April 29, 2009
It was Boris Sparrow’s 480th day on Earth. He had a much better memory than most other birds. 480 times the sun came up and warmed the Earth and 480 times it abandoned them to take its nightly vacation.
Nothing special happened on this day. The sky didn’t turn pink; it was still the same shade of powdered blue with only slightly different specs of puffiness sailing overhead. The grass didn’t suddenly start to sing to him. They just sat there looking pretty, like always. His tree was the same; it still housed the familiar faces of the Finchovich family, the widow Robinski, and the troublesome Squirrelov gang.
Boris was a sparrow himself. Despite the Sparrow clan’s usual reputation for being a fun-loving bunch, Boris was always in a sad mood. Boris’ dad, Mr. Sparrow, often tried to cheer Boris up.
“Look Boris!” his dad laughed, dangling a worm, “I’m playing with my worm! Get it? Worm? I mean it like it’s a sexual joke.”
Boris had heard that joke before. He used to laugh all the times at his dad’s jokes. But the elder Sparrow kept repeating them. That was why the Sparrows, as a group, had been known to always have such a good time; they had very bad short-term memories.
He wasn’t even middle aged for a bird and Boris had already grown numb to the world he had once found so fascinating. Boris frowned often, which is hard to do when you only have a beak!
Seeing his son unhappy and unsure of what to do next, Mr. Sparrow picked up the worm and started playing with it again.
“Look Boris! I’m –”
“Playing with your worm. Yes I know Dad.” Boris interrupted. “You’ve told me that one before.”
“Oh,” Mr. Sparrow replied. “I am sorry, my son. You know how forgetful I can be sometimes.”
Mr. Sparrow knew he had a poor memory –it was one of the few things he remembered- but one thing he didn’t know was why Boris was so sullen all of the time.
“Boris, why is it that you look sad constantly. Are you not happy?”
“It’s not that I’m unhappy. I’m just indifferent.” Boris replied. “It’s all very much the same, don’t you think? The sky, the sun, the tree, the worm, you and me. Nothing ever changes.”
“Yes but what is there to change if the things around you are good? Does the sky not give you the wind with which you soar? Does the sun not give us light so that we may hunt? Does the worm not taste delicious? Am I not your Father and you not my Son?”
“Yes. These things are all true. But if nothing changes, if nothing moves, then perhaps my eyes have simply adjusted to the picture and I cannot see the things anymore.”
“You have been cooped up in this nest for too long; why don’t you explore a bit and re-adjust your ‘eyes.’ Just make sure to not cross the Squirrelovs; they are trouble.”
“Perhaps you’re right. I will be back.” Boris flapped his wings on the stale breeze and floated off into the familiar landscape. He also pooped. He was not ashamed, for birds cannot control this bodily function. They have no sphincter.
Boris found even flying to be drab on this day. The ground bugs scurried in recognizable patterns, the air bugs buzzed in symmetrical spirals, and the water bugs paddled just beneath the surface of the pond.
Boris heard laughs from inside an old log. They were menacing but hearty laughs, which turned into a rapid-fire giggles. The voices in the log shushed themselves, trying not to draw attention.
“Shhh! Someone will hear us,” one voice pleaded.
“Stop being so nervous, my friend!” giggled another voice. “You are ruining this experience. Just relax.”
“My tail looks like it is a pine tree!”
“Pine tree. Pine tree. That’s a weird word! Pine tree.”
“Oh yea. You’re right! Pine tree. Ha!”
Boris was not very adventurous by nature. He admitted to himself that maybe his fear of new experiences had caused his sadness. “I cannot be afraid to explore,” Boris thought. “That is my problem to begin with. This world is so big, yet I am only comfortable in my little nest. No wonder I am sad.” With that, Boris stopped his wings and plunged to the log below at a speed he was normally not comfortable with. He fluttered to the ground near the log and poked his little head in to see where the laughs were coming from.
