Three Wrens on the Rail

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Children Stories  |  House: Booksie Classic
Three wrens learn from their parents that we all have the same needs.

Submitted: June 25, 2017

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Submitted: June 24, 2017

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Three Wrens on the Rail
by Brian Kies
 
One hot summer morning three wrens busily searched for breakfast. Hopping along at a dizzying pace, they scoured the ground for beetles, caterpillars — even spiders — but with no luck. From the sidewalk edge to the yellow grass to the soft black dirt beneath the hedge, this hunger-driven determination affected another need: Thirst! Grumpkin, the oldest and usually grumpy, stopped his hop.
 
"I'm burnin' up," he complained, flapping his feathers. "Let's go cool down."
 
"I agree," said his sister, Plumpkin, the plumpest of three.
 
Bumpkin, who had a bump on his beak, always went along with his older siblings.
 
The three wrens flew up to the stairwell's third-story rail. The strongest breezes funneled through the apartment building there, but only helped in the mornings. By noon, the winds were as warm as the day and did them no good. One by one, they each touched down on the rail. Other than being grumpy, plump, and having a bump on the beak, the wrens looked the same: a head and body which appeared as one; that is, no neck to speak of; dark roundish eyes, a pale yellow breast under cinnamon brown wings, and a long tail that often pointed up.
 
"Why'd you land so close," Grumpkin complained to his sister.
 
"I can't help being plump!"
 
Bumpkin looked at his bump and ignored their argument.
 
The third-story rail also provided a good view of Mrs. Anz's birdbath. It stood near the hedge along her porch in the shade of a light-pink myrtle tree. Mrs. Anz, a kind elderly woman, enjoyed watching the birds from her porch and hearing their rolling songs throughout the day. Over the summer, she would pour cold water into the gray stone bowl each morning. “How'd you like to quench your thirst with warm water?” she'd ask the neighbors.
 
The vantage point was important to the wrens; they preferred to drink and bathe alone. If the birdbath was unoccupied, they dove straight down and after little feet met cool water: wings splashed, bills dipped, heads flung back, and life returned. If occupied, they waited. Unless the wrens were too thirsty. Then they dove down straightaway. Grumpkin looked below and saw Danny the Dove. This was the one exception to diving down straightaway. They never dove down when Danny was at the birdbath. All the other birds enjoyed the wren's company, but not the Dove. He was bossy and selfish and would peck at their wings. And he was by far the biggest bird in the neighborhood. They waited on the rail.
 
Out of the blue, a baby bluebird landed next to Grumpkin. The three wrens froze. Abluebird was not supposed to land on their rail? Maybe the occasional sparrow or redbird, but never a bluebird.
 
Grumpkin whispered to Plumpkin, "The nerve of him, who does he think he is resting on our rail?"
 
"He's an inch from you Grumpkin and he's blue!" said his sister.
 
Then something very unusual happened. The baby bird turned and said, "Good morning, my name is Bluekin. What are your names?"
 
The wrens inched away from him and flew off to find their parents.
 
This attitude toward bluebirds mainly came from Henry the Hummingbird. Despite his diminutive size, Henry carried a lot of weight in the neighborhood. No other bird could speak to you while flying stationary. It had positioned him high in the pecking order. And what did Henry think of bluebirds: no place in the pecking order. How he came to this conclusion no one knew, but most suspected his parents. He certainly did not learn it from the wren's parents. Momkin and Popkin had taught their children to treat everyone the same. However, the parents were not aware of Henry's influence on them. They were about to find out.
Momkin and Popkin still spent time in the large oak where the children had been born. In fact, the three wrens found them resting above the woodpecker hole that housed their nest. Seeing her babies ruffled, the mother asked, "What's wrong, children?"
 
"We were on our rail and a bluebird landed next to me," said Grumpkin.
 
"Our rail?" questioned Momkin.
 
“You know, the third-story rail where the breeze is so strong.” said Plumpkin.
 
“Well, I suppose this bird needed cooling down, too.” 
 
"Did you not hear?" said Bumpkin, "the bird is blue!"
 
She gave Bumpkin a puzzled look and asked, "So what did this bluebird do?"
 
"He asked us for our names," said Plumpkin.
 
"And did you tell him your names?"
 
The children said nothing. Hearing their silence, Popkin had heard enough.
 
"Who made you think there is something wrong with being blue?" he asked.
 
"Henry, for one," said Bumpkin.
 
"Henry, the Hummingbird?" questioned the father.
 
"Yes," said Bumpkin. “He says they're beneath us.”
 
“With no place in the pecking order,” added his sister.
 
Popkin looked troubled. He wondered why the children would listen to Henry instead of their parents. "You know, he flies backwards," said the father. After a moment of silence he asked Grumpkin, "How many wings does the bluebird have?"
 
"Two."
 
"I see. How many wings do you have?"
 
"Two."
 
"Interesting. How many beaks does the bluebird have?"
 
"One."
 
"I see. How many beaks do you have?"
 
"Popkin, you know I have only one beak."
 
And with that the children flew away shaking their heads, not understanding their parents. When they returned to the third story rail, the intruder was gone. Plumpkin somehow turned plumper before stating, "I guess we taught him a lesson." But when they looked below their eyes opened wide as overcoat buttons. Bluekin was in the middle of the birdbath splashing his wings, dipping his bill, flinging his head back, and returning to life. Grumpkin fluttered his wings in anger. He could not believe what he thought to do next. "I'll be back in a while," he said, flying away.
 
