This story is by Lorraine Liston and was part of our 2023 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Andrew wasn’t sure what woke him but when he thought about it, it wasn’t something he’d ever heard before. With a heavy sigh he threw off his doona and padded across to the window and pulled up the blind.
He couldn’t quite believe what he saw as he looked through the glass. Hundreds of pure white birds were sauntering happily through his aunt’s immaculate garden.
She would not be impressed and Andrew couldn’t believe his eyes!
He stood for a minute or two contemplating the scene only moving when he heard the sound of his uncle passing his room he grabbed his dressing gown and made his way into the kitchen beyond.
“Good morning Andrew,” his uncle Gerald exclaimed in a cheery voice as Andrew joined him. “Did the birds wake you?”
“They did,” Andrew replied moving to the sliding glass door which lead to the veranda. “There has to be hundreds of them.”
“Looks that way,” Gerald agreed filling the kettle and pugging it in as if it was an everyday occurrence.
“But where have they come from?” Andrew wanted to know sitting on the couch by the door and staring dumbfounded as the birds patrolled every inch of the space.
“Now that’s a mystery,” Gerald replied joining Andrew at the door. “But according to local legend it’s a wonderful sign of prosperity for us all.” Andrew looked dubious at this announcement. He couldn’t see how hundreds of noisy, crapping birds could be good for anything.
Gerald watched his nephews face and he could understand how he must feel but he didn’t live in Graytown, so it was hard for outsiders to comprehend such a phenomenon. It had to be but he wasn’t sure how to explain it.
“Do they come here often then?” Andrew asked as the kettle began to whistle and Gerald prepared to make them a pot of tea.
“Not as often as they did apparently. Your aunt and I have only lived here for ten years and this is the second time they’ve come in our time.”
“So what happened the first time you saw them?” Andrew asked moving away from the window and sitting at the table where Gerald was pouring the tea into two mugs.
“Let me see,” Gerald began as he picked up his cup. “I think we’d been here for about eighteen months at the time. Mavis was intrigued by their arrival I recall. Of course she hadn’t spent hours in the garden by then and she hadn’t been too upset about what the birds did to the garden. As you can see they have already made their mark on the vegie plot.” Andrew had noticed the rows of beans and lettuce were no more.
“But what happened to you all to think they are a good thing to happen?” Andrew sipped at his tea as he waited for his uncle to reply.
“Well at the time there had been problems in the town. The water supply had been contaminated for months and we’d been buying water or visiting folk who had tanks because for some reason tanks were not contaminated. Then the birds arrived like this morning and when they left twenty-four hours later the town dam was positively sparkling with clean drinkable water again. Everyone was delighted.”
“I’m sure they would’ve been,” Andrew commented. “But everything looks good here. No one seems unhappy. In fact, when I was wandering around the streets yesterday the people I met were in good form. Smiles all round.”
“We are a happy lot I must confess,” Gerald agreed with a smile. “I can’t imagine living anywhere else. Life is good and Mavis and I wouldn’t leave if you paid us.”
As he spoke there was a loud raucous noise from the garden which caused both men to jump from their chairs and hurry to the veranda.
“My goodness there are even more birds out there now,” Gerald said quietly. “I wonder why they have descended into my garden.” Andrew stared around him. You couldn’t see a single blade of grass or plant anywhere and there was an argument happening among the birds which was causing the noise to accelerate.
Two birds spotted the two men and flew onto the veranda beaks open and looking like they were ready to charge.
“Quick get inside,” Gerald said and Andrew didn’t need a second bidding. They managed to close the door before the birds could reach them and weren’t surprised to hear one of them clash its beak against the glass.
“That’s not good uncle,” Andrew said. “They seem to be gathered completely around your house. Are you sure there isn’t a reason for them here? Some problem you have created?”
Gerald who had gone white after their escape sat down and couldn’t pick up his mug as his hand was still shaking.
“I wish Mavis was here,” he said. “She’d know if there was something not right and the birds have come to fix it.”
Andrew wasn’t sure what to think. But he did see there was a problem and when the phone rang and his uncle hurried to answer it, he went for a walk through the house to check the rest of the yard.
As he opened the curtains in other parts of the house he could see the entire house was surrounded by a moving torrent of white quivering birds. He hadn’t quite decided what species they were but it didn’t matter because there had to be a reason for their presence and a way for them to be moved on.
“That was the mayor,” Gerald told Andrew when they were once more in the kitchen. Andrew lifted up an eyebrow as he waited for his uncle to expand.
“He said we’re not to panic.”
“And why would be tell you that when your whole house is surrounded?”
Gerald smiled. “Well my boy, he told me Mavis and I are going to be the sole winners of this invasion.”
“How so?” Andrew thought perhaps his uncle was delusional. Surely nothing good could possibly come of the bird’s visit.
“When the birds have come in the past as I’ve told you they bring goodness and happiness. And they’ve been coming here for so many years no one can remember when they first came. But nothing bad, and I repeat nothing bad has ever happened to anyone, ever! So you can stop looking like the world is about to end and help me make us some breakfast and then we can go and collect Mavis from the station in about an hour.”
Andrew did as he was told. They had bacon and eggs and he tried to ignore the noise going on outside the door. Somehow Gerald got the car out of the garage without killing a single bird. The train came in on time and Mavis was welcomed home with the news of hundreds of huge white bird destroying her garden. Andrew was surprised how well she reacted to this information.
Back at the house the birds stayed for the entire day. The three humans stayed indoors until as the sunset there was a huge exodus and life, except for the destroyed garden, went back to normal.
Two days later Andrew returned to the city and tried not to think about what he’d seen. He didn’t tell anyone because he didn’t think anyone would’ve believed him. He went back to his studies at the university and was surprised when two months later he received a letter from his uncle.
Mavis and I hope that you are well and have quite recovered from your visit with us. As I told you we were the sole recipient of the bird’s visit and I am delighted to now inform you that Mavis and I are to be parents at long last. We were told that this would never happen to us but after a visit to our local doctor, he confirmed what Mavis had begun to suspect. It is a miracle and we can only believe it was because the birds chose us to visit and now all of our dreams have come true.
We both hope that you will find time from your studies to visit us again and become acquainted with your new cousin who I might add is due just before Christmas. What an amazing present for us.
Your uncle Gerald
Andrew sat down with his letter and smiled broadly. It was obvious his aunt and uncle believed in the visit of the birds and their role as bringer of amazing joy to them both. He supposed it didn’t hurt to believe in a legend if it made you happy and it was obvious how incredibly happy they were. He would write tonight and congratulate them and tell them he would be there for Christmas. He wouldn’t miss it for the world although he’d prefer it if the birds had somewhere else they needed to be.