Free as a Bird, Free as a Kite (by Clara Cheuk)

There was once a bird called Birdie. Everyday, she sat in her nest. Everyday, her head drooped. And everyday in the morning, we could hear this conversation in Birdie’s nest.

“Mom, can I go out and play?”

“No, you can’t, games are stupid.”

“But… “

“No buts,” Mama bird roared. “My words are commands!”

With a frown, Birdie sat down. Birdie was already two years old and was old enough to go out to play. She was even old enough to have a family of her own. “Why can’t I go out to play?” she murmured.

“Because you are too old for silly birdie games! ” Mama bird replied coldly.

“But you never let me out to play, even when I was young!”

“There are kids who will throw stones at you. There are eagles who will eat you.”

‘Same old words…,’ thought Birdie.

Mama bird, with only one child then, was soon going to have two. She had laid an enormous egg. She could not leave it alone for a minute, so Birdie had to find many worms and bugs for her mom and herself.

“Birdie, go out and fetch me some caterpillars,” said Mama bird.

“Ow, not caterpillars again, they are sticky. I would rather have some beetles, they’re…” Birdie moaned.

“GO, QUICK and SHUT UP!” after some yelling and shouting, Mama bird went back to her egg business.

Birdie stood up, combed her feathers and hopped out of the nest.

“Don’t go too far, and better get some juicy ones,” Mama bird said. “Last time you picked dead ones. They tasted terrible.”

‘Dead ones aren’t sticky,’ thought Birdie.

“Also, don’t try to fly, you are too young to do so. If you fly, the eagles will find you. Just hop. And come back soon. I feel a thunderstorm coming.”

“Simply endless,” Birdie murmured. She then stomped her feet and hopped away.

The Autumn breeze was cool and strong, and Birdie sang a song as she hopped onto the branch of an oak tree that was facing the grassland. Autumn, is a good time for kite flying, so there were many little kids in the field flying kites.

“Wow! how beautiful these kites are!” Birdie thought as she perched on the branch. That was the first time she had seen kites.

“Hi,” she said to a kite, but she stopped immediately. “How stupid I am! ” and she looked around to make sure there were no other birds around. She looked at the kites again. In the sky, there were many different kinds of kites flying around, some were red and some were white; some are were shaped like butterflies and some looked like eagles.

“OH NO! There’s an eagle over there, I hope he didn’t see me.” Birdie started to hop away.

“Did you say hi to me?” a warm voice came into Birdie’s ears.

“Uh…hello, “Birdie stopped and answered.

“Hi! I’m over here, the kite you are looking at!”

“But I am looking at dozens of kites!”

“I’m the one like a eagle. I’m flying near you now.”

“No, NO! Don’t fly near me, have mercy, don’t eat me up!” cried Birdie, already shivering with fear.

The kite burst out laughing, “Eat you! Crack! Crack! Have you ever ever heard of a kite eating a bird? I can’t even open my beak!”

As the kite flew near Birdie, she found that he really was a kite. “I am so sorry, I shouldn’t have yelled at you,” Birdie said.

“Never mind, you are sort of … cute. What’s your name?”

“I am Birdie.”

“Good name, and how are you today?”

“I’m fine…nah, I am not. ” Birdie sighed.

“Why? I thought birds are always happy because they can fly freely in the sky.”

“Good imagination. I am as free as a prisoner, I haven’t even flown once.”

The kite crackled, “Ah! You are cheating me, you are standing here. Didn’t you fly here? Don’t tell me the wind blew you all the way here? You must be lighter than me then.”

“I do wish to fly, but I am not allowed to do so.” Birdie yelled, then she piped down. “Sorry, I’m in a bad mood, I wish I were a kite.”

“That’s stupid! Being a kite is no good at all, the string makes me itch.” The kite crackled again. “And I’m fed up with the strong wind, it makes me dizzy.”

“But I still want to be a kite. You can fly.”

Birdie found it interesting to talk to the kite. Meanwhile, Mama bird was still sitting in the nest, waiting for the egg to hatch. “It must be a good boy, I can feel his energetic dance in the egg!” After a while, she snapped, “That Birdie has gone out for hours! She must be busy finding excuses rather than caterpillars.”

Birdie suddenly remembered her chores. “I am sorry. I have to go fetch caterpillars for my mother. I will come back to say hello when I’ve found some.”

After finding a few caterpillars, Birdie returned to the grassland. When she arrived, her heart sank. The eagle kite she had talked to was not there. Instead, she found the kite’s master, crying loudly and waving his fists. “It’s gone, gone. I’ve had it for years. I want it back, Papa!”

The father patted his son’s head and said “My dear son, he’s in the woodland. There are dangerous animals inside. I’ll buy you another kite.”

Birdie immediately hopped back into the woodland. After searching for hours, she found the eagle kite hanging on the top of an oak tree. Birdie hopped to him. “Are you alright? Are you hurt?” she asked Birdie. The eagle kite sighed, “I told you Birdie, a kite’s life is not a good one, I shouldn’t have crackled so hard this morning. Crack Crack. See, I’ll beak into pieces when the rain comes. Don’t you hear the thunder rumbling?”

“Without thinking, Birdie picked up the kite’s string with her beak.

“No, Birdie, don’t Birdie, you will hit by the lightning!” Birdie knew that she was the only one that could save the kite, and this knowledge gave her strenghth. She took a deep breath and started the first flight of her life. After some falling and rising, she manage to balance herself and she started flying. But it started to rain quite heavily, Birdie found it difficult to fly on while carrying a big eagle kite that was soaking wet.

“S..Stop Birdie,” the kite said in a helpless voice. “It’s no use doing that! Let me down!” After flying for a mile, the kite suddenly yelled “LOOK OUT! A real eagle is behind us!”

Birdie gasped and flapped her wings even harder. “I won’t let go until the day I die!”

“OPEN YOUR BEAK! LET ME GO! BIRDIE! HIDE! ” the eagle kite then snapped the string off his body and threw himself towards the real eagle. The eagle and the kite fell, and so did Birdie.

Birdie struggled to get up and hopped to the kite. The real eagle, shocked to have been attacked by a kite, flew off.

“Sor…Sorry, I cannot save you, I am a useless bird, totally useless, I can only catch caterpillars, but cannot save my friend, I… “

“Don’t blame yourself my dear Birdie, I have told you, this is a kite’s life–when we are set free, we die. You have to accept this, you are a bird, not a kite. See, you can fly now, though you are a bit clumsy. Crack! Don’t be a crybaby, your mom is waiting for you, go now, forget me… Crack, Crack.” His crackling sound finally faded away. Birdie gazed at her friend with thoughtful eyes.

In the late afternoon, after the rain stopped, Birdie hopped back to her nest.

“WHY SO LATE? ” Mama bird asked Birdie in a harsh tone. “Don’t mention the rain, if you had come back earlier, you would have escaped the rain.”

Birdie did not answer.

“So let me have a look at the caterpillar you have found today. “

It was a dead one.

~by Clara Cheuk (Hong Kong)

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