Jack the Bird, a children’s story

18 Nov

from February 15, 2009

Jack the Bird

CHAPTER ONE: Jack and Phil

          Once upon a time there was a big brown bird. His name was Jack. Jack always wanted to have thick red feathers. Instead, he had thin brown feathers. This was Jack’s problem: He was going bald.
          Jack didn’t know what to do. It was OK for big strong eagles to be bald, but Jack was just a middle-aged brown sparrow.
          One day, Jack flew to the city. He flew all around until he found Phil’s Wig and Hair Care Center. But Jack was only a bird- how could he get in? Jack waited for a man with a shiny new hair weave to walk out and Jack flew right in before the door closed.
          “Hey!” Phil shouted. “There’s a bird in here! Shoo!”
          “Don’t chase me away!” Jack chirped. “I’m a customer!”
          Phil was surprised. “You can talk?”
          “Hey, I’m not a dumb pigeon. Of course I can talk.”
          Phil was still surprised. “Well, you’re not going to fly around and poop on people’s heads, are you?”
          Jack was offended. “I wasn’t born in a barn. My parents had a CO-OP on 42nd street. We lived on the window sill.”
          Phil and Jack became friends. Phil invited Jack to share his bowl of matzoh ball soup, and Jack made kreplach.
          “Yum” they both said.
          Jack finally got up the courage to ask Phil the thing he really wanted. “Phil, do you think you could make me a wig?”
          Phil thought about it. “You mean fake feathers in your head?”
          “Yes!” Jack exclaimed. “I want a head full of thick red feathers! Then I’ll be full of confidence and flirt with all the young chicks who live outside the beauty salon.”
          “Well, I’ll need to measure your head.” Phil took out a tape measure and put it around Jack’s head. “Ow! You pecked me!”
          “Sorry. Force of habit. I won’t do it again.”
          Jack sat back on a tiny tea cup while Phil studied his feathers.
          Phil looked from the left.
          Phil looked from the right.
          Phil looked from the top.
          Phil even picked up Jack and looked at him from the bottom.
          “Watch it buddy! That’s a little too personal”
          Phil put Jack down and said “I think you need a number four, extra extra small.”
          “Oh boy! I’m so happy!”
          Phil went out to the stock room and came back with the tinniest toupee Jack had ever seen. “I made it for a baby midget. Try it on.”
          Jack didn’t want too. “That’s hair, not feathers!”
          Phil calmed Jack. “Don’t worry. This is only to test the size.
          Jack put on the wig and Phil started to laugh. “You look like Elvis!”
          “I once knew one of Elvis’s pet canaries. He taught her how to sing and eat cheeseburgers.”
          Jack looked in the mirror and said “not bad.”
          “Of course,” Phil said, “it’ll be better when I can use feathers instead of hair. But where can I get red feathers?”
          “Leave that to me,” Jack said, and flew out of an open window.

CHAPTER TWO: Jack and Carl

          Jack flew for almost an hour and a half. He flew all the way out of the city and into the country. He went to the farm where his friend Carl the robin lived. Jack had been friends since 1993, when Carl was a dancing bird in a magic act. He retired in 2004 and moved to the country to relax.
          “Hello Jack. It is so very good to see you.” Carl and Jack shook feathers and sipped from a small puddle on the ground.
           Carl brought Jack back to his nest to meet his family. He had two sons, Arthur and Max. He also had a daughter named Denise. “This is my brother-in-law Louie.” Louie was asleep. “Louie is too lazy to wake up and catch worms. He sleeps on our couch and mooches our worms.”
           “Nice to meet you, all of you,” Jack said.
           “And this,” said Carl, “is my wife Elaine.” Elaine was a very sweet bluebird.
           “Hello Jack.”
           “Hi Elaine.”
           Carl put his wing around Elaine. “She makes the best apple pie you’ve ever head.”
          “I’ll bake you one,” she said.
          After they snacked, Carl and Jack discussed Jack’s feather problem. Carl said that he had a solution.
          Carl showed Jack a big old barn at the end of the farm. “See that? Every Wednesdays night the roosters get together and play poker. They all have thick red feathers. See?”
          Ooookaaay,” said Jack, who didn’t understand.
          Carl explained. “Tonight is Wednesday night. All we have to do is join the game and win all of the money. If they want to keep the playing and win their money back they’ll have to bet their feathers.”
           Jack was unsure. “What if we lose? I can’t afford to lose any more of my feathers.”
          “Then we’ll set the fox on them. He’ll scare the feathers right off them.”
          Jack shivered. “Let’s play poker. That fox sounds like he’s too tough for me.”
          Carl and Jack went to the bank. They were birds so they didn’t have accounts, but there was a big fountain with lots of change in it. They dipped their beaks into the water and when they picked out all of the money the counted it.
          “We have $13.87,” Jack said. “Will it be enough?’
          “Sure. Let’s go!”

