By HE JUNHUA
WHEN I first got the bird, it must have only just been hatched. Its mother had disappeared, leaving it alone and shivering in the face of the north wind. I decided to take it straight back and build it a new home.
At that time we grew a great many flowers in our house. Next to one hanging orchid I hung another empty flowerpot and it was in this pot that the bird was to have its new home. When Dad got home he immediately discovered the new addition to our family. Without saying a word he turned around and left the house. After some time he returned and I saw that he had a handful of grass, lavender, and pine needles. Obviously, Dad thought the nest I had rather naively made was far too crude and so he had decided to rectify my clumsy efforts.
“A bird born at this time of year won’t survive the winter.” In spite of this damning verdict on the bird’s future, Dad very carefully fashioned the nest himself. I took no notice of what my father said and went off to the mountains with my sister to catch grasshoppers for the bird. I took the performance of this daily task much more seriously than my homework.
Soon I found “Nuo Nuo” (yes, he already had his own name – Dad had named him) had started to sprout feathers. They looked like such fine little hairs that you could only notice them if you looked really closely. I only discovered them because every day I would cup him in my hands and look at him.
Dad probably realized that he had been a little harsh in his verdict. You see, he had already started training Nuo Nuo to walk.
As you know, Nuo Nuo lived in a flowerpot filled with grass, lavender, and pine needles, not a cage or anything. When he had nothing else to do, he strolled around his little home. There were times when he was a bit naughty too and he jumped down onto our dining table. Perhaps I am reading too much into this – perhaps he simply fell down. He must have got a little cocky and thought he could balance right on the edge of the flowerpot.
It was evident that Nuo Nuo didn’t realize he was a bird. Did he perhaps think he was one of the family? To see the way he walked, swaggering along with his head up and his chest puffed out, he seemed so proud as to be almost conceited. But it is not enough for a bird to walk – it must fly as well. Dad soon began attempting to make him learn this new ability, but it was not an easy task. After all, nobody in our family had mastered the art of flying – we didn’t even have wings. How could we ask Nuo Nuo to do something that we had no means of doing ourselves?
The flying lessons went on regardless. Dad leapt off a chair, waving his arms as if his life depended on it, in an attempt to encourage Nuo Nuo to flap his wings. Rather incredibly, this stupid action of Dad’s did actually have an effect. Nuo Nuo, with much huffing and puffing, began to shake his wings and started to rise. Unfortunately he quickly plummeted and fell flat on his ass, which actually made us feel very dejected.
Everything is hard in the beginning, but seeing as we had already started, the fact that Nuo Nuo couldn’t fly was no reason not to continue trying. At first we tried inside and later graduated to the courtyard. Finally, Dad decided to show Nuo Nuo the big wide world outside. He whistled and led him about the streets.
Naturally, Nuo Nuo became a sort of celebrity. People had seen a bird in a cage before, but they had never seen one perched on a man’s shoulder. Some people were shocked, some filled with wonder, but all of them acknowledged that Nuo Nuo was a very unusual sort of bird. Nuo Nuo was completely oblivious to all of this, and looked faintly puzzled. We’re all the same, after all; he was just slightly smaller and shorter compared to them, that’s all (perhaps he had even not realized this point) – so what was all the fuss about?
Dad took Nuo Nuo to a little wood on North Mountain. It was here that Nuo Nuo saw his true likeness for the first time, but he was very shy – how can these animals look so much like me? Dad encouraged Nuo Nuo to join them. At first Nuonuo hesitated, but then he flew off, circled over them and finally flew over to them. To our immense surprise, Nuo Nuo quickly became quite at ease with them.
Dad whistled and Nuo Nuo immediately flew back. Dad gave Nuo Nuo an encouraging look, and, woosh, Nuo Nuo flew back again. It was clear that Nuo Nuo liked being with his own kind.
When we got home, Dad said, reluctantly: “Nuo Nuo cannot stay here for long.”
The next day, Dad didn’t take Nuo Nuo into the street, but instead took him back to the little wood. Without waiting for a sign from Dad, Nuo Nuo cheerfully went to mingle with his community.
After a long time I tried to whistle to remind Nuo Nuo that it was time to go home, but Dad gently stopped me. He held my hands and patted my shoulder. I am convinced that as we turned around and left for home, Nuo Nuo was perched in that grove of trees watching us. He just didn’t come after us until we had disappeared from view.
But how could we disappear from Nuo Nuo’s field of vision when Nuo Nuo flies above the clouds and his view is the entire world? Other people might think it rather strange that we can keep a bird without shutting it in a cage – but I don’t think it’s at all strange, because I know how a bird really should be.
HE JUNHUA started writing in 2008 and has published over 200 pieces of micro fiction. His collection is entitled Yu Dashi Yuehui (A Date with the Master).