Finally he reached the tree. Yes, it was just as he remembered. Paul climbed up to the fork in the trunk where he had settled before and took the specimen jar out of his backpack. “Well, little fellow,” he said looking at the gecko, “it’s time for you to go home. Easy does it now.” He opened the lid and placed the jar on the branch. The gecko looked around, apparently deciding whether or not to venture out of the jar. “Come on, it’s quite safe! This is where I found you!” Paul encouraged it.
The little gecko stared quite brazenly at Paul, clearly assessing the situation. Then, after looking around a few more times, it cautiously made its way out of the jar onto the branch. Paul watched it testing the branch and almost reached out to touch it. But with one last look up at him, the gecko seemed to decide which way to go and headed off into the higher reaches of the tree. Paul felt almost sad to see it go. He wondered if there were more geckos in the tree, but “his” gecko had already disappeared into the foliage and he realized it would be hard to see them even if there was a whole family up there.
He checked his backpack and decided it was time for a snack. As soon as he had opened the bag of cookies he heard a rustling sound. Turning around, he half expected to see the gecko coming back to join him for his snack. Instead, though, the rustling continued and suddenly he saw a bird. It was the most beautiful bird Paul had ever seen. Its feathers were a bright golden yellow, almost glowing. And now that it had settled on a branch it was sitting there looking straight at him.
Paul hesitated. He was so tempted to offer part of his cookie but afraid that any movement would disturb the lovely creature. So he just sat still and watched. The bird was watching him intently. It shifted position slightly and opened its beak. Paul smiled. “Are you asking for a piece of my cookie?” he thought to himself. “Well, I’d be happy to share, if you’re not afraid.” Slowly he lifted the cookie and broke off some small pieces. “I’ll just put them on the branch here” he thought as he carefully moved his hand towards the branch where the bird was sitting. The bird didn’t move. He put the pieces on the branch and slowly withdrew his hand, watching the bird all the time. And the bird kept its eye on him too!
As Paul leaned back slightly to give the bird more space, the bird shifted its position. Suddenly it leaned forward and grabbed a piece of cookie in its beak and flew off. Paul watched, wondering how far the bird would go but quickly lost sight of it among the dense foliage. He decided to eat his cookie and wait.
Just as he was finishing the cookie Paul heard a chirp, and then a full blown song started. He was sure it was the golden bird, although he couldn’t see it. He listened, enraptured by the bird’s beautiful voice. When it finished he murmured softly, “Thank you. That was so beautiful.” To his surprise there was a rustling and the bird came into view again! Once settled the bird started singing again, this time in clear view. When it finished Paul smiled again and clapped his hands gently, hoping the bird wouldn’t be frightened, and to his surprise it stayed watching him.
“Do you want more cookie?” Paul asked softly, carefully taking another cookie out of his bag. As if in response the bird moved closer. Paul broke off a couple of small pieces and gently placed them on the branch in front of the bird. This time the bird came forward and picked up a piece and didn’t fly away. Instead, it just took a couple of steps backward and proceeded to eat the cookie. Paul realized he was holding his breath watching the bird so close to him. He gently exhaled and wondered what would happen next. As if in answer to his unspoken question, the bird gave a little chirp and moved to take the second piece of cookie. Once the piece was in its beak the bird paused, as if deciding whether to stay or fly away to a safer location. Paul didn’t move. The bird started eating!
Paul realized he was smiling again. “Goodness,” he thought, “what a treat to see this bird so close. I hope it sings again.” And sure enough, when the cookie was eaten the bird started its song. This time it kept singing for a long time. At the end, it gave Paul a look. Paul laughed and clapped his hands gently saying, “You want applause, is that it?” The bird chirped a few times and then flew away. Paul leaned back against the tree trunk and laughed again. “Bye bird, hope to see you again!” he called out.
Copyright © Jennifer P. Tanabe, 2015