As the sun stroked the countryside in farewell, the moon arose in the sky to play along the landscape. The summer heat still hung heavy in the air even though the sun had now long departed the sky; fireflies danced and sparked in the clear night sky, reminiscent of fairies dancing gracefully, a reinvented waltz. No breeze moved through the trees and yet leaves rustled. From a bough of an enormous oak tree, above a dell, leaves jerked and quivered furiously, a green hula skirt twisting violently to some drum beat rhythm. Through the shades of green were glimpses of white and brown. A yip from the edge of the dell, then into the clearing rolled two fox cubs. Twisting and turning, snarling and nipping they continued bouncing over rocks until they both came to a crashing halt against a log.
Far above on the bough where the leaves had shaken their hula dance, now peered two small golden eyes watching the antics below. Spellbound. Once more the leaves shook. Then they again stilled. There was a loud ‘Harrumph’, a muttering of ‘walk before you run indeed’. The eyes closed, reopened and looked up towards the sky, very much as we humans do when asking for heavenly assistance. A deep breath, then some more shaking of the leaves and suddenly out catapulted along the branch a small fluffy creature. It’s momentum came to a complete and sudden end with its head laying upon the bough, with what one would assume, its backside up in the air against the trunk of the great tree. The thing, for one could really not be sure exactly what it was in this position, lay there muttering with its eyes closed.
The cubs gambolling below both looked up, startled at the sudden disruption above them. All that they could see from their position was what looked like a funny pair of mustard yellow detached feet floating up against the trunk of the great oak tree that sheltered the dell.
“What is that?” the cub with amber eyes muttered to his brother.
“Looks to me like some bird exploded and left behind his feet.”
“Don’t be silly, a bird wouldn’t leave behind his feet.”
“Well then how do you explain those feet stuck to the side of the Great Oak?” He sat down in front of his brother ready to argue his point.
“Easy,” he said, ”the bird hasn’t left his feet behind. He’s crash landed and is stuck most of the way in the Great Oak’s trunk.” Smug at what he was sure was the only real explanation for what, from their position was only a pair of feet.
Up above them came a groan and they immediately stopped their heated argument on the possibilities of birds leaving their feet behind, or taking off so quickly as to embed themselves into trunks. Peering through the filtered moonbeams they listened carefully. It came again, a groan but now followed by a mumbling.
“See, I told you it hadn’t left its feet behind fuzz butt!”
“Shut up, it could have happened.”
“Would you two both shut up please?” Came a new voice, one full of annoyance. The two cubs quickly looked back at the tree bough and saw what they had missed before, or more what the bough had previously been hiding from them. A snowy face with golden eyes looked over the edge of the bough, straight at the cubs. The one with amber eyes nudged his sibling.
“Ah, who are you?”
“Athena” replied the bird.
“Oh. My name’s Dash and this is my brother Ash,” the amber-eyed fox said politely. “Would you like to come down and play with us?”
“I don’t know how to get all the way down there.”
“But you’ve got wings ain’t yer?” asked Ash.
“Yes, but I’ve never tried them before. Mother keeps saying I’m too young, although to be quite honest I just think that she has issues with me trying to the leave the nest. Because you know what mothers are – “
“Whoa, wait a minute! Boy you sure can talk fast.” Dash jumped in when both he and Ash were starting to go cross-eyed trying to keep up with all that Athena was saying.
“Sorry,” she said sheepishly. “I tend to get a bit excited and ramble on quickly.”
“Well, why don’t you give it a try. Your mum’s not home to tell you off if you give it a go, and anyway you can always get back there if you hear her coming.”
Ash nodded, “we’ll keep an eye out for her for you so you don’t get into trouble and if that fails, don’t worry, me and Dash we’re egg spurts at stories to get out of trouble.
“That’s experts numbskull.”
“Whatever dogs breath.”
“Halloo, owl up here about to disobey parent and possibly be grounded forever here.” Athena jumped in as the brothers prepared to go through what was more than likely a familiar routine.
“Right, sorry Athena. Are you ready to give it a go?”
“Okay, although to be honest it was hard enough to break through the leaf cage mum had built around the nest. Now let’s see…wings, yep two of them, and in fair working order.” Athena bent and stretched her legs, flapped her wings. “On the count of three.”
“Um, Athena, you’re meant to jump now.” Ash piped in helpfully as Athena took deep breath after deep breath.
“You can do it Athena, just flap those wings and jump,” Dash assured her with a foxy grin.
Athena jumped, flapped her wings furiously and realised very quickly that something was wrong. She plummeted, at least it felt that way to her, and came to her second abrupt halt for the evening, this time opening her eyes to three sets of eyes peering into hers. Two were the fox cubs, and the third was very familiar to her, her mother’s.
“Uh, hi Mum.” Boy was she in trouble this time.
“Athena, thank goodness you’re alright. Why on earth would you try to jump out of the tree?”
“I was trying to fly Mum.”
“Wrong answer, “came the muttered response from Dash.
“Athena there’s a very good reason you’ve been forbidden to fly.”
“But Mum, I want to fly and I know I can do it.”
“Athena, it’s not because you’re not, well, I suppose capable is not the right word to use here, it’s not because of your determination, it’s because darling you haven’t grown your feathers yet!”
After a sudden silence at Athena’s mother’s revelation, Dash, Ash and Athena looked at each and burst out laughing. Then Ash and Dash proceeded to explain how they’d though Athena was really some bird who had had a funny take off and ended up head first embedded in the tree. Athena’s mother laughed then went off to hunt after the cubs and Athena promising to stay and play within the dell.