A children's book for grown-ups by Jon Evans

October 11, 2007

82. Birds in the Wind

"It's very strange," Daffa the pigeon said, as he drifted down and landed on the ground before Patch. "I remember exactly where I met you before, both times, and it was very far away. I don't think I've ever known any animal that wasn't a bird to travel so far. Do you remember me? Was it a long time ago? I'm not good with time."

He waited anxiously.

"Not so long ago," Patch said slowly, "not so long."

Daffa winced, deflated. "Then you don't know where my home is?"

"I'm sorry."

"Oh well. It has to be somewhere. It can't just have disappeared." The pigeon sighed and made ready to fly away.

"Wait!" Patch said. "Wait, Daffa, the three of us, we're all from the Center Kingdom, and we don't know how to get home."

The bird hesitated. "I suppose you can't just fly."

"No. We can't. But maybe, I was thinking, if I told you where the nest of my friend Toro was, he's a bluejay, maybe you could bring him to us, and he could help us get home?"

"I'm not very good with messages."

Patch thought a moment. "You wouldn't have to bring him a message. Just tell him my name, and bring him back here. You could do that, right?"

"Oh, of course. I know exactly anywhere I've been. Exactly. But it's a long way to the Center Kingdom..."

"Do you have anywhere else to be going?" Patch asked gently.

Daffa sighed. "No. Not until I find my home."

"Then..."

"Oh, all right. What was your name again?"

"My name is Patch." He left out the rest of his usual introduction; no sense taxing Daffa's mind unnecessarily. "Do you know the place in the Center Kingdom where the human-carved animals go round and round, while their music plays?"

"I know the place."

"Toro's nest is on top of that building. He's a bluejay. Just tell him my name and bring him here."

"And your name is Pitch," Daffa said doubtfully.

"Patch! Listen, Daffa. This is so important. We'll never get home without help. Keep saying my name the whole way there. Patch, Patch, Patch."

"Patch, Patch, Patch," Daffa repeated. "All right. I'll try. I'll try to be back soon. Patch, Patch, Patch, Patch, Patch!"

The pigeon rose chanting into the sky and soared southwards. Patch waited hopefully. With Toro's help, scouting the territory, watching them from above, they would have a much better chance of making it through the mountains and back to the Center Kingdom.

"Do you want to stay here in the Endless Empire?" Silver asked White, for the second time. Patch twitched; he had forgotten the exchange that Daffa had interrupted.

This time nothing prevented White from answering. But it took her a long and awkward time before she finally answered, in a low voice, while staring at the ground, "I don't want to go back to the squirrels of the Center Kingdom. But I want to go wherever your son goes."

It took Patch a moment to realize 'your son' meant him.

Silver looked at Patch and said, almost accusingly, "What do you think of this?"

He blinked. "I think it's stupid the way all the other squirrels treat her. I think she's the bravest, smartest squirrel I know. She went into the Kingdom Beneath to help save your life, and she didn't even know you."

"Yes," Silver said, "but what do you think of her?"

Patch didn't understand the question. "She's my friend."

In the long silence that followed White muttered something under her breath and turned away from him. Patch looked at her, bewildered, and said, "What's wrong?"

"I can't believe you even have to ask!" White sniffled.

"She doesn't only want to be your friend," Silver said softly. "She wants to be your mate. And I agree with you, Patch, it doesn't matter that she's albino. She's a hero. I can think of no better mate for my son. But if it is not what you want -"

"My mate? But - but it's not even chasing season!"

"There's more to sharing a drey than just chasing," Silver said dryly.

"Oh. Well." Patch hesitated. He had always liked being alone. But he didn't want White to go away. He thought he would miss her if she did. "Okay then. We can share a drey when we get back, if she likes."

White turned and stared at him, her eyes alight.

"Other squirrels might say terrible things about you living with an albino," Silver warned.

Patch shrugged carelessly. "I don't care what other squirrels say."

And that was that. White walked slowly over to lie very close to Patch's side as they waited. Silver sat a little distance from them. It occurred to Patch as he looked over to White that she was now, technically, his mate. It seemed odd that the word applied to him, when he had always chosen to live alone until now. But the thought of sharing his drey with White made him feel happy. He lay quietly beside her for a long time.

"Patch!" a voice cried out in Bird.

It was quickly followed by a second voice. "I told you I knew where he was. You see, I knew exactly!"

Daffa and Toro landed on the dirt path before Patch, Silver, and White.

"Patch, I can't believe it!" his bluejay friend exclaimed. "I heard you went into the Kingdom Beneath. I thought you must be dead!"

Patch smiled. "Almost. Many times." His smile faded. "You can see my tail. But I'm alive. We need to get home, back to the Center Kingdom. Can you help us?"

Toro hesitated. "I don't think you want to do that."

"What? Why not?"

"Bad things are happening in the Center Kingdom right now, Patch. Terrible things, worse than the rats, worse than you can imagine. I think it's best to stay away. I don't know if there'll be any Kingdom for you to go back to."

5 Comments:

Anonymous Karenza said...

You know, there's something rather Woodsie about that squirrel with his Albanian er, Albino squirlfriend...

October 11, 2007 at 8:13 PM  
Anonymous Rakie said...

oh patch, you daft squirrel you. *sigh* that's adorable that males are so similar, even if they're not the same species. :D Oh but BLESS, that is the cutest thing in the world. i want them to live happily ever after and have dozens of albino babies. *squeeze*

i was really happy until the last paragraph, grr! what's going on back there?? i wanna know! also want to know if patch is going to go back - he's rescued silver now, so is there any tangible reason for him to go back? gah, further intrigue. :D

October 12, 2007 at 2:42 AM  
Anonymous briangc said...

Man, I really wince every time poor Patch's tail is mentioned.

P.S. "Pitch" was hilarious.

October 12, 2007 at 7:46 AM  
Blogger perlhaqr said...

"Worse than you can imagine" is pretty bold language to be using on old Patch these days. I bet he can imagine some pretty rough stuff.

October 12, 2007 at 9:11 AM  
Blogger Phayona said...

I want this story to be made into a movie...

November 3, 2009 at 4:23 PM  

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Jon Evans is the award-winning author of the thrillers Invisible Armies, Dark Places (aka Trail of the Dead), and The Blood Price. See his web site rezendi.com.

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