Paul saw the bird again many times. In fact, meeting this bird at the tree became an almost daily occurrence. Paul would arrive at the tree as early as his schedule allowed, which was usually right after lunch when Mr. Black seemed to need to take a nap. Since Paul was able to complete all his school work either during the morning sessions or in the evening, it was never a problem to just take off in the afternoon. And to assuage Mr. Black’s concerns about his student, which did surface on occasion, Paul often provided an account of the interesting flora and fauna he had investigated on his trips. Fortunately the pond was well stocked and he was able to come up with new specimens on a regular basis.
He only mentioned the golden songbird on one occasion. Mr. Black seemed interested but was unable to identify the bird in his books and so Paul didn’t bother to mention it again. Yet it was really the bird that Paul went to visit, to spend time with, and whose company he came to enjoy so much.
Even before he arrived at the tree Paul would start to listen, trying to hear the bird’s song. Usually he heard nothing until after he arrived at the tree, or had climbed up to his usual spot. He began to think the bird was waiting for him, waiting to sing that special song just for him. Of course, Paul realized the bird also came for the cookies! He had discovered that the bird liked peanut butter cookies as well as oatmeal raisin; the chocolate chip cookies he had brought one day had been rejected!
He had thought it might be silly to talk to the bird, so he had tried to develop an appropriate whistle, but without success. It sounded like he was calling a dog and the bird would have none of it. When he called out, “Bird, are you there?” he was almost always met with chirps and then a song, so he decided talking was the way to go. He had decided to think of her as “she” on account of the beautiful colors of her feathers as well as the sweetness of her singing voice, but hadn’t been able to come up with a suitable name, so she was still “Bird.” And that seemed to work.
As the days went on, Paul began to share more and more with the bird. He told her about his parents, how his father was always gone to work and how his mother seemed to care about nothing, just stared into space. He talked about Mr. Black, and often asked the bird what he should bring back for him that day. Although the bird didn’t exactly make suggestions, when Paul climbed down from the tree and said he needed something to bring home the bird would fly towards a tree or bush that had beautiful flowers, or was hosting some interesting insect, or was even home to a bird’s nest. Paul always thanked the bird and told her all about Mr. Black’s reaction the next day.
Paul enjoyed his talks with the bird, but he felt most special when she sang for him. She had such a beautiful voice, and seemed to be able to put together the notes in a variety of ways that Paul found enchanting. He always found himself smiling as she sang, and feeling warm and happy inside.
He wondered if there was only one of these songbirds. He had never seen another golden bird at the pond, and there never seemed to be an answering song when his bird sang. “I hope you’re not lonely, Bird,” he told her one day as she perched on the branch beside him eating pieces of cookie. “Don’t you have a bird family?” The bird just looked at him with her black beady eyes, cocking her head to one side as if thinking about it. Then with another chirp she hopped closed to Paul, landing on his finger. “Oh, my!” Paul was surprised, but tried not to move his hand. “Well, hello, Bird, you are friendly today! Are you telling me you don’t have a bird family? That I’m like your family?” Paul looked at her closely, with a tender look in his eyes. “I have to say, you’re my best friend, Bird.” And the bird responded with a gentle chirp and a short but very sweet song before flying away.
Paul treasured that moment. He knew that it was silly to believe that the bird understood his words, yet it felt like real communication. And even if the bird didn’t say anything in reply, she always sang to him. Those songs were far more meaningful than the boring conversations with his father, if his father talked to him at all, or the vacant stares of his mother, or even discussions with Mr. Black, which usually ended with him saying he would research that matter and get back to him. Yes, the bird was Paul’s best friend.
Copyright © Jennifer P. Tanabe, 2015