It was dark but Boris Sparrow’s eyes were able to make out the chuckling figures. It was three members of the Squirrelov gang. He recognized each one: Ivan Ladmirovich Squirrelov was the scrawny squirrel whose patches of silver fur led the others to call him “Snowflake;” his big fat brother Evgeni, who was said to be as stubborn as an oak tree and just as thirsty; and their cousin (the ugliest of the three) Dmitri Alexandrovich Squirrelov.
“Dad told me specifically not to associate with the Squirrelovs. I know that they have a bad reputation, and they have picked on me in the past, but maybe they can show me something different. Plus, it looks as though they are having a fun time. Let me muster up the courage to approach them.” Boris ruffled his feathers and puffed out his chest.
“Hello?” Boris called into the rotted log, his voice absorbed by the damp moss.
“Ahhh!!” All three rodents screamed in shock. Squirrels were usually not known for their jumpiness, especially the tough Squirrelov gang, so Boris concluded that something was wrong with them.
Boris hopped a few hops closer to the group. “Hello. It’s me; Boris Sparrow. We live in the same tree together.”
“What do y- you want?” stuttered Dmitri.
“I heard you all laughing and thought I would ask to join in your fun. I have been very bored and sad. I thought a laugh might do me some good.”
“Is he gone? Is the dragon-bird gone?” Evgeni asked with his face buried underneath his immense tail.
“Oh Evgeni, it’s just Boris. You remember him,” Ivan scolded. The black pools of his eyes were extremely big. Even in the darkness they seemed to be in an abnormal condition.
“Yes,” Dmitri joined. “He’s the one who we throw acorns at very often.”
“That’s right, you do pick on me from time to time. But it does not bother me.” Boris felt an exhilarating thrill talking to these troublemakers.
“You have a beak,” Evgeni blurted. “That is so weird! May I touch it?”
Surprised at the request, Boris agreed but was uneasy as their little claws felt his beak.
“Ewwww! It’s like…hard!”
“How do you eat with that thing?” Ivan asked. All the squirrels again broke out in a fountain of laughter, with Evgeni giving out rocky guffaws that would shake the Urals themselves.
“Why do you find everything so funny?” Boris asked. He, like every animal walking, hated to be excluded from a joke.
“We come here some days to eat a mushroom that grows here and it just always makes us feel silly.”
“What if God has a beak?” Dmitri abruptly asked. “And the World is just like some type of worm wriggling in it?”
“Whoa!” exclaimed the other two Squirrelovs.
“Where are these mushrooms?” Boris inquired. He wanted to join in the fun.
Ivan broke off a small cap. “Now when you eat this your going to feel weird. It tastes terrible but if you eat it with peanut butter it should go down smooth.”
“What is peanut butter?” asked Boris.
“What is what?”
“Peanut butter. I have never heard of it. You said if I eat it with peanut butter it will taste better.”
“Peanut Butter! Whoa! What? Did you hear that, boys? Peanut butter!” Dmitri said bewildered.
“What would that even be like?” Evgeni asked, his eyes as wide as sunflowers.
“I’ll bet it’d be so freaking crazy.”
“What if God is just a shell of the peanut and the Earth is the actual peanut?!”
“Whoa!!! What?? Are you serious? Dmitri, you are blowing my mind right now.”
Boris, not wanting to waste any more time, bit down on the bluish mushroom and swallowed. It tasted awful. He waited a few minutes and began to feel strange. He felt unfamiliar in his own feathers. The colors of the space now intrigued him. The chocolate brown of the rotting wood, the damp green of the moss, and the jaundiced grey of squirrel fur all seemed more vibrant. He turned his attention toward his own plumage.
“You guys ever really think about feathers? You know, like how they came about?” Boris asked to know one in particular.
The Squirrelov’s only paid a small amount of attention to the inquiry. They were busy in their own minds.
“Maybe that was a dumb question,” he thought to himself. “But actually, it’s not. I’ve just always been too afraid to ask it.”
“I mean if you think about it. These are the feathers of my ancestors. These feathers belong to my Dad; these feathers belong to my Grandpa. Millions of years of history are hinged on my arms. Oh man! What am I doing?” Boris’ chest heaved in a slight panic. How could he deal with this newfound responsibility?
