The rainforest is never quiet; filled with a chaotic buzz of insects and roars of animals. This forest never slept, someone somewhere was always awake, always hunting for preys, or running from predators. I loved the sound of the forest during this time.
The panoramic view from my cliff, the combined smell of soil, rain, plants, mist, river, creatures, orchid, dews – the scent of freedom, of life. Ah! Bliss! This was the time when I sneaked out of my mother’s side and came out under the starry sky.
My mom had built a home for me, on a small hillock, where I got space to roam around and stretch my wings. Painstakingly, she had prepared a little puddle for me to take a bath in, or drink water from. She made sure that at no time, I was left alone. However, I liked my privacy. It gave me time to think. So, this was my ‘me-time’, away from everyone.
Seeing a Harpy eagle flying in the sky, filled me with hope. The majestic eagle didn’t need to flap its wings vigorously. It looked sophisticated, elegant. Spreading my wings, I tried once more to flip and fly. Pity, I couldn’t. I flapped until I got tired. It was exhausting. Argh!
“Cooper! Cooper! How many times have I told you not to leave home without your sis or me?” Mom screeched in my ear again.
My eyes darted towards a blue-morpho butterfly that flew over me when my mum said- “Look at me when I’m talking to you, young Nestling.” Pulling my beak with her right wing, she got hold of me. If I hated anything more than that condescending tone, it was being called a ‘nestling’. I was five years old, for crying out loud. Technically, the correct choice of a word, since I was not a fledgling.
My mom was a paranoid Hyacinth Macaw. There was no way I was getting away with this unless I played my cards right.
Quivering my pout, with a drop of tears in my green eyes, I looked at her. That did the trick, almost always.
“Keep your droopy green eyes to yourself,” she pretended that it didn’t affect her, but her softer voice gave it away.
“I’m sorry, mommy,” sniffling, I extended my second oxymoronic ‘weak-yet-powerful’ weapon. I offered a hug with my left wing. My mom hugged me tight and whispered in my ears-
“Don’t do that again. I can’t lose you. Take your sis along next time.”
I wanted to say that death was better than her company, but I figured it wasn’t the time.
“Cooper!” That was when I heard Pecky calling; Pecky, my best buddy.
“How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood,” I screamed.
“Chuck chuck!” holding a leaf bowl carrying honey and few cocoa beans, he chuckled.
Apparently, Pecky was already high on caffeine. Dangling our talons, we perched on the edge of the cliff. Seeing us relax, mom waved at us and soared in the sky. She needed to hunt for our breakfast.
“Tell me, Pecky. How is it like soaring in the sky?” looking at my wing, I asked once more.
“Noth… Nothing great,” he stammered. Whenever I asked him this question, he never answered. Instead, he started telling me about his latest love-interest.
“Dude! You must see those new migratory birds. They are so exotic. Still, no one comes close to our scarlety babes,” sighing, he handed me the leaf bowl.
“Oh yeah? Tell me about it,” I popped a cocoa bean in my mouth.
“Yesterday, I met a babe, a Scarlet Macaw. She is super-hot. While I was flying around holding a flower in my beak, she flew next to me and asked for the flower. As I gave her the flower, our feathers touched, and she exclaimed ‘such plumose wings.’ I noticed her cheek got a deeper shade of red. Too bad these scarlets are getting endangered, now,” he rambled.
“Hey, Crip C!” I heard the voice I knew too well, followed by a poke on my crown.
Without looking, I replied, “Hey, Jesse!”
“Crip C.. Crip C,” making a screeching noise, she hovered over my crown. She knew that I hated being called Crip C.
“Don’t you dare call him that,” Pecky reprimanded her.
“Why not? Can’t you see that he is crippled? Crip C. Crip C,” Jesse sang in her annoying voice.
“What’s your problem, Jesses?” Pecky flew up to face her. But I pulled his feather to calm down. I didn’t want my best friend to get in a fight with my sister for me, yet again. As I pulled the feather, I accidentally broke it, but before he could see, I dropped it from the cliff.
Flapping her wings and rolling her eyes, Jesse flew away.
“Why is she such a bi…” He sat next to me, with a frown on his face.
“She is my sis, don’t use that word for her,” in a low voice, I mumbled. Though she could be one, yet I couldn’t hear him say that about her.
“Forget her. Tell me about those exotic birdies,” winking, I asked Pecky.
And he resumed telling me about the exquisite beauties.
My mind was elsewhere, though. Several siblings who hatched after me, fledged and left. Jesse was my youngest sibling, and even she had fledged. In no time, she would be gone. Just like the rest of them, she was mean too.
My left wing was under-developed, one of the rare conditions for a Hyacinth Macaw, hence I couldn’t fly. Seeing me born with this defect, everyone had advised my mom to smother me. They said- “He won’t survive”, “the weak have no place in the jungle”, “it is for the best”, “who will take care of him when you are gone.”
