Birds

“Tera, hurry up. I didn’t bring you all this way just to sit there doing nothing.” Tera’s mother frowned.

“But, Mommy, are you sure it’s safe?” Tera asked again.

“Yes.”

“Absolutely certain?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, okay, I guess I can try.” Tera wheeled her small, pink bike up to the middle of the steep hill, took a deep breath, and got on, “I’m gonna do it.”

“Just hurry up.” Tera’s mother sat down next to some pigeons on the park bench. It was going to be a long wait.

“Here I go,” Tera said, “3…2…1…WHEE!” Her little feet left the ground and, with one push, the tiny bike shot down the hill, upsetting the pigeons, seagulls, and ducks that were waiting at the bottom.

“Keep your feet on the pedals,” Tera’s mother barked. The girl did not, to her mother’s annoyance, but she did turn her wheel back and forth, resulting in the only other person on this path shaking his old head and grumbling about when children used to respect their elders.

Tera came to the bottom of the hill, breathless with dark hair that flew back in her face when she squeezed her squeaky brakes.

“I wanna go again.” Tera ran over to her mother, cheeks pink with exhilaration and eyes starry with excitement followed by a flock of birds.

“Fine, you can go a few more times.” Tera’s mother wasn’t looking forward to walking home, so she readjusted her seat on the bench. A busy woman like her deserved a chance to rest.

“What are you doing?” Tera asked her follower, a black-faced seagull with a white body and wings.

“Caw,” said the seagull.

“What?” Tera asked.

“Will you take me for a ride?” the seagull said, “It’s been so long since I’ve ridden.”

“Oh, um, sure,” said Tera, gesturing to the basket of her bike, “come sit up here.”

“Thank you very much,” the seagull said, “but I know my friend Don would love a ride too.”

“Okay,” Tera said, picking up the pigeon. “Anyone else?”

“That’s Bill, Jo, and Margret,” said Don, pointing with his beak at a duck and two seagulls, “They love going down hills.”

“Oh, so do I!” Tera exclaimed, putting the birds in her basket, “Let’s ride down that big one.” So the little girl brought her bike (and the five birds sitting in it) to the top of the hill. “Let’s go.”

“3…” The seagull squawked.

“2…” Don cooed.

“1…”  Jo and Margret said together, their black beaks opening a bit as if to smile.

“GO!!” Bill quacked, and Tera pushed off, her legs flying wildly in the air. Tera’s mother looked at her daughter and shook her head, deciding that she would tie those feet to the pedals if it came to it. The bike rocketed along the path, slanting down towards the canal.

“I don’t think my bike can swim,” Tera screamed.  The birds just sat on the wooden slats of the basket, their beady eyes trained on the water in front of them. Tera tried to spin the wheel away from the river, but to no avail. Her bike rolled off the path, only a few meters from the water. Now just one. Only a few centimetres…

The seagull let out a loud, strong caw, and ten or so birds flew towards the bike, grabbing everything around Tera that they could. Two pigeons swooped down and grabbed her T-shirt, pulling her up by the armpits. The birds squawked, flapping their wings and saying,

“Wow, she’s heavy,” as they slowly navigated her towards the grass on the bank, as instructed by the seagull, who had adopted an authoritative tone.

“Don’t put her too close to the big blind one,” the seagull squawked, flapping his wide wings in an effort to keep the bike from being unbalanced.

Tera looked down at the wide river, a large smile creeping across her face.

The pigeons set Tera down lightly on the half-dead grass, landing on her shoulders. A troupe of seagulls and ducks set down her bike beside her, then looked towards the seagull.

“On behalf of all my fellow avians,” he said, “I’d like to make sure you’re okay and thank you for the ride.”

“I’m fine,” Tera said, smiling broadly, “Can we go again?”

“Oh, no,” said the seagull, “We must be off.”

As one, the birds flew into the darkening sky.

“Tera!”

“Yes, Mommy?” Tera asked.

“Keep your feet on the pedals!”

“Yes, Mommy.”