Ralph Finds the Tree
A small gray bird fluttered to a landing on the upper branches of the Tree. It was a monkeypod tree, but the bird did not know that. All he knew was that it was a place to rest in the shade after more than an hour of flying.
The bird was a cockatiel. His feathers were gray and white, except for the feathers on his head and crest which were yellow, as if he had ducked his head into a bucket of paint. Finally, he had two orange patches on his cheeks, like he was always blushing.
The cockatiel’s name was Ralph. That was what his owners had called him back when he had owners. Presumably he still had owners, but he was not sure where they were now. His owners had always left the door of his cage open, just in case he ever wanted to get out and stretch his wings. He had hopped out this afternoon and was flying around between the rooms when suddenly he was through an open window and then there were no walls around him.
Ralph had never been in a place without walls before. He had been born in a room and had lived his whole life in a cage, looking out at the world through the big windows in the living room where his cage sat. But now there were no windows and no walls.
He was thirsty. Normally he did not fly for more than a few minutes before climbing back into his cage to sip some water from his dish and eat a few seeds. Down the hill, Ralph saw a flash of lights as the sunshine reflected off a small pool of water. Ralph sighed a tiny cockatiel sigh and fluttered back into the air and flew down to the water.
The water was cool and felt wonderful on his dry throat. Ralph was a very small bird and only needed a few sips before he felt okay again. As he bent down, he saw another bird looking up at him from the water.
“Doppleganger!” Ralph chirped. “How nice to see you here.” Doppleganger was Ralph’s friend, the other bird that lived inside the mirror that hung in Ralph’s cage. It was always nice to have another bird to talk to or fight with, depending on his mood. The nice thing about Doppleganger was that he always went along with what Ralph wanted to do.
“I will try to get you back to your mirror, old bird,” Ralph said, “but I don’t think it will be today. The world out here is much bigger than I thought.” As always, Doppleganger agreed with him exactly.
After eating a few seeds he found on the ground, Ralph flew back up to the Tree. It would be dark soon and he needed somewhere to sleep. There was nothing that looked like a cage around, but the fresh air and smells of nature were making the instinct engines deep in his mind start to turn. He hopped around a bit, fluttering from branch to branch until he suddenly spotted something square among the branches. It was a room built in the branches of the tree but the walls were covered with streamers of ivy that hung off the bottom like long, unbrushed hair.
Ralph flew to the top of the old house and landed on the mass of ivy. After a few minutes of digging at it with his feet, he made a small nest big enough for him to settle down into. He had never had a nest before but it was a quiet place and at least here he would not be disturbed.
He was totally wrong about this last point, but still, it was probably the best place he could have ended up.