A Lesson From the Blue Jays
By Fariya Kabir & Cailey Rizzo
Fernando is walking down the street one day when he thinks he hears two birds talking to him…
One day, Fernando was walking down the street when he thought he heard the birds talking to him. It surprised him and so he looked around to figure out if someone else was there. But the sidewalks were completely empty except for him and two blue jays sitting on a telephone wire above him. He somehow got control of himself and said, “hello,” back to the blue jays. “Why are you out walking alone?” one blue jay asked Fernando.
“Because all my friends were busy and I don’t really have many of them,” Fernando said, with a smile.
“That’s alright; blue jays normally travel alone, too,” the second bird told Fernando. “It’s rare to see two of us together like this.”
“Um, then why are you two together? Are you guys best friends?” asked Fernando.
“I don’t know, Charlie. Are we best friends?” One of the blue jays laughed at the other. “Not at all, Cherry, I hate you. I was only with you ‘cause you are so funny like a clown.”
“I know; I have a great sense of humor, right?” Cherry laughed back.
Fernando was confused and was beginning to feel a bit glad that he was alone.
“What are you thinking about?” Charlie suddenly asked Fernando.
“I am thinking about how weird it is to be talking to two birds,” Fernando said.
“Hahaha, you are not wrong though. We have different ways of communicating. But I like how you humans talk. It’s kind of interesting,” replied Charlie.
“And a little funny, too,” added Cherry.
“It’s not funny; it’s normal!” Fernando said. “What’s funny is how birds talk. All you do all day long is whistle and sing to each other.”
“Excuse me! What do you mean that our language is funny? It’s the nicest of all. We understand each other so well. But look at you humans. Even though you have such specific words to say what you mean, you still get in arguments with each other. We birds never do that. We are the nicest,” Cherry replied with a touch of pride in her voice.
“That sounds so wonderful. I wish I could experience what it’s like to talk like a bird,” Fernando said.
“Are you sure?” asked Charlie. “If you’re sure, we might be able to help you with that.”
Fernando began to feel a bit frightened. What was he getting himself into? What was about to happen to him? He was kind of scared but decided to take a chance and said, “Yes, I am sure but…how are you going to make it work? What would you do to me?”
“Kid, you don’t want to know the answer to that question,” Cherry laughed. “We’re on a strict need-to-know basis. Just tell us: do you want to talk like a bird or not?”
Cherry’s statement made Fernando more scared. He started rethinking what to do but finally spoke up. “Okay, I am sure, but just tell me one thing. If I start talking like a bird, then I will be able to come back in a human tone when I want to, right?”
“You’ll find that out soon enough!” Charlie said, which didn’t make Fernando feel any better, but it was too late to object. “Okay, Cherry, you heard him. Let’s make this happen!”
“Yes, boy. Let’s go. Close your eyes. I am sure you won’t want to know what will be happening now!” said Cherry in a more mysterious tone.
Fernando clinched his eyes closed and heard the birds start to fly. He felt gusts of wind swirling around him like a tornado. The wind kept swirling faster and faster and the birds kept whistling. And that was all Fernando remembered.
Fernando opened up his eyes and found himself in the exact same place, but the two birds were missing. He couldn’t remember anything that Charlie and Cherry had done to him.
He felt so dizzy and baffled and didn’t know what to do, so he just decided to make his way to his home. On his way, he saw Oscar, one of his really close friends.
“Oscar! Oscar!” Fernando called out to get his friend’s attention. But Oscar didn’t turn or answer. He just kept walking.
Fernando was really surprised. Oscar never behaved like that with him, so he ran to Oscar and touched his shoulder. Oscar turned back instantly.
“What a weird little bird!” Oscar cried. “Shoo! Shoo!” He pushed Fernando away and kept walking.
Fernando was really surprised by Oscar’s words. What did he mean by “LITTLE BIRD?”
“Oscar, what are you talking about?” asked Fernando.
At that moment, Oscar stopped in front of their friend Caroline’s house and called out to her. Caroline walked out her front door and Fernando was excited to see her. Surely she would be able to resolve whatever was wrong with Oscar.
