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The Wilting Leaf And The Mockingbird
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There was no reason for the old lemon leaf to complain this fine late afternoon. The sun was beginning to come down, and a soft breeze was easing the brutal heat of the day.
"Well, my job is done for the day," the sun said cheerfully. "Just a few more streaks of my colour here and there, and you will all be happy that I'm gone."
Down he went behind the clouds, with his booming voice trailing off across the horizon and eliciting sighs of relief from the plants and animals below him.
"Oh, how I hate it when the sun leaves us all here every dusk and all through the night," said a lone mockingbird. "He could have stayed there longer, and I wouldn't make a single complaint," she sniffed.
"And why would you say that?" the old lemon leaf asked. "He's too hot to stay longer, and we don't need his light at all times."
"But I don't like the dark," she cried. "The dark gives me nightmares."
She looked up in despair at the place where the sun was moments ago, "It terrifies me every time he disappears."
"Well, that's a bitter thing for a young bird like you to say," said the lemon leaf.
"Oh, I know," she waved her wing dismissively, "it's just that the lovely sun has been helpful to me these past few days. He has shown me thousands of wonderful things each day. Nightmares can't hurt you when the sun is up."
She looked at the leaf and said, "When you have dreams you can make them happen during the day."
The leaf was confused, "Dreams, you say, young bird?"
"Yes," she replied softly. "But they weren't my own, I lost mine a long time ago, I gave up on them. But you see old leaf, because of the sun, I can still be happy when I hear dreams coming true, even if none of them are mine."
She said it seriously and the old leaf almost heard regret in her voice.
"Oh, I see, you gave up on your dreams and now you satisfy yourself by feeling the way others feel," he said tenderly.
The leaf felt sorry for the bird.
When the bird didn't say anything, he asked, "Tell me, what were your dreams?"
"Oh, it wasn't really a dream, it was more like what we are, my fellow mockingbirds and I. You see, I can't sing, I could when I was young, but that was a long time ago. While I was growing up my singing voice started fading, and then one day it was gone. It hurt me most to hear my friends sing so beautifully."
Her voice grew louder, "It was like losing my wings. I couldn't be with my friends and family. All they ever did in life was sing, and they sang so well."
She started to cry again, "Birds were born and bred to sing, all I could do was chirp. 'Poor little mockingbird,' that's what they said to me the last time I was with them."
"Oh, don't say that to yourself, look at me!
I'm old, my colour is turning to yellow, and they call me the 'wilting leaf.' There are so many things I can no longer do for this lemon tree.
But I'm still here, and I refuse to feel sad about it."
He looked at the bird for a moment and noticed that her tears had stopped.
"You're a bird, for you and your kind, you should sing, but not for us.
We don't care how you do what you're supposed to do.
You can chirp, you can still fly," he said.
She glanced indignantly at him, "Well, what do you suggest I do then? Feed myself to the cats?"
Her sarcasm made him laugh out loud, "Oh, you're a funny one, mockingbird."
He stopped laughing and turned his eyes to her, saying seriously, "I don't know, but there must be something in you that you have learned you can do. You see, young one, we spend too much time being with our kind and doing the same things together, and we become unaware of what we're capable of doing without them."
He took a moment to observe her, and said, "You're sad because you no longer see yourself as one with them, and they no longer see you as their own.
But you're still a mockingbird, alive and young as well."
"Well, I think you're right there, old leaf. I mean, I can still do a lot of things, can't I?
I can help others," she said softly.
"A mockingbird that helps! Well, to see one will be the day the sun never sets," the old leaf joked.
"Oh, I can help. We were raised only to sing. But since you asked about things I'm capable of doing, well, that's just the first thing that came to mind."
She was embarrassed as she mentioned it, but the leaf saw her eagerness.
"Tell me about it," he suggested.
His curiosity made her beam, "Remember Max the black cat trapped inside that
She referred to the lovely piece of land several feet from them where various flowers and vegetables were fenced in by long thick wooden bars.
The leaf frowned, "Yes, I heard about that, but I don't know what actually happened."
"Well, one morning I saw him chasing after the fat red chicken and a dozen of her young ones.
She led her chicks into the garden as they ran and screamed, and she forgot it was the best trap for all of them.
The cat got in after them, so the mother frantically searched for a way out.
She saw that little space under one of the loose wooden bars," she pointed to one side of the fence.
The leaf saw the bar at the bottom and noticed there was hardly any space underneath; the bar was almost touching the ground.
"Lucky for the young ones," she continued, "they fit well into that tiny space and got out easily from the garden. The chicken had a harder time, but she did make it."
She looked at the leaf with gleam in her eyes, "The cat, however, wasn't clever.
Believing he was the same size as them, he ran as fast as he could straight into the tiny space.
He was desperate to catch one of them, but he was so big that as he dived through the space the bar lifted up for a second or two, then smacked down on his back and made him fall hard flat on his stomach.
He screamed and clawed, the impact must have hurt him badly. I could see tears in his eyes."
"You could?" the leaf asked mischievously.
"Yes. I'd wanted to see him that way for a long time, but then I felt sorry for him."
She knew the leaf was dying to hear what she did.
"So, I flew down to him, though not too near since I feared he might eat me up. I told him to calm down, that struggling would hurt his back more.
So he did.
Then I asked him to claw his way out slowly.
He was calmer then, but still in deep pain.
I said he had to breathe deeper as he clawed out.
I counted one, two, three; he breathed and pushed himself out hard," she smiled at the memory.
"After six counts, he finally got through.
He couldn't stand yet, but he told me he was sorry for scaring the poor chickens away, and that I should never be afraid of him.
I had saved his life, and he promised to do the same for me one day."
She was proud of what she had done, and it showed in her voice.
"Well, that's quite a story. A mockingbird that helps, and a cat that says 'thank you.'
But you did well, really well."
As they began to look around them, they noticed how the sun had been right.
There was no longer a piercing brightness in the sky.
They started to hear the sounds of insects and birds busily preparing for the night ahead.
She almost felt sorry as she turned to the leaf, "It's now time for the dark, old friend."
She breathed deeply, "This is the time when I usually start feeling scared of the dark, but you know, I don't think I feel that way anymore."
She gazed into the endless sky.
"That's how it should be, young bird," the wilting leaf smiled at her. "It won't last long, the blackness of the sky, I promise you. The sun will greet us all again sooner than you think."
They smiled thinking of the sun and his loud voice rising up early in the morning.
"Oh, I can't wait to see him again," she said "but for tonight, I'll just dream a hundred and see it for myself being accomplished tomorrow."
"Yes, you do that. Dream a hundred and help a thousand cats more," the leaf said.
They both laughed.
"Oh, you're a darling, old leaf.
I thank this lemon tree for keeping you here. Don't you worry; I will tell him to hold on to you longer and not take you off his branches for as long as you live."
She flapped her wings slowly, then loudly, and off she flew into the cold dark night without fear for the very first time.
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