CHAPTER THREE: Jack and the Poker Game

          Soon it was night and Jack and Carl watched the roosters go into the barn for the weekly poker game.
          First one in was Minnesota Red. He was a very old rooster but his feathers were still bright red on his head.
          Next was Little Andy. He was even older the Minnesota Red but he was very short. His feathers were also red, but short.
          Mister Randolph, a middle-aged bird with no red feathers walked in with Biff and Riff, two twins with the best red feathers Jack had ever seen.
          After they were all seated around the table, Carl and Jack flew in and said they wanted to join in the game.
          “No,” said Minnesota Red. “We don’t let bald brown birds play.”
          Jack was ready to argue, but Little Andy said “Wait Red. I like this guy. Let him play. He has moxie.”
          Since Little Andy was the oldest they listened to him and Carl and Jack took seats around the table.
          The game started. Carl was out of money very quickly and left the group, but Jack was lucky and he started winning. After a few minutes Jack was far ahead, but he knew he had to win the feathers. After all, birds don’t need money.
          Biff and Riff tired to act tough. They chirped at Jack. They threw seeds at him. One even wiggles a nasty feather at Jack, They were trying to make Jack lose bur Jack was doing very well and they couldn’t distract him.
          The game went on and on and on. Biff and Riff lost and went home. Mr. Randolph and Little Andy had enough and sat on a pile of hay to watch the game. Carl sat with them and they talked about their wives.
          It was only Jack and Minnesota Red. They both had very large piles of money in front of them.
          Jack still knew he was there for the feathers, not the money. He put all his money in for a big bet. Minnesota Red put all of his money in and matched Jack.
          Carl was very nervous as the he saw the last card being dealt. It was a three. Jack won all the money!
          Minnesota Red stood up. “Time to go home. I’m broke. The wife will kill me!”
          “Wait,” said Jack. “How would you like a chance to win your money back?”
          “But how can I make a net without any money?”
          “You can bet your feathers,” Jack told him.
          Minnesota Red loved his bright red feathers. That’s why he was named Red. It would take a lot to make him risk them. “Well, I don’t know…”
          Just them Bessie the cow walked in. What are you, a rooster or a chicken?”
          Red yelled at Bessie. “Get out or I’ll milk you with a hammer!”
          Bessie left.
          “OK,” said Minnesota Red. “I’m in.”
          They played and Carl couldn’t believe his eyes. Jack won!
          “I can’t take your money, Red. All I want are your bright red feathers.”
          “Since you are so honest, I’ll tell you a secret.” Minnesota Red leaned in close to Jack. “I bought them from a sparrow. I lost my real feathers three years. I’m bald too!”
          Jack was a much smaller bird then the rooster and so he only needed a few feathers and Minnesota Red was able to keep his head covered.

