Once upon a time, there was a bird flying care-free through the air. Do you know the expression “as free as a bird”? Well, this was the very bird they meant when they said it. Each morning, she would wake up, ruffle her feathers, spread her wings and leap out of her nest, out into the world.
One day, though, it was raining. Now, rain didn’t generally mean that much, it just meant that she had to fly closer to the ground, that was all. She needed to be more careful about obstacles that might be in her path. But she could still feel the wind—a bit wetter, perhaps—hoisting her up and carrying her around.
The problem was that today of all days, the Cat living with the Humans next door to the Bird’s tree had decided that one bowl of food from his masters (or, as he called them, slaves) wasn’t nearly enough. He needed more food. And he didn’t mind feathers too much. So he clawed his way up the cabinet and over the sink and perched himself on the low-hanging branches that dangled in front of the kitchen window. Something was bound to come by.
Sure enough, within moments, the Bird came into view. It perched itself on one of the higher branches to rest for only a moment.
But suddenly, there was danger. The branches all around her started shaking, pulled down by the weight of the enormous cat flinging himself ever upwards, hissing and miauwing for his prey to do its job and come the rest of the way to him.
Of course, the bird wasn’t having any of that, so she took off, darting through the branches, branches that kept whipping from side to side, either from the wind or from the cat’s advances, until the bird decided it was safer to go down.
So down went the bird, to the cat’s great surprise, and swept, of all things, through the kitchen window, so that she now found herself in a new place. It wasn’t the open air and it surely wasn’t forest, either. It wasn’t even town. There were walls, it seemed, on all sides, closing in on her, no matter which way she flew. In one wall, there was an opening, but beyond that were more walls and just as little space between them.
How had she got here? What was this evil place?
In the third set of closed-in walls, she detected movement and perched herself up on a cabinet to watch. A little boy was playing with something on the ground. It looked like one of those huge metallic monstrocities that fly way up high and hurt when you hit them and make a terrible noise, but this one was much smaller, enough to fit in the little boy’s hand, and the little boy waved it around from side to side, making a noise that wanted to be the airplanes’ terrible racket when it grew up.
Then the little boy looked up and saw the bird.
“Birdie!” said the little boy.
Uh-oh, thought the bird. She knew all too well that humans couldn’t be trusted. So she launched herself off the cabinet and through the door, now even more desperate to find a way out and getting so utterly scared at the walls closing in that she was finding it hard to breathe. So she finally found the front door to the house and bent down next to the keyhole, where she could feel a very thin current of fresh air entering the building.
But the keyhole, sadly, was too close to the ground and the little boy caught her.
“Birdie!” said the little boy in its annoyingly high-pitched voice. “I don’t know why you’d fly away from me. I just want to put you in a cage, a little house all your own just like this one, and that way you can sing a pretty little song for me all day long!”
A cage? The bird tried to conjure up an image of this. It seemed like a space, just like this one, with walls all around, only smaller. A place where the bird could never fly, would never feel the freedom of the wind beneath her wings or even the crushing wetness of the whipping rain.
That was no way to live.
The bird, without another thought, jabbed her beak quite roughly into one of the hands that held her, making the little boy scream its fiendish little lungs out, distracting it for enough time that she could safely get away. At last, having come full circle, the bird returned to the kitchen and found the open window she had just come through and flew back outside—
–straight into the jaws of the cat.
Satisfied, the cat closed his jaws, sinking his teeth through feathers and flesh to her crunchy bones, just as the little boy entered the room and started howling.
“That wasn’t nice, kitty!” screamed the little boy. “I was going to make him my pet. He was going to be your brother!”
But the cat ignored him, enjoying the extra meal. If only the little boy knew how much happier the bird was there in the jaws in this beast than she would have been in a cage.