All Puffed Up

Icy Birdhouse
Flash Fiction By: Christina Banks

Carl Cardinal finished preening and took a final look at his reflection in the window. Every feather was in place – his beak shined to a high gloss. He was, by far, the most handsome bird in the subdivision. Hadn’t he been told so many times?

Alighting from the bush, Carl fluttered across the yard, and into the woods beyond. Skillfully, dodging tree limbs and falling snow, he navigated his path. As he neared his destination, he gave his call. The sound was still echoing through the trees when he heard the reply. He changed his course, angling down and to the right. Carl chirped again. He had the most beautiful voice in the city. Hadn’t he been told so many times?

Carla stood on a thin vine nestled in the thicket. Her muted red plumage, puffed up to protect her slim body from the cold air, blended in with her surroundings. Carl glided toward her and gracefully landed on her perch. He was the most graceful bird in the township. Hadn’t he been told so many times?

“I have found the perfect place for us,” he announced. “There’s a well stocked feeder, a bath and several houses to choose from – all of them empty. It’s prime real estate. We want to stake our claim before the spring rush. Carla, you’ll love the landscaping. Come, let me show you.”

“You’re the most wonderful bird in the whole county.”

Carl stood a little taller and puffed out his chest. “Let me take you to paradise.”

He guided her through the trees then settled on the top of the wooden fence surrounding the property. Carla gazed about her, and shifted nervously.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” Carl asked.

“My mother warned me about this yard. No one in their right mind feeds here,” she lowered her voice to a whisper. “There’s a cat.”

“I saw the beast,” Carl proclaimed, “shut inside with a bell on its collar. We have nothing to worry about, my dear. I would never let anything happen to you.” After all, he was the bravest bird in the state. Hadn’t he been told so many times?

“I’m too afraid to go in there.” Carla flew to the top of a white pine just outside of the yard. Carl followed her.

“You stay here, and watch. I’ll show you that there is nothing to worry about.”

Carl swooped down and landed gracefully on the edge of the feeder. He fluffed out his feathers to ward out the chill and pecked hungrily at the seeds. In the window sat the cat, its tail swishing back and forth, its eyes watching his every move. Carl just puffed out his feathers more, and enjoyed the free meal before him. After all, he was the smartest bird in the whole country. Hadn’t he been told so many times?

Keeping one eye on the cat, Carl continued eating; eating from a feeder sure beat trying to forage for berries and seeds that were buried under mounds of snow. Yes, Carl had found himself paradise, if he could only convince Carla to come and join him. With her by his side, he was the happiest bird on the whole continent. Hadn’t he said so many times?

“Fly, Carl, fly!” the loud cry startled him, as did the streak of dull red that zoomed over his head, nearly hitting him. Carl looked behind just in time to see the creature pounce, claws extended. Jumping from the feeder into the air, he could feel his tail feathers pull from his sensitive rear end. With a cry of fear and pain Carl flew to the safety of the pines. He was breathing hard from his frantic flight.

“Are you alright?” Carla asked, her voice shaking.

“Yes, he only wounded my pride.” Carl said surveying the damage. His tail bore the proof of his folly. It would take time for the red feathers to grow back. “I’m sorry that I endangered you. I’m the most foolish bird in the world. I should be told so many times.”

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