The Remarkable Double-crested Numbnut

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Footsteps, yarns and little fibs
Bird song leads to conversation.

Submitted: August 24, 2016

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Submitted: August 24, 2016

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‘Hear that?’ Grandad asked the two girls he called ‘Little’uns’.

‘What?’ asked first Little’un, cocking her head and listening to the chuckling river, the squawking stilts, the honking paradise ducks and the busy willow leaves.

‘In the distance,’ Grandad replied and he softly whistled, imitating the tune to demonstrate.

‘Oh yeah!’ smiled second Little’un. 'There it goes again!'

‘Aha,’ nodded first Little’un, ‘I heard it too.’

‘It’s a double crested numbnut.’ Grandad lied. It was really a shining cuckoo but the girls didn’t know the difference, they were on holiday from England.

‘What’s a double crested ah, what-did-you-call-it?’ asked first Little’un.

‘Numbnut. A very special bird.’ Replied Grandad with a twinkle. At the same time he poked a rabbit hole with a stick in case one was in there.

‘What do you mean, special bird?’ Asked second Little’un.

‘Well,’ Grandad continued the fib, but sometimes fibs are the best stories, ‘they used to be called crested joybirds, but they changed the name to numbnut.’

The girls knew the look and that they were in for one of his stories.

‘Why did they change the name?’ they chimed.

‘The double crested joybird sang its song whenever a child experienced real joy, and then it laid a cackle-berry.’

‘Ok, what’s a cackle-berry?’ asked first Little’un.

‘An egg.’ Grandad replied, straight-faced. ‘And joy is when the eyes sparkle and the grin is so wide the heart can feel it.’

‘That’s like being happy.’ Second Little’un wasn’t convinced.

‘You can be happy when you have a full tummy, but that’s not joy. You can be happy with a good school report, but that’s not joy. It can be fun playing a game on a laptop or IPad, but it’s not joy.’

The girls screwed up noses and ‘eewed’ when Grandad lifted some sheep poo and collected some fat worms to put in a tin he carried.  He led them across the paddock to the nearby river where there was a deep pool and pointed through the clear water to the huge, fat eel he knew would be wallowing there. It looked dark and dangerous, even foreboding.

He tossed in a worm and the eel swam lazily to collect it and with a swish it body, it return to its lair. The girls eeked at the awesomeness of it!

He gave them each some worms and they thrilled at feeding the eel, quickly catching on to the delight. Eyes sparkling and grinning widely, they hunted for more worms, not minding the sheep poo anymore. As they searched Grandad alerted them to the song of the double crested numbnut.

‘There you go Little’uns, you experienced joy there.’ Grandad smiled. ‘The double crested numbnut has heard you and will lay a joyful egg. But,’ he added seriously, ‘something’s changed. A dark and evil thing has affected the sensitivity of the bird! You’ve heard of bullying eh?’

First Little’un knew all about bullying from school but second was a bit young yet, so Grandad told her in the kindest way he could that basically bullies are numbskulls, thick-ohs or numbnuts.

‘Numbnuts use text messages and internet places to bully others,’ explained Grandad, ‘digital numbnuts I suppose you can call them!’

First Little’un liked that and laughed.

‘These sad numbnuts and their internet friends have actually caused trouble for our friendly, special bird.’ Continued Grandad. ’Their crests fall off when a kid is bullied and they can’t lay eggs any more. That is why they are becoming an endangered species!’

‘What’s endangered? Is it dangerous?’ second Little’un asked suspiciously.

‘Silly!’ remarked the other, hands on hips. ‘It means there are not many left in the world.’

‘Yup! That’s exactly right,’ Grandad smiled, ‘but you know I’m just telling you a story. Numbnuts are bad though because they make other kids, and sometimes even grown-ups feel really hurt and unhappy.’

The three threw sticks into the river and hiffed stones at them to see who was best shot – none of them hit, although each in turn claimed to have done so.

‘Grandad,’ Second Little’un observed, ‘your eyes are sparkling and you are grinning!’

‘Of course, I’m with you two and we’re having a ball, experiencing joy.’ Grandad replied.

The girls listened for the birdcall and sure enough it came; close by too!

As they climbed the hill back to the house, Grandad explained to the girls about the wisdom of not calling people names, even numbnuts! Actually, especially not numbnuts and he solicited a promise from each of them that they would not. His advice was to take the power away from bullies by telling on them, exposing them. If they get away with bullying, they won’t stop and somebody always gets hurt. Learn how to outwit them.

Grandad judged the time was right so he took them to his special place in the garden where he grew a few swan plants. He had been watching the progress of some pupae, butterfly chrysalises. Perhaps a dozen monarch butterflies had spontaneously emerged and were pumping up their wings in preparation to flying off.

The three allowed several butterflies to sit on their fingers until  a flap of their orange and black wings took them off into the blue sky.

Their eyes sparkled and their grins widened, the feeling went to their hearts and they heard the birds rejoice.

 


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