“OH MY GOD!!!!! What a pretty blue jay…” yelled Caroline just after she came out from her house and saw Fernando. “By the way, hey, Oscar. It’s great to see you. ‘Sup?”
Fernando looked around. Maybe Charlie or Cherry had followed him down the street. But neither of the two blue jays were to be seen.
“Blue Jay? Where? I can’t see any! By the way, that’s rude Caroline. You didn’t even say hello to me.” said Fernando.
“Awww, see Oscar. That little bird is whistling.” Caroline replied, almost as if she was replying to Fernando’s words.
“Oh, him? He’s been following me down the street this whole way. I can’t get him to go away,” Oscar said. “He’s starting to get a bit annoying, actually.”
“Oh my goodness, guys, it’s August ninth, not April Fool’s Day. Stop being so sarcastic.” Fernando replied angrily.
“Come on, Oscar. Don’t get mad with that sweet, little birdy.” said Caroline. “Well, hello there, Mr. Blue Jay. I am Caroline. May I know your name?”
Fernando finally understood what had happened to him. His anger turned to shock as he looked down and saw that instead of legs and feet, he had tiny, little legs with claws—and he was floating a few feet above the ground!
“Damnnnnnnnn…I am not a human anymore! Those two birds deceived me! But what do I do now? How am I supposed to make Caroline and Oscar understand that I am Fernando, not Mr. Blue Jay or something…ugghhh!” Fernando yelled, mostly to himself.
He tried not to panic. Didn’t the birds say he would be able to return to his human voice whenever he wanted? He simply needed to find them and tell them that he had learned his lesson. He wasn’t quite sure what that lesson was, but he knew that the birds wanted him to learn something.
At exactly that time, like a wave of electronic shock, he saw a boy walking towards him that looked exactly like…himself!
“IS THAT MY TWIN!!!!!? Who is that!?”
“Oh hey, Fernando! How are you doing, bro?” asked Oscar as that boy came closer to them.
“Hello there, Fernando. Good to see you.” Caroline added.
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY FERNANDO???? I AM RIGHT HERE…THAT’S NOT ME…” Fernando yelled, but no one heard. The boy that looked like Fernando looked at him in a suspicious way and smiled.
“Hey guys, how’s it going?” Fake Fernando asked. “What’s up with that weird, little bird? Oscar, did you get a new pet or something?”
“Ugh, no dude. That bird just kept following me. I tried to send it away but Caroline didn’t let me,” replied Oscar.
“Well, hello there, What should I call you? Maybe something like Charlie??? What do you think?” Fake Fernando asked in a weird voice. Fernando instantly understood what had happened. They had swapped bodies.
“But that’s cheating! You guys are frauds.” Fernando yelled.
Fernando tried to remember what the birds had told him. He knew he had to figure out a way to break the spell. What had they said? Fernando remembered when Cherry told him that humans had millions of words and couldn’t understand each other, but birds could understand each other’s whistles perfectly. Maybe he just needed to find another bird, someone who would understand him. Fernando left the group and began flying down the street, looking for an animal who would understand him.
“Cherry!! What have you guys done to me” Fernando yelled when he found the second bird.
“Oh, you recognized me? Impressive,” replied Cherry.
“Of course, how could I forget you after what you guys did? And now tell me what’s going on. What is Charlie doing in my body?” Fernando asked.
“Well, you said you wanted to talk like a bird…” Cherry said.
“Yeah, but that didn’t mean I wanted to become one!”
“Now you see the problem with human language?” Cherry asked. “You have so many words, yet you can’t say exactly what you mean!”
“Yes, because now humans can only hear me whistling and not speaking!” replied Fernando.