When I was a tiny chick, one night, my mom was about to thrust a stone in my throat. As she came to me with a pebble in her beak, I looked at her with my droopy green eyes. Dropping the gravel, she hugged me. The stone landed on my crown, leaving a tiny bump that lasted for a week. That’s a small price I paid that day.
A mother’s love is unconditional. I loved the way she sang me a lullaby at night, caressing my left wing. I knew that deep down, she blamed herself for my weak side. She needed to accept that it was a congenital disability, it was no one’s fault. Ever since I was born Mom, Pecky, and my siblings had saved me from several predators. It was incredible how I had survived all these years in this jungle, thanks to my mom.
I looked at my friend, Pecky. He was still talking about the migratory birds and how his heart was torn between the exotic foreigners and local hot babes. Pecky was my only friend in the whole amazon. He tolerated me for who I was, sat with me when others soar high in the sky. Animatedly, he told me about the world he had seen, the creatures that he had encountered like monkey frog, sloth, anaconda. He shared with me a lot of things that I would never experience. But it was nice to know about those. Like stories- his anecdotes were my escape. I didn’t feel envious of him. Instead, I was happy that he was living my dream. If anything, I was grateful that he chose me as his friend. He just wanted to see me happy, and I could barely offer him anything. Looking at my wings, I wondered if God made up for it by sending Pecky as my friend.
As we talked, I spotted a red-color flower glowing in the forest. It looked so tiny yet beautiful.
Yawning, I spread my wings and came out of the nest. I looked towards the magnanimous sky. Something was not right. The sky looked different today. Why was it red, like the color of blood? Crackling, the fire was erupting and engulfing the forest with it. Its roar had muffled the sound of the woods.
All the animals, prey, predators were running helter-skelter. I spotted snakes burning along with the trees, and the sky filled with the cacophony of the birds’ screeching. Helplessly, I saw thousands of animals getting consumed by fire, right before my eyes. The fire was devouring the woods.
Screaming, I called out, “Mom! Jesse!”
They came out flying from the nest, and together we saw death staring at us.
“There is no time,” Mom looked at the fire and then towards me. Cupping my face with her wings, she spoke in her soft voice-
“Cooper, I love you. I’m sorry that I gave you that weak wing, I’m sorry for all the troubles that you had to face. I won’t give up without a fight. I will get someone to help you,” rubbing my body with her delicate wings, she said. Bringing her crown closer to mine, she took a few deep breaths.
“I’m going to get some help. Jesse, look after your brother,” hugging me tight, she instructed Jesse before she squared her mantle and flew away.
Jesse looked at me. I looked back. For once, I didn’t see the familiar disgust in her eyes. Instead, I saw affection.
“Cooper!” she spoke. She didn’t call me Crip C today. Crippled Cooper.
“I’m sorry, bro, for being a jerk all my life. I was trying to prepare you so that you could fight your own battle. I wanted you to be able to defend yourself when the time came. I always envisaged that one day you would have to fight a python or an eagle. I never thought it would be this great a nemesis, whom nobody can fight. I’m sorry, I have always loved you,” saying, she hugged me.
Her hug felt familiar. I remembered that hug from my dreams. It dawned on me that she gave me a warm hug every night after I slept. Closing my eyes, I hugged her tightly, making up for all the lost time. I opened my eyes to see the blazing fire closing in. There is no time. Mom’s words rang in my ears. I needed to send Jesse away. The fire was making its way towards our home, just a few inches short.
“Jesse! Please go and help mom. She needs you to get help for me.”
Nodding, she gave a peck on my cheek, flapped her wings, and flew away.
All the beautiful moments of my life flashed before me- Singing with Pecky until our voice got hoarse. Pecky always ended the rhyme with additional ‘chuck chuck’. I never asked him why. I would never know.
I could see my beautiful home and family. My mom singing lullabies for me in her melodious voice. I would never hear her voice again. However, I’m happy that my mom was not here to see me like this. I couldn’t see tears in her magical black eyes. I never told her how much I loved her black eyes.
Lying down on the ground, I saw black smoke. The rising heat gave me a final realization that death was inevitable. The blazing fire reflected in my eyes. Unfazed by my misty green eyes, the fire burnt my crippled arm first, and then the rest of my body. The pain was unbearable…
I lay down as the fire engulfed my weak heart and weaker wings. Slowly I closed my eyes, hoping that finally, my soul would do what my body couldn’t; fly, soar high in the sky.
Photo By: Jeremy Bishop
This is an entry for #InnsWoods, #Artales18, A Room8 writing event. Checkout the event guidelines here: https://writers.artoonsinn.com/artales18
The event is sponsored by Manoj Paprikar, Author of Death at Midnight by ArtoonsInn room9 publications. Manoj Paprikar is a doctor by profession and a writer at heart. Through his latest venture with room9publications, he earnestly brings forth the plight of the medical profession that affects both the healthcare providers and patients at large.
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