I wrote this some day ago and still like it. Please forgive any typos and mistakes…I don’t have it in me to do anything more than cursory proofreading.
Birds tire of flying after a while. One bird named Tom was exhausted and said to his wing mate, “Listen, I gotta take a rest. I’ll catch up later.”
Tom’s wing mate Fred snorted as much as a bird can snort, which honestly isn’t much. It’s kind of a stupid little noise, but there you have it. “You won’t catch up. You’ll get lost and die.”
“Wow, that’s kind of mean,” Tom said. “I won’t get lost. It’s impossible for birds to get lost, anyway. It’s possible I wouldn’t find the flock for a few days, but to get lost is something that—”
“It happened to Cecil,” said Fred.
When Fred didn’t elaborate, Tom pressed, “Er, who’s Cecil?”
Fred cut an irritated, beady eye at Tom, and sighed. Also, a rather silly sound and lost in the rush of wind. “Cecil was a bird who got lost.”
“You know this for a fact?”
“It’s common knowledge, Tom!” Fred snapped. “Now keep flying and leave me alone!”
“Nope,” said Tom. “See ya… or not.” And with that, he dropped out of formation and flew to the ground.
Once there, Tom curled his legs under himself and sat in the grass. It was an unusual position for a bird to take unless it was wounded, which Tom wasn’t, and it occurred to him he could get snatched up and eaten. But just the thought of flying to a nearby tree made him tired, and before he knew it, he’d fallen asleep.
“You’re the bravest bird on Earth or the stupidest.”
The feline voice brought Tom fully awake, and he stared nearly eye to eye with a large tabby cat. “I’d like to think I’m not stupid,” Tom said, just for the sake of having something to say and possible forestall his imminent death, “but I’m not particularly brave, either. So, in response to your remark, I must say that this isn’t such a simple matter of black or white, yes or no. There are gradations, even with birds.
The cat glared at Tom. “That was an unnecessarily long and philosophical statement. Usually, birds just freeze when they see cats.”
“I suppose I’m not most birds,” Tom said and wondered how long the cat would stand for his sass.
“No, you’re not, at that,” the cat replied thoughtfully, settling into the grass. “I will not eat you. I stalked you, of course—instinct and all that—but I’ve already eaten. Couldn’t swallow another feather.”
“Ah, well, that’s good news for me,” said Tom, standing up and shaking his wings. He felt much better now that he rested, and he was sure he could take to wing in an instant, leaving the cat and possibility of death (no matter what the cat said behind). But he was curious. And since there was no saying about curiosity killing the bird, he stayed.
“What’s your name?” Tom asked.
“Which one?” the cat answered. “What humans call me, what I call myself, or my secret name?”
Tom’s eyes widened. “Cats have secret names?”
“Of course we do. We’re among the few creatures that do.”
“Well, what is it?”
The call rolled its green eyes. “I’m not telling you that, bird. It’s my secret name for a reason. But humans call Lily.”
“That’s a pretty name,” Tom said. “I’m Tom.”
Lily placed her face on her paws. “That isn’t such a pretty name.”
Tom shrugged his wings. “No, it’s rather dull. I wish I had a secret name, like Max, or Dash, or Vincent.”
“Vincent?” Lily echoed in surprise.
“I knew a wise bird named Vincent,” Tom said. “He was great and taught me a lot.”
“So I’ll call you Vincent. Vincent the bird. It seems to suit you better than Tom.”
“But… that isn’t my name,” Tom protested. “It isn’t what my parents named me.”
Lily opened her mouth in an enormous yawn, and Tom shivered at the sight of her teeth. “It doesn’t matter,” she said. “You can be whoever you want to be.”
“The flock would have a thing or two to say about that,” Tom muttered.
“Well, I don’t see any other birds around, so I dub thee Vincent the sparrow. Wear your name with pride.”
Tom—Vincent, his mind insisted—fluttered his wings excitedly. “Vincent. Yes, you’re right. I will be my own bird.”
“Excellent,” Lily said. “I’m glad to have helped a fellow animal out. And now, I must be off.”
“But wait,” Vincent said. “We just met. Where are you going?”
Lily blinked lazily. “Home, silly. I’m an indoor and outdoor cat, and I’m ready to go inside. I think. I might change my mind when I get there, but I’m ninety percent sure I want to go inside.”
“Can I come with you?”
Lily laughed and said, “I don’t think my humans would take well to a sparrow living with them.”
“No, I could fly along with you and make a nest in a tree, assuming there are trees where you live.”
“Oh, there are plenty of trees,” Lily said, “but what about your flock?”
“Who needs them?” said Vincent, feeling suddenly brave. “They were going somewhere boring, anyway. Same place every year. This sparrow wants something different.”
“Well, I can’t promise that living in a tree in my humans’ yard will be the most exciting thing you’ve ever done,” Lily said, getting up and stretching, “but I suppose it would be different. All right. Come on.”
“Hang on a second,” Vincent said. “Do you mean to eat me… like, at any given time?”
Lily pondered for a moment and then said carefully, “It’s technically possible. If I don’t get enough food inside, or if my wild side kicks into high gear and I just have to kill something, I could eat you. But I’ve never eaten a bird I’ve met. It’s just too strange and wouldn’t be worth the guilt.”
“Do you feel guilty when you eat birds you don’t know?”
“Of course not.”
“What if one said, ‘Wait, my name is Cecil, I got lost from my flock, please don’t eat me?”
Lily narrowed her eyes. “That’s a very specific hypothetical situation.”
“I don’t know. I would like to think I wouldn’t eat a bird once I learned its name, but perhaps I would and then feel just a tiny bit guilty. Also, have you ever seen a cat stalk and kill a bird? It’s all over pretty quickly. There’s not a lot of time for chit-chat.”
“Okay,” Tom said. “I trust you. I think.”
Lily shook her head. “You’re an odd bird, Vincent. It’s getting late, and my humans will get worried