LONGSPUR – by Claire Gibson
The day that changed everything started like many yesterdays that changed nothing.
Cal Longspur blinked and opened his black beady eyes. His feathers were brown and white striped, and his head was mostly black, with a small patch of orange on the nape of his neck. His underbelly was white and soft. On this day in the arctic, grey light broke into his thicket, forcing the striped tuft out of his ground nest. Cal was cold and sneering. Rising from the bush with annoyance, he stuck his yellow beak into the ground, digging for an insect, a nut, or a seed. He found nothing. The whistling songs and sounds around him cut into the peace of his rest, and he grumbled silently in his mind, wondering at the joy of his brothers and sisters in the midst of the snowy morning.
The day, in his mind, was doomed. Above, clouds and sunlight fought for control, and around him the chatter started. He moved purposefully away from the whispers and high-pitched laughter and ignorant songs, into the underbrush where he pecked again for food. The ground was hard and unrelenting, and as he bopped down under and over looking for seed, he was overcome with the anger. The ground would not give, but neither would he.
Suddenly, Cal spotted a seed, just three steps away. He moved toward it, already tasting the nutty flavor in his belly. As he reared his black head back, ready to break the ground with one thrust, he caught sight of Magda, a female bird of his flock, with white tail feathers and a small frame. He stopped mid-swing, and Magda turned her head. Her eyes fell down, silently giving Cal permission to take the seed that was rightfully his. With the loss of one seed, Magda knew her desperate position. Without this food, she might not make it through The Passing, and her eyes gave way to despair. In a moment, Cal saw it all, and rested his orange neck on his back in compassion. The sun streaked into the dark wood, and Magda raised her eyes. Without a word, she nabbed the seed from the ground. Her sympathetic eyes stared in wonder as she swallowed her thanks.
Cal noticed the change in Magda’s expression. She crouched on the ground, backing away with her mouth slightly open, and Cal regretted his compassion. With an inward scream he fluttered out of the brush and into the now golden light of the morning.