Short Story: SOLOIST

SOLOIST by Joyce Martin Perz   August 2015

Hummingbird sashiko quilt block

Quilt Block from Sashiko Southwest

With a flash of green iridescent feathers, Hummingbird made her entrance into the desert garden. She circled the stalks of hesperaloe blossoms before soaring into the cloudless sky. For one dramatic moment she hovered, then began an adagio descent toward a clump of cactus covered in nectar-rich scarlet flowers.

Robin, who had been energetically splashing in the bird bath until she arrived, stopped and stared at Hummingbird. He was totally transfixed by her performance. “You fly so effortlessly,” he told her. “I cannot imagine that you would ever hop across the ground in the manner of robins.”

“Thank you for the compliment,” Hummingbird said in her brittle high-pitched voice. “But it is you, dear Robin, whose song welcomes the dawn and fills spring evenings with sweet music.”

She pirouetted mid-air and turned to drink from the coral blossoms of the hesperaloe.

“I too admire your grace and agility,” said Woodpecker from where he had been watching on a tree trunk.

“You are too kind sir,” Hummingbird told him. “Your flaming red crown is fit for a king and the black-and-white patterns on your feathers are truly elegant.”

She perched on a branch, joining her new friends in watching a large black bird glide over the garden on outstretched wings. The sleek bird settled on a nearby tree branch. In a raspy voice he asked Hummingbird if she would be willing to fly in a competition with him.

“Tiny dancer,” Raven said, “would you take to the air with me and demonstrate our skills to your friends?”

Hummingbird hesitated.  Raven was more than ten times her size and his kind was known to attack smaller birds.

As if sensing her reluctance, Raven said, “Have no fear. I am a gentleman. We will take turns and you may go first.”

Hummingbird looked at the great hulking bird perched above her. Surely his repertoire could not approach her versatility. She lifted straight up, hovered and flipped backwards in a summersault. Then she flew in reverse.

“Amazing,” said Robin.

“I would not have believed it if I had not seen it for myself,” said Woodpecker.

Hummingbird hovered again, then flew off so quickly her friends did not see her go. Upon her return, she zipped over their heads before perching again on the tree limb.

“You fly with bravura truly befitting the prima ballerina that you are,” Raven said. He bent his head in imitation of a courtly bow.

Without so much as a single caw, Raven flapped his great wings and rose high above the desert garden. At home in the sky, Raven executed a series of rolls and somersaults. He flew upside down and then appeared to be out-of-control, diving straight toward the ground. The three onlookers were frightened.

“He will crash,” Robin said. “Look out! Look out!”

Of course, Raven did not fall. He caught an updraft and soared higher and higher in ever-widening circles without flapping his wings, until he disappeared from sight.

“He is gone,” said Woodpecker.

“Who won?” asked Robin.

“That was not a competition,” Hummingbird said. “Raven is merely an acrobat who has learned a few tricks.” And she flew out of the desert garden.


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