Welcome back to #12days1story. We are so close to the end, and there are just two installments left! Thank you so much for those of you who have read my words. It is an honor to share them.
To start from the beginning, here are links to the other installments:
Read on for Part X…
LONGSPUR – PART X
Back on the ground, the thicket was shadowy and grey, and many pairs of dainty feet tap-danced around the dirt in excitement. The sun was no longer visible, but still offered its’ light from somewhere unknown. Doren, Magda, and Cal were each assigned a small flock of birds, and began preparing for the First Flight.
Doren was assigned the group on the far left—the one filled with his friends and newly-minted fans. Magda joined the center group, where she quieted her flock full of chirping chicks. Cal took the group on the right, much to the delight of a small, squinting birdie named Deeter.
“I knew it!” Deeter sang. “I knew you’d make it. This is great!”
“No,” Cal said, cutting him off brutally. “This is not great. This is far from great.”
Deeter stood utterly silenced, and rather than looking hurt, his face held an expression of reverence and concern. Next to him hopped a slightly larger female bird, whose feathers were light and beautiful, striped to perfection. Her tail-feather was flat and shiny, and her voice was soft and kind.
“So, Captain,” she chimed, “what’s next?” Cal leaned in close to the birds in front of him, and they leaned in too, creating a small huddle of feathers, feet, and beady black eyes.
“In a little while, we’re going to leave for the First Flight,” Cal said. “Do you know what that is?”
Eight blank stares answered his question with a silent “no.” In that moment, Cal imprinted each of their faces in his mind. They each looked so curious and innocent, and as the silence passed, a few turned their heads to the side, waiting for the answer. Before he spoke, Cal noticed in his periphery that Doren’s flock was already leaving, with Madame Billow in tow.
“Okay,” Cal said, swallowing and trying to explain slowly. “So. We’re leaving the Arctic tonight. We’ll fly fifty miles—”
“Whoa, whoa, whoa. Fifty miles?!” a bird in the back reared back from the huddle in shock. “Are you kidding?”
Cal stuffed his frustration at this complaint and tried to muster some understanding. “I’m not kidding,” he said, scanning the face of each bird. The protestor in the back shook his head defiantly.
“Absolutely not. There’s no way,” he said. “None of us has ever left the Arctic. What if there’s a storm? And we’re supposed to trust you? No. I’m out.”
The bird edged his way out of the huddle, and looked as if he was about to take flight when Cal shouted, “Wait!”
All the birds turned to him, waiting for him to speak. Cal noticed the second group of birds taking flight, Magda at the head. He was anxious to leave, too. But these birds didn’t trust him, and he couldn’t blame them. Cal lowered his head, and tried to clear his thoughts. “Don’t be scared, Cal.”
“I understand you’re scared,” he sang slowly. “And I know you’ve never done this before. But the truth is, there’s no food here. You know that.”
The defiant bird dropped his head a bit, realizing that Cal was right. The rest took a step closer, forming a tight huddle once more.
“You don’t need to be afraid,” Cal continued. “I understand how you feel, leaving home—the only place you’ve ever known… it was never going to be easy. But you have to know that we were made for this. And you won’t be alone. We’re going to do this together.”
There was a quiet moment, and Cal watched each of the birds look at each other skeptically. Then a little bird spoke up.
“I’m in,” said Deeter. He hopped to Cal’s left side.
“Me too,” said the blonde bird, who hopped next to Cal, on the right. And one by one, they each stepped closer to Cal, forming a diagonal line on either side of him. Cal’s heart was racing, and he felt on the verge of tears. All that was left was the final, critical bird, who’s eyes still revealed anxiety and fear.
“Okay,” he said in surrender, moving to the back of the line. The flock, now in a V formation, began to whoop, holler, and sing with excitement. “It was a good speech,” he admitted, giving a hearty nervous laugh.
Cal breathed in deeply and took one last glance around the silent thicket. They were the last eight birds. With a look back at his quiet crew, Cal began moving his wings up and down. Up and down. Then he sang out a tune that echoed out across the grey evening sky.
Once again, thank you to Brad + Jen from Q Avenue Photo for today’s image!
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