By BARRY VAN-ASTEN
THE REMARKABLE NONSENSE BIRD
The sunlight fell through the trees like a beautiful river of golden beams as Pegamina awoke, and she could see through a clearing in the woods the distant shapes of the landscape, all grey and green and sad and lonely. She thought to herself how haunted it all seems, not in the frightening way, but in a strange and romantic sort of way that one often finds in dreams; where everything is so ancient and so full of sorrow. It seemed to go deep into her heart as she stood there at the edge of the wood, looking at the rolling fields and ruinous woodland before her.
While she was deep in these thoughts, she noticed a small bright object on top of a hill, not too far away, but she was unable to see quite what it was. After walking for some time, the light on the hill became brighter and brighter. ‘I wonder what it is?’ she thought to herself. Climbing up the hill she could suddenly see what the bright object was, for there, at the very top of the hill, was a small ball of fire, and it seemed very unhappy!
‘Who are you and why are you so sad?’ inquired Pegamina of the bright object.
‘I’m a star and I’m sad because I fell from the sky!’ it replied.
‘That was very careless of you, wasn’t it?’
‘I know! I’m not a very bright star, in fact, I’m rather dim and clumsy; I’m always bumping into things!’ the star said in some distress.
‘Silly little star. How I wonder what you are!’ laughed Pegamina.
‘Please don’t make fun of me, it hurts and when I’m hurt I lose a little of my twinkle!’ And the star sobbed.
‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. Is there no way for you to return to where you came from?’
‘I’ve thought ever so hard about it, so hard that my light has grown dim, and now I don’t know what to do!’ said the poor star with tears in its eyes.
‘Don’t cry star. I will help you, I promise’. And with this the star stopped crying and said ‘you’re very kind, but I don’t know what anyone can do for me!’
Pegamina sat beside the star and thought a very long time over the problem. And every so often, the star would look to Pegamina, as if expecting some answer, but no answer would come. Pegamina felt sad for the star and all she could say was ‘it is so very far away, isn’t it?’
As the shadows lengthened and day was slowly turning into night, they were both startled to hear the sound of singing coming from the woods:
‘Have you ever seen such a marvellous fowl?
Have you ever heard such a fearsome growl?
Grrr! Grrr! Grrr! Grrr!
The greatest phenomena in feather and fur!
From the tip of my nose to the ring on my toe,
Talking nonsense wherever I go, don’t you know!’
Now, this odd-looking creature that had been singing was now walking backwards at a fantastic speed up the hill like a steam engine, towards Pegamina and the star. Not noticing the little star, the backwards-walking creature sat upon the poor star’s face and began to read its book!
‘I think you’re on my face!’ said the timid little star.
‘Your face?’ replied the odd-looking creature.
‘Yes, my face’.
‘Oh excuse me I thought it was someone else’s face!’
‘I can assure you it is my face!’
‘My apologies!’ and the strange backward-walking creature stood up only to sit back down with greater force upon the star!
‘Do you mind!’ said the star through its flattened mouth.
‘Oh, was that your face again? I thought it was a bit warm!’
‘Still my face!’
‘Then may I suggest that you remove it from my posterior at once sir, at once... my posterior, sir’ said the strange creature, pointing to its tail. ‘Your face, sir’ it said, pointing to the star. ‘Worlds apart, sir, worlds apart!’ It boomed, expressing the distance with its hands before returning to its book.
‘I think you’re very rude! Who do you think you are?’ said Pegamina quite defiantly. And the creature stood up, releasing the star, and said:
‘I am the remarkable nonsense bird. I have five legs, count them: one, two, three, four and five; and look, one toe. How do I know? Look again!’ and the bird raised one of its five legs to reveal a beautiful toe that was wearing a ring of gold with a sparkling emerald set into it.
‘That’s a beautiful ring!’ said Pegamina, admiring it.
‘Ah yes, but look at the toe, look at the toe; isn’t it the finest toe you have ever seen?’
Pegamina never answered, for as far as toes go, one looks much like another. And so the nonsense bird sat next to the star and returned to its book.
‘What is the book about?’ Pegamina asked, feeling a little awkward.
‘It’s about half-way through!’ answered the nonsense bird.
‘But there are no words in it!’ said the little star, feeling brave.
‘That’s because it has nothing to say!’ then the nonsense bird began to sing:
‘I will not reverse into a world
That is not prepared for me;
I go backwards to see where I have been
Don’t you see, don’t you see, don’t you see!’
‘I think you’re very noisy for such a small thing’ said Pegamina.
‘Nonsense! Don’t you know that noise is silence, only louder!’
‘What silly things you say!’ Peg said wearily.
‘Yes, but I can see in your eyes that you are head over toe in love with me. Oh say you’ll be mine and toe-gether in good and fowl weather, we’ll go to gather wild bluebells and heather, with sweet hand in fine feather, for ever and ever...’