“Exactly, you only understand each other when you want to or when the person in front of you is saying what you want to hear. We birds understand everyone and respect everyone’s opinion. I understood you when you were a human and I understand you still, even when you are a bird. But look at you humans. You have a pet and you behave like you understand them only when you’re in a good mood. When you’re in a bad mood, you don’t listen if they have something to say. Tell me the last time you tried to communicate with your cat, Billy, instead of pretending in front of your friends that you understand her when you actually don’t,” replied Cherry. She sounded frustrated and all her words came out in one breath.
Fernando listened to what Cherry was saying and knew that she was right. Animals like Billy always seemed to know how humans were feeling. But Fernando only ever paid attention to the animals when he felt like it.
“You’re right, Cherry,” Fernando said. “Words sometimes just get in the way. And communication is about more than just using the right words. I see that now. But please don’t tell me that I’ll be trapped as a bird for the rest of my life!”
“I am glad that you understood. Don’t worry, you won’t be trapped. You are a nice boy. And we birds aren’t like you humans. We don’t break our words. But you need to make a promise to us before we set you free.” Cherry said.
“What promise?” Fernando asked.
“You always have to treat Billy nicely. Treat all animals kindly. Close the ‘hunting trapping club’ that you run with your friends. Please don’t forget that what is fun to you can be death to someone else. Please don’t let your pleasure be someone’s tears. Every soul has its own language that doesn’t require words,” Cherry replied in a polite voice.
“Yes, of course, I promise. I’m sorry now that I ever was anything but absolutely kind to animals,” Fernando said with shame.
“Alright, now getting you back into your human body is going to be a bit tricky. Charlie has always wanted to see what it’s like to be human and he might not want to switch back—so we’ll have to surprise him. You remember how we flew around you to begin the switch?”
Of course Fernando did. He could never forget. He nodded.
“Well,” Cherry continued, “basically, we need to do that again. We need to find Charlie and fly around him until he’s dizzy and that’s how we’ll switch you back.”
“Um, nice plan, but you don’t need to do that anymore” Charlie’s voice surprised both Fernando and Cherry. “That’s true that I wanted to be a human but not anymore. I don’t want to live a selfish life like that.”
“Wait, but what made you say that they are selfish?” asked Cherry.
“Well, that’s a tale for another day; now let’s set the boy free,” Charlie said.
“Ready, Fernando? Let’s go!” Cherry cried. The two birds began flapping and flying around the boy’s body. Fernando felt the whoosh of wind as he flapped his wings and circled around and around and around…and then, everything went black.
Fernando found himself again at the same place and saw Caroline and Oscar.
“Oh, hey, guys!” waved Fernando to them.
“What are you still doing there? We told you that we’re going to the movies and you can’t come with us since you don’t have any money,” said Oscar in a rude voice. Caroline nodded.
Fernando finally understood what Charlie had meant by “humans are selfish.” And even though he had the money, he didn’t want to go with them to the movies.
“You guys go have fun,” Fernando said. “I’m going to go hang out with the birds and with Billy. And just to let you guys know, I am closing the hunting trapping club. Killing an innocent creature can’t be counted as fun.”
Oscar and Caroline were a little surprised to hear it.
“Um, what’s that new realization?” asked Caroline.
“You wouldn’t understand. It’s not in the capability of us humans. Some things don’t need words, only emotions and morals,” he replied.
Fernando turned away and walked away, whistling a song he hoped the birds would enjoy.
We wrote this piece as part of an “exquisite corpse” exercise and created the whole thing in Google Docs over the course of several meetings together. We went back and forth, one person writing one sentence, then the other continuing the story in the next sentence. The story quickly spun out of either of our control. We were equally excited to see where the characters would take us.
Fariya Kabir is a sophomore in high school. She is 15 years old, passionate about writing and loves children, animals, dancing and cooking. She hopes to be a pediatrician and work for orphans, the elderly and helpless people in the future. She lives every day with these words by Prajakta in mind: “With a smile for a smile and a heart for a heart Evolution of the new mankind will start No shapes, no sizes, no colors, no faiths, no wars, no judgments, no guns, no hate...”
Cailey Rizzo is a freelance journalist and novelist, based in Brooklyn. She earned an MA in creative nonfiction from the University of East Anglia.