Searching the trees left and right, Grumpkin wondered how he could possibly ask him for help. A minute later, he landed in a willow next to Danny.
 
"What do you want?"
 
"A favor," replied Grumpkin.
 
"What sort of favor?"
 
"A bluebird turned up in the neighborhood. Not only did he land on our rail, he's now in our birdbath. Would you teach him a lesson?"
 
Danny did not exactly share the Hummingbird's sentiments, but he enjoyed being mean to anyone. Squinting his eyes and looking across the grounds, he could barely make out the little bird.
 
"Love to," he answered.
 
Grumpkin added, "Do not hurt him—just make him understand he is not welcome around here."
 
Danny flew away and Grumpkin pictured the big bird pecking Bluekin until he flew away, never to return. Instead, the Dove increased his speed, took dead aim for the unsuspecting creature, and rammed straight into him. Bluekin hurtled through the air in circles until slamming hard into the ground. Grumpkin immediately flew over and landed by the injured bird laying on his side, motionless, a trace of blood on his blue breast. His eyes were open and stared straight ahead. He looked confused. “This was not supposed to happen,” Grumpkin whispered to him. It appeared as if Bluekin could not see or hear Grumpkin. He could do both. Grumpkin flew up to his brother and sister on the rail.
 
As he explained what had happened, Bumpkin looked below. "You have a bigger problem than that!" Grumpkin surveyed the area around the birdbath and his heart began to race. Crouched low to the ground no more than twenty feet from Bluekin was Lee, the old gray cat. He slunk across the grass, stopped, then waited like a statue. He repeated these movements until he was ten feet away. Grumpkin's heart raced even faster. He wanted to do something, but they were no match for the cunning gray cat. They'd seen him bolt out from under the hedge to capture alert, healthy birds; an injured one on the ground was a piece of cake. At five feet away, Grumpkin closed his eyes; he could not bear to watch the helpless bluebird anymore. Unfortunately, Bluekin's eyes were aimed the direction of the cat and he witnessed each slinky move toward him. Lee leapt through the air — a ferocious jump of four feet — and landed beside the injured bird. Then he scampered off. Mrs. Anz leaned over and picked up Bluekin. She cupped the little bird in her hands and carried him inside.
 
"Open your eyes," said Plumpkin. "Mrs. Anz came to the rescue."
 
Grumpkin sighed. After steadying himself he said, "That bluebird does not belong on our rail, nor in our birdbath, but I certainly did not want the cat to kill him."
 
The three wrens returned to their parents and told them everything that had happened. Grumpkin, in particular, expressed his disappointment. He had only wanted Danny to scare off Bluekin — not to injure him. Raising his voice Popkin said, "Enough is enough!" He continued in a calmer voice. "You say you feel disappointed, Grumpkin.”  
 
“Yes, Popkin.”“Where do you feel disappointed?"
 
"In my heart."
 
"How many hearts do you have?"
 
"One."
 
"I see. How many hearts does the bluebird have?"
 
"One."
 
"Interesting. How many minds does the bluebird have?"
 
"One," replied Grumpkin.
 
"I see. How many minds do you have?"
 
"Popkin, you know I have only one mind."
 
"Then start using it before it's too late. Is it that hard to see we are all more or less the same? Do you understand?”
 
"Yes, Popkin."
 
"Good," said the father.
 
The mother asked Plumpkin and Bumpkin if they understood as well.
 
"Yes, Momkin," they answered.
 
As the days passed, the wrens watched from the rail to see if Bluekin had recovered. One morning Mrs. Anz came out but only read the paper and drank her coffee. That afternoon she walked out again, but only fed her dog. Grumpkin began to worry that Bluekin had not survived, that maybe Mrs. Anz buried him in the woods behind the apartments. He recalled seeing her there on the day of the injury. He could only hope she had been enjoying a walk through the woods.
 
One evening, Henry buzzed by. Flying in front of them he asked, “What do you care if that bluebird survives or not?
“Go away, Henry,” said Grumpkin, “and don't come around us no more!”
Henry flew away as if stung by a hornet. He realized someone had altered his influence over them.
 
More days went by with the wrens watching from the rail. One morning Mrs. Anz came out with her hands cupped together, and Grumpkin's heart skipped a beat. When she scattered birdseed across the ground, his face turned sad. It was the only time Grumpkin felt sad about birdseed on the ground. That next afternoon she walked out with her hands cupped together again. This time when she opened them, the baby bluebird flew up and landed on the rail.
 
"Well?" said Bluekin.
 
"We're sorry you were injured," said Plumpkin.
 
"We did not intend for that to happen," added Bumpkin.
 
Then Grumpkin said, "And we are sorry if we hurt your feelings."
 
But Bluekin repeated, "Well?"
 
“What do you mean, Well?” asked Grumpkin.
 
"Well, what are your names?" and the four birds laughed together.
 
It was a muggy, overcast day and everyone was thirsty. One by one, the wrens and the bluebird landed in the birdbath. They did not have to worry about Danny; he had not been seen for days. A small opening formed in the clouds and as a single ray of light shone upon them, the birds quenched their thirst.
 
 
 
 


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