‘No never! No never!’ screamed Peg.
‘Never? What never?’
‘Never! No never!’ And the nonsense bird swooned:
‘O heartless beauty, I die before you. My bruised heart crushed with a careless word; has not a nonsense bird feeling? Has he not two eyes, five legs and a toe? Ohhh, ohhh I am a broken-hearted bird, broken by a careless word! I offered her my love and the use of my toe, to hang pretty things on and still she said “no”. And in time, many will come to this hill and stare at where the remarkable nonsense bird gave his life for a beautiful girl who did not care to be the remarkable nonsense bird’s remarkable nonsense wife!’ And the nonsense bird fell, as if dead, to the ground in one of the greatest and longest performances ever seen in theatrical history, crying ‘I wash my hands of love!’
‘Birds don’t have hands!’ Pegamina said to the pitiful sight of feathers and tears lying on the ground before her, to which the nonsense bird sprang to his feet and said:
‘Oh yes, some handsome birds have some hands and some gruesome birds have yet to grow some!’
Pegamina looked at the nonsense bird and began to feel sorry for it. After all, it can’t help talking complete nonsense, it’s what it does. So Pegamina apologised for hurting its feelings and the nonsense bird said sorry to the star for sitting on its face. Now, surely between the three of them they would find some solution for returning the star to its proper place. And so Pegamina explained the star’s distressful situation to the nonsense bird.
‘How very perplexing, said the nonsense bird, walking backwards in a circle, ‘and how fortunate for you that I should happen to come this way! Now, I shall have to apply all my scientific knowledge to the problem, of course.’
‘Oh of course’ Peg said, letting the nonsense bird feel very important indeed.
‘Let us take the astronomical point of view. Now, our sad, spherical friend here, who has not the sufficient propulsion, nor I might add, the intelligence to return to his celestial orbit, wishes to do so, correct?’
‘Correct!’ answered the star and Pegamina together.
‘Now, if we apply the laws of physics, we can see that his mass is greater than gravity, and there is no way of changing his weight or his dimension for that matter, agreed?’
‘Agreed!’ answered Pegamina and the star.
‘Then let us take the mathematical stance. Logic tells us that by taking the locomotive radius and multiplying it, thus creating an arc of forty-five degrees, one is able, theoretically, of course, to predict the positive energy one needs to propel such an object into motion; and by subtracting the combined mass and adding the total to the molecular structure of the body, in its inert state, of course, the negative will, I calculate, be transformed into a positive flux and thus resolve itself in flight. Of course, one has to divide the horizontal factor by the vertical, that’s very important!’ And here the nonsense bird drew a line in the ground with its toe to demonstrate his theory.
‘That’s all very clever and we are not all blessed with your intelligence so could you make it a little clearer so that we can understand?’ asked Peg, a little bemused.
‘Well, to put it another way – upwards!’
‘Are you saying that it is possible?’ said the star with a faint smile.
‘Oh yes, it’s all a question of advanced mechanics and aeronautics. But let us not forget that it’s also necessary that the wind should be favourable and blowing in the right direction!’
‘And how will we know when we have the right direction?’ Peg said with a yawn.
‘Simple! I stick my toe in the air, thus!’ and the nonsense bird raised one of its five legs a wiggled his toe in the air.
‘It all seems very scientific; couldn’t you make it a little easier to understand?’ Peg said again.
‘Haven’t you heard anything I’ve said?’ the nonsense bird squawked.
‘Oh yes, but we don’t have your great learning, do we star?’ and the star giggled.
‘Well, to put it in simpler terms: what comes down, must inevitably, go up!’
‘How?’ cried the star.
‘How?’ yelled Pegamina.
‘Simple!’ replied the nonsense bird, ‘the star will climb upon my back and I will fly into the air!’
Pegamina clasped her hands and jumped into the air several times, shouting ‘nonsense bird, what a marvellous bird! Have you heard, have you heard of the nonsense bird? From the tip of his nose to the ring on his toe, talking nonsense wherever he goes, don’t you know!’ And the nonsense bird blushed and smiled at Pegamina as the star climbed upon his back with the biggest grin you ever did see!
‘Hold on tight, star!’ shouted Pegamina.
‘I will, and thank you so much! Remember, whenever you look up into the night sky and see my twinkle, you must know in your heart I am twinkling for you and you only!’ Pegamina flung her arms around the star and the nonsense bird and wished them a safe journey, and before she knew it they were both in the air. The star smiled at her as he became brighter and brighter and higher and higher they flew. And the nonsense bird turned his head towards Pegamina and shouted:
‘Look at the toe! Look at the toe! Look at the...’ and they were both gone.
Have you ever seen such a marvellous fowl?