CHAPTER FOUR: Jack and the Wig

          Jack said goodbye to Carl and his family and flew back to the city with his feathers safely in his beak. He rushed back to Phil’s Wig and Hair Care Center. Oh no! It was closed!
          Jack was angry. He paced up and down. He chirped at dos. He waved his wings at an old lady. Then he read the sign in Phil;’s window. It said Closed on Sunday. He would have to wait one more day.
          Monday came. Phil went to unlock his front door and found Jack asleep on his step with his head resting on a bag of bright red feathers. Phil was very gentle. He lifted up Jack (and the feathers) and carried him inside the shop. He put Jack down on top of a small pile of wig catalogs. While Jack slept, Phil made a dish of matzoh brie for them to share.
          Jack woke up and the smell of the food was so wonderful that he dove right in.
          Phil was happy to see him.”Hi Jack. I see you have the feathers we need.”
         “Um hum,” said Jack. He was too busy eating to talk.
          “Be careful Jack. You’re getting matzoh crumbs all over the store.”
          After the cleaned up, Phil washed all of the feathers and Jack washed his head. Once they were clean, Phil carefully put the feathers all together and made a wig. He put the wig on Jack’s head but it was too big. The feathers kept falling in front of Jack’s eyes.
          A few minor adjustments later and the wig was done.
         Jack admired himself in the mirror. “I have to say it. I am one big brown beautiful bird!” He loved his new wig.
          Phil had never made a wig for a bird before. He was proud but also nervous. “Why don’t you go outside and fly around a little? Make sure it stays on.”

CHAPTER FIVE: Jack and the Mean Cat

          Jack flew out the window. He felt great but the bright red feathers attracted the attention of Butch, a mean cat who lived next door in the butcher shop. Butch bolted out the door and started to chase Jack.
          “Oh no!” Jack flew faster and faster and went higher and higher. “That ugly, smelly cat won’t catch me now!”
          Butch didn’t give up. He followed Jack no matter where he went, Even when Jack landed on the roof at a tall building he could see Butch waiting below.
         Meanwhile, Phil was getting worried. Jack had been gone a long time. Should he call the police? What would he say, that the talking bird he made a feather-wig for was missing? No one would believe him.
          Jack looked down from the tall building. Butch was still below. Jack had an idea. “Hey cat!” he called.
          Butch looked up. “I’ll get you!”
          “Oh yeah? If you’re so tough, come up and get me!”
          “Here I come!” Butch ran inside to the elevators. Once he was inside, Jack flew away as fast as he could back to the wig shop.

CHAPTER SIX: Jack and the Strange Club

           Phil was relieved. “I’m glad you’re OK. I was worried.
          “So was I,” Jack said.
          “How was the wig?”
          Jack smiled. “The wig was perfect. It never moved an inch.”
          Jack was so happy that he went to the phone book and looked up the address for Alvin’s Nightclub. He wanted to show off his new feathers and meet some young chicks.
         Alvin’s Nightclub was packed with birds. Big fat birds and little skinny birds. Birds wearing hats and birds wearing cowboy boots. There was even one bird wearing a polyester leisure suit from 1976.
          Jack thought that there was something strange. He looked around, The he looked some more. There were tall birds with acne and small birds wearing sunglasses. He even saw two birds dressed like construction workers.
          Then Jack knew, “I got it! There are no women here!” Jack realized that he was in a bird gay bar. Not that there was anything wring with that.
          As Jack was leaving, a bird wearing leather pants and a leather vest came up to him and rubbed Jack’s wing. “Hi, I’m Lance. You’re hot! Want to dance?”
          Jack was flattered, but he didn’t swing on that side of the best. After a quick spin around the dance floor he said “I’m sorry, um, sir. You seem very nice, but, I have to be going.” Jack flew out the front door.
          The bird in the leather pants flew after Jack. “Shake those tail feathers honey!”
          Jack flew faster. He flew so fast that his wig nearly came off but the glue just barely held it on his head. Eventually the bird in the leather pants gave up the chase. “You’re a tease!”he yelled. after Jack.
          Jack flew over another club. This one had male and female birds so he flew in. He straightened his wig and went up to a pretty young swallow.
          “Can I buy you some seeds?” he asked.
          “Get lost,” she said.
          Jack went up to a robin. “May I sit here?”
         “Shove off, jerk.”
          Jack decided that he had better leave so he went back to Phil’s.

