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Two Birds

by Amanda Kaye Stein

Spring had come. Sparrow and Robin met in the sky. Each found the other as warm as the days, and so they built a home.

Summer came, and Sparrow and Robin spent each moment together. At night, when the darkness frightened them, they would sing to comfort each other. And every man and animal who heard their songs grew joyful and admired the two birds for their gentle beauty.

Summer passed in this way, but soon the sky grew heavier, the leaves grew brittle, and the wind grew cool. The men hurried inside. The animals hid in caves.

Robin turned to her love and sang, “My darling, Fall is coming, and we must be on our way.”

Sparrow looked at the home they had built and remembered all it had given him. “Must we leave?” he sang to her. “This place has made my heart so light. I cannot leave this wonder for something as slight as Fall.”

Robin felt the chill in the wind grow stronger. She became afraid. “My darling,” she sang, “fall is no small thing. All that brings us pleasure will cease. The sun will not warm. Green will turn white and cold. Worms will not come out for us. We cannot feel glad in such a world.

“Yet there is a place,” she sang, drawing comfort from her song, “the South. I have heard the older birds sing of it. There it is warm always, and fruit always grows, the Sun is always kind, and while the rest of the world is frozen and silent all the birds of the world gather together and sing. We shall fly there and sing as well, our hearts filled only with joy.”

Sparrow’s heart grew heavy. He sang sadly to his love, “If all the birds have flown away, and all the flowers have died, and all the land is empty, what will warm the hearts of those who stay? I have heard of the North, where it is always silent and cold, and no fruit ever grows, and the Sun is always pale. Those who wander there must be sorry indeed, and their hearts must long for a song of warmth. Should not we fly there and comfort them?”

Leaves broke off the trees, falling slowly to the ground. Robin shuddered, startled and anxious. “No,” she sang. “Why waste our songs on a land destined to be lonely? Let us share ours with others who have promised to be happy, where we shall never suffer. I am frightened of the cold, and would be heartsick for the Sun and green!”

But Sparrow had decided. When the winds grew too chill to bear, the two birds sang goodbye and left their home, each flying a separate way.

Robin flew three days to the South, a place more brilliant, more glorious, than she had imagined. The air smelled of sweet fruits, the Sun seemed nearby, the night was not dark, and every branch on every tree was home to at least one bird.

Robin’s ears rang with sound. Every bird sang beautifully. Even the men, carrying fruit and swimming in the Sea, sang and danced while they moved.

Robin sang happily and felt her voice melt with all the others. She settled on a branch, calm and content. “Good,” she sang to herself. “In a place this lovely, I shall always be warm, and I shall never be afraid.”

Sparrow flew three days to the North, a place more sad, more lonely, than he had imagined. The ground was bleak and white; the trees were dry and bare. The world was in shadow, yet he could see no light. No animals were to be seen. The men held down their heads as they walked against the cold. They dragged heavy tools, their hands scarred with work.

Sparrow landed on a branch and felt his wings freezing. His heart beat hard in his little, trembling body. His ears pounded in the silence. He was afraid and wished that Robin was there to comfort him.

Sparrow sang, softly, his throat sore from the cold. His voice came back to him, echoing in the silence of the land. The sound comforted Sparrow and he sang again, strong and lovely.

A man walked by. The wind was so strong he couldn’t hear Sparrow’s song. Another passed, and then another, all deaf to the sweet sound. Sparrow would not give up. He gave his whole heart to the song and sang until he ached.

A Woodsman came to Sparrow’s tree and lifted his axe, ready to swing. But then he heard a noise, small and unusual. He unwrapped the cloth from his head and turned his face from the wind. He heard Sparrow’s song.

The Woodsman’s heart grew warm. Tears came to his dry eyes. He laid his axe down and stopped a child passing by. He motioned silently for the child to listen.

Soon many men stood under the tree, amazed at their happiness, and listened to Sparrow’s song.

Sparrow sang proudly and shivered in the cold. He looked in the eyes of all the men and sang until he knew their hearts were warm.

An Old Woman laid down her shovel. She began to hum, timid and hoarse. Men turned to her, confused and afraid. But the Old Woman sang with the bird and it was beautiful.

Soon the men began to hum. Then they began to sing. The North was full of the echoes of song and Sparrow cried for joy. But as soon as his tears came, his body shook, and the land grew darker.

“Look,” the Woodsman said. “The poor thing is dying.”

“Dying,” Sparrow sang. “Is this dying?” And Sparrow fell to the ground. The men cried for Sparrow and buried him beneath the tree. Their song was sad and sweet.

And Robin sat in her new home, and drank the juices of the sweet fruits, and cooled herself in the gentle Sea. She stared in wonder at the carefree men and the beautiful birds, all too busy with their songs to notice her. “How much Sparrow would have loved the South,” she sang to herself. And at the thought of her love, her heart turned a cold that the sun could not warm.

“How can I feel lonely,” she sang, “surrounded by so many birds, with so many songs in the air?” But her soul was sick and she could not ease it.

Robin sang a song to comfort herself. The air was so full of voices of birds and men that her little voice was unheard. She grew frantic; all the other songs were only noise and strangled her tired ears.

Robin swelled her body with all the air she could gather, and sang and sang and sang. She sang so loud that her feathers quivered. She could not hear a single note. She tried to hear the song in her mind but it was so full of other sounds that she could not settle on the melody.

Robin sang stronger, stronger than she ever had before, until her little throat closed up. She tried to scream in fear but no sound would come. Robin cried bitterly. Her voice had left her.

An Angel came to Sparrow’s grave that night. The Angel touched the Earth with her hands and called Sparrow to her. The bird flew out and sat before the Angel.

“Little bird,” the Angel said, “listen to this world. You have done a beautiful thing.”

Sparrow heard the echoes of all men singing throughout the North. He smiled in wonder.

“They have prayed for you,” the Angel said, “And we have listened. Your spirit shall not be stuck in the ground, but shall fly to the place you feel most at home.”

Sparrow was comforted. He thought of Robin, and their home, and their songs. “Dear Angel,” he sang, softly. “I think only of my love. Seeing her is all that will warm my spirit. I shall always feel alone out of sight of her.”

The Angel smiled and held Sparrow. Sparrow became a Star. The Angel hung Sparrow among the Heavens over the warm South. “You may see your love all her days,” the Angel said.

Sparrow looked down from the sky and saw Robin nestled on her branch. Robin had covered herself in her wings and was crying silently, alone amongst all the birds in the world.

Sparrow was filled with love for her and shone down all the light that he could burn. But the Southern sky was bright, and Robin could not see his brilliance... only a vast, empty sky.

Copyright © 2008 by Amanda Stein

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