“Uh oh!” Evgeni sat up from his slumped position, shaking the bold color out of his eyes. “Snowflake. The bird is freaking out.”
“This log is haunted!” Boris screamed. “I’ve got to get out of here!” With a flap of his ancestral wings, he exited the hollow tree-corpse.
“Eh. Let him go,” Ivan said and returned to his previous activity of repeatedly picking up a rock and dropping it.
The breeze made Boris feel much better. There was not enough space in the log and the air felt restricted. The wind that flowed beneath his wings made him feel at ease. The carpet of grass stretched toward the sun with individual blades admiring their life giver. Even the dead patches still strove to please their Sun, even though they had been abused by it.
The activities that had seemed so ordinary merely an hour ago were a circus wonderland now, swimming in their own sounds and colors and vibrations. A grasshopper leapt in the air trying to simulate Boris’ flight in the late afternoon.
“It is flattering that you emulate me, my little bug, but you will never be a bird unless one of us eats and digests you!”
Boris noticed that the sky had turned pink. The citric sun, leaking orange rays into the surrounding area, stained the most beautiful complex formations of clouds he had ever seen an odd shade of light red. He had seen it this shade before at sunset, but had never appreciated it like he did at present.
He pooped again. The poop landed on the grasshopper. “What a wonderful feeling!” Boris thought.
“I AM A BIRD!” Boris squawked with all his might. He landed on a branch near his home. His mind was still tangled from the fungus.
“I AM A SPARROW!”
“Keep it down, Boris! The canyons do not care that you are a sparrow, so why do you screech loudly as if to tell them so?”
Mrs. Robinski was known for scolding. Around the tree, she was known for being homely and difficult. Boris’ dad often said that he wouldn’t “scramble her eggs with a ten-foot pole. Get it? It’s a sexual joke.” Boris often agreed with his dad’s assessment, but as he stared at the older bird, he found her beautiful in a classic sense.
“What are you looking at Boris? Wipe that stupid look of your face!” Her soft reddish breast blended into the dusk and her thin beak looked like a thorn on a rose bush. Everything about her was textured and interesting. He reached out with his wing and laid it on her beak, feeling the sharp angles.
“What are you doing?” she screamed.
“What if God has a beak? And the World is just like some type of worm wriggling in it?” Boris whispered, running his wing up and down.
“Get your filthy talons off of me! I am a respectable bird!”
Boris did not understand. He was just trying to give her his love. Not romantic love, but an admirable love, like the way the grass loves the sun. Why wouldn’t this lonely creature want to share an innocent touch? It was something all living things needed. He realized that love is like the sun. Too much of it will cause death.
“Whoa,” he thought to himself.
“You’ve been hanging around the Squirrelovs! I can smell their mammal stench on you. That means you’re probably on drugs! Mr. Sparrow!” she cried for Boris’ father.
“What is the matter Mrs. Robinski?” Mr. Sparrow asked urgently as he swept down from a high branch.
“Your son is high! He is groping me like one of those Squirrelov villains!”
“He must be high if he is groping you, Mrs. Robinski.” In addition to a poor short-term memory, Mr. Sparrow had little awareness of his inner monologue.
Deeply offended, Mrs. Robinski knocked Boris’ hand off of her beak. “How dare you! I hope you see fit to punish this tramp.”
“My apologies Mrs. Robinski, I certainly will. Come along Boris,” he said sternly. “We have much to discuss.”
Mr. Sparrow had sent Boris to his nest to think about what he had done. But Boris was not regretful in the least. The only thing he regretted was causing his dad embarrassment. This was most shameful. But the shame he felt was not nearly enough to bring down his elation for his newfound appreciation for life. The world was again interesting. He must act sad though, when his dad returned to check on him. Several hours went by and he heard his fathers wing flaps. Boris buried his head in his wing, trying his best to look depressed.
Mr. Sparrow entered the room. “Son, you look sad all the time. Why don’t you go out and see the world.”
Thank goodness for his short memory. Boris grinned and flew out of the tree back to the haunted log.
He had heard the Squirrelovs had scored some good coke.