CHAPTER SEVEN Jack and the Rich Woman

          Phil couldn’t understand. What was wrong with Jack?
          “Jack, pretend I’m a lady bird. Come up to me and try to make a date.”
          Jack wasn’t sure. “You’re the ugliest lady bird I’ve ever seen.”
          Phil was annoyed. “Jaaaack.”
         “OK, OK.”
         Jack unruffled his feathers. He fluffed his wig and took some mints. Jack walked up to Phil and rubbed his arm. “Hi beautiful,. Come here often?”
Phil said “Hello handsome. Buy me a drink?” Phil rubbed Jack’s wings.
          “Sure,” Jack laughed. It was silly. “Want to go back to my place?”
          Suddenly, there was a scream and a thud. Phil and Jack spun around. Laying on the floor was a customer who had just walked in. She saw Jack and Phil flirting, heard the bird talking, and fainted.
          Phil rushed over with a glass of water. Jack brought her a worm. She opened her eyes, saw the worm right in front of her, and screamed again. Phil glared at Jack.
          Finally, Phil got the woman in a chair. Jack flew behind the ladies wig counter and stood on a mannequin’s head.
         “The woman was still startled. “I never saw anything like it. A man and a bird flirting with each other!” The old woman was trembling.
          Phil tried to clam her down. “It’s OK lady. We were only pretending,”
          The woman calmed down. “My name is Mrs. Van Rossdale, I am eighty-five years old and I have sixteen birds in my home.”
          “Do any of them talk?” Phil asked.
          “No, they certainly do not!”
          Jack flew over. “Maybe you never tried talking to them.”
          Mrs. Van Rossdale smiled at Jack. “Perhaps you should come home with me and talk to them. I live in Ritzy Acres in a fifty room mansion.”
          “Ritzy Acres? I’m there!”
          Phil jumped up. “I’ll drive!”
          Mrs. Van Rossdale led them outside.

CHAPTER EIGHT: Jack and the High Class Birds

          Soon Phil was driving them out to the country. Mrs. Van Rossdale pointed out all the big houses. “That’s the Jefferson Estate. Over there is the Old Smith House. Old Smith made a fortune in the stock market. Down the road is Muhlenberg Manor. There are always strange things going on there.
          “Where is your house?” Phil asked.
          “It is the big one right ahead.”
          Jack was impressed. “Wow that’s big!”
          They entered the home and saw a giant room filled with giant bird cages. Each cage had three rooms and plenty of furniture. There were beds, couches, and comfortable chairs for the birds. They were not locked and some birds were flying around the house.
          As soon as they saw Jack, all sixteen birds flew over to him.
          “Hello,” Jack said.
          “Hello,” they all said.
          “Oh my, they can all talk!” Mrs. Van Rossdale fainted on the carpet.
          “Here we go again,” said Phil.
          Soon Mrs. Van Rossdale was awake. Three of her birds were fanning her with their wings and some others had placed a compress on her head. They were all very concerned.
          Mrs. Van Rossdale seemed very confused. “I had the strangest dream. I dreamt that all of my birds were talking.”
          “We were talking,” said a yellow canary.
          “That’s right,” said a white lark.
          “They can all talk,” said Jack.
          “Isn’t that something,” said Phil.
          “Oh my word,” said Mrs. Van Rossdale.
          Jack stayed in Ritzy Acres. Over the next few days he became friends with all the birds and they all started talking to Mrs. Van Rossdale. Everyone was so nice that Jack decided to live there. Phil came by for lunch every day.  Everyone had a great time.
          One day Phil came over and saw that Jack wasn’t wearing his wig. “What happened? Did you lose it?”
          Jack smiled. “I put it away. I realized that all it takes are my friends to make me happy, not a silly red wig.”
          Phil picked up Jack and gave him a tiny hug. Everyone lived happily ever after.


copyright 2009

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