Or Good Egg/Bad Egg

When I was growing up, my brothers, sister, mother, and father all thought that I was strange.  “What a large little birdie you are”, mother used to remark.  She said so lovingly and kindly, singing in between meals about her little big bird.  As she fed worms to us, she always saved extra for me.  

The tone changed though as time went on.  “What a large little birdie you are”, mother began to say suspiciously, hesitation in her voice.  She often spent time watching me, watching me play with the others.  My wings grew larger and faster, but I was always careful to play nicely.  Still, her gaze was fixed upon me, intently, piercingly.  I came to wonder what I had done.  I felt dirty and alien.   I worked to compensate—cleaning more, eating less, providing support to the others.  Sometimes I felt like flying away.  I was large enough, but I wanted desperately to be accepted, for mother to sing to me sweetly once more.  My brothers and sister began to sing sweetly too.  Meanwhile, my call caused everyone to grow silent.  It would echo and they would all stare at me, stare at me like mother.

I learned to be silent and the world went on.  We each built our own nest in the same tree, meeting regularly to sing and to share meals.  I learned to fly further to catch worms; my brothers and sisters complained that I woke too early and left them too little.  They have all grown quite plump.  They allowed me to sing sometimes too, assuring me that it was ok that my voice sounded different while displaying slight signs of disharmony, always wincing, as if I were causing them pain.  I eventually chose to remain silent, my head bobbing to their music as I remained quiet and grateful to be part of a family.  

Sometimes I thought that I could hear myself.  I heard voices that sounded like mine.  They gathered in nearby trees, watching me, speaking a language that rose from within me, but that I did not understand.  Sometimes I imagined that they were talking about me.  They must have been jealous as none of them appeared to have families. I began to watch them too.  They always swooped into our neighbor’s nests.  I once saw one swoop into my sister’s nest and leave an egg.  I let her know immediately about the development and she seemed very happy.  She asked me at that moment if I would like to sing, insisting that she actually wanted to hear me.  It was so strange.  As I sang, she appeared to be happy, her head bobbing to the music, her voice joining mine to create harmony.  I felt like a child again.  

My siblings called them crazy birds, the ones in the other branches.  That is why they stared at me, gawking.  They were crazy birds.  The sound of their voices grew louder, shriller, wince inducing.  I understood how my family must have felt.  Perhaps they had rubbed off on me, my brothers and sister, my voice gradually becoming tolerable through exposure—an avian form of auditory osmosis.  I decided that it was important to ignore the cries of the other birds’ meetings in the distant branches, to focus on the sound of my siblings as if their songs were a clear light.  

They began to attack my nest sometimes.  I would return to find a razor blade sitting in the middle of my nest, as if it were a very poorly hidden booby trap.  Other times I would come home to find my nest destroyed.  The neighbors always had one waiting for me though.  Thus, I moved tree to tree, always grateful for the kindness of my community and perplexed by the strange behavior of the crazy birds.  Despite the fear of the birds attacking me in my sleep that began to swell from within, I was warmed by the frequency with which I was able to begin singing with my family, with my neighbors, as well as with migratory birds that would travel through our humble community’s branches.  

My day job was egg inspection.  I helped all the mothers determine which eggs were healthy and which ones displayed signs of what the mothers’ referred to as “bad eggness”.  I also took care of the disposal for them.  I liked to make a game out of it, dropping the eggs, which were too large for the mothers to carry, into a set of concentric circles that my siblings had created for me.  The goal was to have the egg hit the very center, a tiny circle, with perfect precision.  It became an artform.  The community members grew very proud of my marksmanship.  They often came to admire, to complement my aim, and to invite me to come sing with them at dinner in the evening.  It has truly been a dream come true.  

The other branches have grown silent, the crazy birds having dwindled in number as I have grown older.  It has been years since anyone saw one.  There is little work for me to do now as we seem to have eradicated “bad eggness”.  The community gives me credit and I am very proud.  They call this “early retirement”.  I get to sing every day, and everyone looks at me like mother once did when I was a child.  She has grown very proud of me; she calls me good egg.  It is my greatest joy in life.